I. Worst winter in quite a while: the guy who delivered our calor gas was frantic, rushed off his feet. “Never been so busy. And the other boy I work with’s went and got himself arrested — driving without a licence.” We sympathised while he put the gas in our heater and then he ran down the stairs to his van, too busy to be cold.
II. The living room warmed by the oven, door open, grumbling of gas; we’ll sleep in here tonight, on the couch that folds down, duvets brought through from the bedroom where we could see our breath. My wife asleep already, ferocious body warming the duvets; me in a chair, reading, in a tartan scarf and red ski hat.
“It’s so beautiful here,” I told the man I was staying with on that island in the North of Scotland. “What’s beautiful about it?” he asked, pouring me another dram. “Everything,” I said. “Just look at the view!” “What view?” he said. “There’s no view. There’s only mountains and heather and trees and water.” When I went back to the city I looked at it for the first time.
you lie on the bed like sunlight sunlight on the wings of birds
no, you don’t
(this is why poetry is rarely to be trusted: unable to accept things as they are it has to turn them into things they are not)
you lie on the bed like yourself yourself lying naked on a bed
and to compare you to anything else would be to make you less than you are
It is almost exactly ten years since we shared drunken kisses in an unheated bar in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Later that night, drunker still, a kiss broke into laughter when we rolled off my bed and fell to the floor.
Ten years later: you still in Tennessee, in Nashville, me in Phoenix, Arizona. A catch-up conversation: You told me about your kidney transplants, addiction to pain medication, recovery, getting engaged, breaking it off, buying a house, rescuing dogs, travelling, getting happy. “I learned a lot and am so not afraid of things. It’s pretty great!” you wrote. You said your health was the best it had ever been, and we laughed about the new series of Beavis and Butt-Head. You had just found a new boyfriend: “I am absolutely nuts about him.” Seventeen days later, you died in your sleep, forty-six days past your thirty-seventh birthday.
Writing to someone who will never read it — a worn-out poetic convention, still in use only because of its necessity. Elegies, like funerals, are survival tools for the living. I write these words of love, beautiful Danielle, because silence fails me.
She is getting in bed when she realises she is out of the half-and-half she takes in her morning coffee. He is still dressed. He tells her he’ll walk to the market and get some for her.
The market is two blocks from their apartment. As he walks, he looks up and sees stars
that have not existed since before he was born. They did not know their light would travel so far.
He finds the half-and-half, selects two cartons, stands in line at the checkout. Light of dead stars, her asleep now in their home. Coffee she will drink when she wakes. A journey
of two blocks in the universe.
Frost on the ground, Condensation on the window. Maybe something brittle Broke along the way;
I’ve learned there’s no such thing As a perfect triangle And now there doesn’t seem That much to say.
Between seasons, Colours indistinct, Painted life in shades Not quite of grey,
No stone to be cast Between guilt and innocence, And now there doesn’t seem That much to say.
Water on the glass Makes it hard to see. From outside comes An old dog’s tired bark.
None of this Is near being true. No young or old, only new. The sky is shining dark.
He rose before dawn, pissed in the toilet, ate in the kitchen, then went outside to the barn and milked the cow. That’s all he did: he milked the cow. This action meant one thing: he was milking the cow. The milking of the cow in this case is not symbolic of anything else. It is certainly not an unsubtle sexual metaphor. He wasn’t doing anything other than milking the cow. He was just milking the cow. He was out in the barn early in the morning and he was milking the fucking cow.
Maybe a strange thing —
a college town at the wrong time of year —
the students are gone but you’re still around, wandering through bookshops, empty art galleries —
tired, sick of it, in a quiet cafe you lose your temper, get up and walk out, leaving yourself sitting over coffee.