The Whole World Is Gone

Jennifer Grotz
Driving alone at night, the world’s pitch, black velvet 
stapled occasionally by red tail lights
on the opposite highway but otherwise mild 
panic when the eyes’ habitual check 
produces nothing at all in the rearview mirror,
a black blank, now nothing exists 
but the dotted white lines of the road, 
and the car scissors the blackness open
like the mind’s path through confusion,
but still no clarity, no arrival, only Pennsylvania darkness,
rocks, cliffs, vistas by day that thicken to black. It’s
sensual, though, too, and interestingly mental. What 
I do alone, loving him in my mind. Trying not to 
let imagination win over reality. Hurtling through the night
passions so spent become facts one observes. Not tempered,
just momentarily out of view by the body that perceives them.
Turning that into my prayer: to be deprived.

More by Jennifer Grotz

The Needle

        "When your eyes have done their part, 
        Thought must length it in the heart."
           —Samuel Daniel

 
. . . Thought lengths it, pulls 
an invisible world through 
a needle's eye 
one detail at a time,

beginning with 
the glint of blond down 
on his knuckle as he 
                              crushed a spent cigarette—

I can see that last strand of smoke 
escaping in a tiny gasp—above the table where 	
a bee fed thoughtfully 
                               from a bowl of sugar.

World of shadows! where 
his thumb lodged into 
the belly of an apple, 
                              then split it in two, 

releasing the scent that exists 
only in late summer’s apples
as we bit into 
                   rough halves flooded with juice.

Memory meticulously stitches 
the market square 
where stalls of fruit 
                           ripened in the heat. 

Stitches the shadows stretched and 
pulled across the ground by 
the crowds pigeons 
                           seemed to mimic 
 
in their self-important 
but not quite purposeful 
strutting, 
            singly and in droves. 

Stitches the unraveling 
world where 
only vendors and policemen 
                    stood in place.

Self-Portrait on the Street of an Unnamed Foreign City

The lettering on the shop window in which
you catch a glimpse of yourself is in Polish.

Behind you a man quickly walks by, nearly shouting
into his cell phone. Then a woman

at a dreamier pace, carrying a just-bought bouquet
upside-down. All on a street where pickpockets abound

along with the ubiquitous smell of something baking.
It is delicious to be anonymous on a foreign city street.

Who knew this could be a life, having languages
instead of relationships, struggling even then,

finding out what it means to be a woman
by watching the faces of men passing by.

I went to distant cities, it almost didn’t matter
which, so primed was I to be reverent.

All of them have the beautiful bridge
crossing a grey, near-sighted river,

one that massages the eyes, focuses
the swooping birds that skim the water’s surface.

The usual things I didn’t pine for earlier
because I didn’t know I wouldn’t have them.

I spent so much time alone, when I actually turned lonely
it was vertigo.

Myself estranged is how I understood the world.
My ignorance had saved me, my vices fueled me,

and then I turned forty. I who love to look and look
couldn’t see what others did.

Now I think about currencies, linguistic equivalents, how
    lop-sided they are, while
my reflection blurs in the shop windows.

Wanting to be as far away as possible exactly as much as still
    with you.
Shamelessly entering a Starbucks (free wifi) to write this.
 

Staring into the Sun

What had been treacherous the first time 
had become second nature, releasing 
the emergency brake, then rolling backwards 
in little bursts, braking the whole way down
the long steep drive. Back then 
we lived on the top of a hill.
 
I was leaving—the thing we both knew 
and didn’t speak of all summer. While you 
were at work, I built a brown skyline of boxes, 
sealed them with a roll of tape 
that made an incessant ripping sound.
We were cheerful at dinner and unusually kind.
At night we slept under a single sheet,
our bodies a furnace if curled together.
 
It was July. I could feel my pupils contract
when I went outside. Back then I thought only about 
how you wouldn’t come with me. 
Now I consider what it took for you to help me go. 
On that last day. When I stood
in a wrinkled dress with aching arms.
When there was only your mouth at my ear 
whispering to get in the truck, then wait 
until I was calm enough to turn the key. 
 
Only then did we know. How it felt 
to have loved to the end, and then past the very end.
 
What did you do, left up there in the empty house?
I don’t know why. I 
don’t know how we keep living 
in a world that never explains why.