I-from"The Last Nostalgia"
Come late autumn, I'll wear black leather again,
My gray felt boots make a sound like the perfect crime
As I pass along the deserted avenue
Some Sunday evening, admiring the dried-up fountains.
I think the trees will be left harsh and bare
As Donatello's Mary Magdalene:
Their branches thorns, their leaves fallen hair. And you?
You'll know it's finally a fine line
We walk between the last fall and the next,
And a faith without foundation by which we survive
Such seasons as these. Look at the washed-out sky,
At the stars competing with streetlamps, then look for me:
I'll be the stranger slouching on the corner,
His face lit by a dying match. I'll be
Everything you've tried not to remember,
But which is reflected in the half-light of your eyes.
Is this the Russian snow Napoleon's legions
Bloodied with their feet before they fell?
No, just sundown in Paducah, Kentucky,
Day's last shallow breath shading to a faint rose
The soft white other side of the river.
I seem to remember turning away, once,
From this same balcony with its twisted railing
Dense as a frozen black gum, to see you
Still sewn up in your warm dream, till my breath
Frosted the glass over. Now, as tugboats slice
Their way through the ice on the Ohio again,
I think the Belle of Louisville has gone down
To winter in New Orleans, and I wonder
About the why and wherefore of your departure.
It's cold out here, and this feeble light won't last
The time it will take me to drink it a silent toast.
So the rain falls., and the garden grows full
Of itself, fruits and flowers like brushstrokes
Against the lush dark backdrop of the woods.
Somewhere in the woods a stream is playing
Lightly as some old desire turned inward,
And somewhere in the stream a single sunfish
Lets its fiat side break the pane of water
At an isolate oval of light in the dense cathedral.
All is desire: hushed lull before the storm,
Rain like scythes through the fields, scattered birds
Breaking into song to find one another,
The coming dark's duet of moon and star.
Five summers ago, I watched a woman
Wander into the garden at dusk, select
A tomato, and close her eyes as the juice fell
Like something utterly pure onto her breasts.
What Pasternak called "Unforgetting September"
Ripens as always, and Tchaikovsky's Hunting Party,
Lured too far into the forest by the red fox,
Is lost forever. I am listening
To the String Quartet No.1in D Major
With its heartbreaking second movement Tolstoy
Wept through in Moscow in 1871.
(Tchaikovsky got the theme from a gardener.)
I can remember as well as September does,
And what music remains inside of me
Is muted over with memory, strains sad
As the seed that spills from the withered okra plants.
The best days of summer are the days of summer gone:
Something cooking, a wash of light on the water...
The music dies, and what I hold is the world.
One leaf falling would break the spell. It falls.