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One Last Thing Before I Go

                    after Dean Young

The wrist that holds the leash strains
but does not break, then draws up
new contracts with the same mad
dogs. The broken bowl now holds
the shape of glue, its jagged patterns,
but it holds, and I can’t tell how to call it,
if it’s mostly meant for holding
or if its mostly being held, and this
keeps me awake in the dark
unsure of where to pour my cereal
until I arrive at sleep like a bad decision.
Outside the crabapples haven’t moved,
they slip through stages of soft rot
until each turns to yard, Psst,
I’m frightened,
says the iron fence
whose rot moves in and grips
more slowly, whose rust will strip
and sting and stay. Every bone I throw
slings back, Saturday morning fills
with women buying china, arriving home
to pile their cabinets higher. Your yowl
again in my ear, instead of your broad back
in the doorway. All this standing still.
Remind me to forget when our stillness
was somehow moving, to forget misplacing
your hands in my bed as your missed plane lifted
out of the bright city. Psst, I’m frightened,
your calves like pillars, leaves intuiting
the color of ground before they drop,
cicadas easing off their crusts in the dark,
everything perfectly clear, all the brown husks
spelling I love you, I’m leaving.
But the leaving season goes on for miles,
hauling its cold freight across the year,
accepting stowaways but never the right ones.
When what passes passes at the speed of staying
and the heart’s hopped a groaning length
of train and the nightshirt’s stuffed
with arms and the cupped ear can hear
to the field’s far corner and the voice
hanging in the throat unwraps itself
like a bat and flies out, will there be at last
some crisp unsticking, a caboose’s distant chuff
and wag, the red-and-white-striped gates
hoisting their easy burdens?

Posted 08/12/09
This poem began as an inverse-translation-style response to Dean Young's poem "Winged Purposes." Though "One Last Thing..." has taken on a life of its own, I owe this poem to that one.
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