amid the guts and offal, a length of thread
caught upon his heart, that lead back
down through the dark of him, disappearing
like the once that never was. He died of this or that
they say. Never He lived of this or that.*
At the back of his throat, a man feels the loose
broken ends of his lover’s gathered hair.
Adrift on the bed, arms limp, snapped tethers
he cannot grasp that gradual unmooring, her
weighing anchor without him noticing the slack.
Out the window, an old tire hangs from the elm.
Hitched there when they first moved in
he’d hoped a daughter might swing in time
to her see-sawing fiddle, those halcyon days dancing,
catgut and horsehair sewn into light.
Evenings now, he does his best
not to disturb the house, its cold hearth, its quiet;
lights no fire, preferring to defer
to the rosin-smell still hanging from the air.
Windless November loosens the elm’s last leaves,
each dropping in a dead-fall to the mud.
By night, he dreams a tree of flame, its branches
interwoven, fanning out, and at the center
one great knot bleeding where they’re joined.
In weak dawn he wakens to find the names and heart
he’d carved there now split with sap-ice from the freeze.
Come thaw, he’ll take a stump-grinder to it (he’s got to)
and sever the roots, to protect the foundation.
Could there be such a blade for memory, some flame
to burn this stump away, back to whatever was last free?
Again and again, out walking, he finds his steps returning
there, to the other house, that night he met her.
Displaced in mind he watches himself climb the stairs,
float through the door smiling, knowing as he does
the exact room he’ll find her in, the very corner,
that dark curve her dress will make as it plunges down her back.