Even the sky here in Connecticut has it, That wry look of accomplished conspiracy, The look of those who've gotten away With a petty but regular white collar crime. When I pick up my shirts at the laundry, A black woman, putting down her Daily News, Wonders why and how much longer our luck Will hold. "Months now and no kiss of the witch." The whole state overcast with such particulars. For Emerson, a century ago and farther north, Where the country has an ode's jagged edges, It was "frolic architecture." Frozen blue- Print of extravagance, shapes of a shared life Left knee-deep in transcendental drifts: The isolate forms of snow are its hardest fact. Down here, the plain tercets of provision do, Their picket snow-fence peeling, gritty, Holding nothing back, nothing in, nothing at all. Down here, we've come to prefer the raw material Of everyday and this year have kept an eye On it, shriveling but still recognizable-- A sight that disappoints even as it adds A clearing second guess to winter. It's As if, in the third year of a "relocation" To a promising notch way out on the Sunbelt, You've grown used to the prefab housing, The quick turnover in neighbors, the constant Smell of factory smoke--like Plato's cave, You sometimes think--and the stumpy trees That summer slighted and winter just ignores, And all the snow that never falls is now Back home and mixed up with other piercing Memories of childhood days you were kept in With a Negro schoolmate, of later storms Through which you drove and drove for hours Without ever seeing where you were going. Or as if you've cheated on a cold sickly wife. Not in some overheated turnpike motel room With an old flame, herself the mother of two, Who looks steamy in summer-weight slacks And a parrot-green pullover. Not her. Not anyone. But every day after lunch You go off by yourself, deep in a brown study, Not doing much of anything for an hour or two, Just staring out the window, or at a patch On the wall where a picture had hung for ages, A woman with planets in her hair, the gravity Of perfection in her features--oh! her hair The lengthening shadow of the galaxy's sweep. As a young man you used to stand outside On warm nights and watch her through the trees. You remember how she disappeared in winter, Obscured by snow that fell blindly on the heart, On the house, on a world of possibilities.
If trees fall in a wood and no one hears them,
Do they exist except as a page of lines
That words of rapture or grief are written on?
They are lines too while alive, pointing away
From the primer of damped air and leafmold
That underlie, or would if certain of them
Were not melon or maize, solferino or smoke,
Colors into which a sunset will collapse
On a high branch of broken promises.
Or they nail the late summer’s shingles of noon
Back onto the horizon’s overlap, reflecting
An emptiness visible on leaves that come and go.
How does a life flash before one’s eyes
At the end? How is there time for so much time?
You pick up the book and hold it, knowing
Long since the failed romance, the strained
Marriage, the messenger, the mistake,
Knowing it all at once, as if looking through
A lighted dormer on the dark crest of a barn.
You know who is inside, and who has always been
At the other edge of the wood. She is waiting
For no one in particular. It could be you.
If you can discover which tree she has become,
You will know whether it has all been true.
for Wolf Kahn