November 2, 2023

the country you never leave

at night, in the rain
the forest’s a room full of books.

a chorus of trees!
yes, but there’s a place I need to make, still.

I wanted to live on the mesa. grow a garden.
I thought it would be enough. a table? a painted chair?

and a blue-square view of the sky. cottonwood in it.
it’s like a map of the country you never leave.

where the water rises out of the corners of rock
and the ditch-bank’s held together by roots.

you can see where the weaving begins. you’re willow-bound
it’s the leaning I love.

—like an invitation?
yes. right here. where the road dumps you out in the middle
of no-place. and you walk. toward something. straight across the bare curve of it.

and the wind in everything. —look what cottonwood does to the sky. the vaulted arches. the secret rooms.
all the places I have lived. the windows. and the rain. and the leaves.

and look what happens to possibility, the imagination of a life: a stem branching out
from the slightest breeze becomes a limb. becomes a tree.
—something it never thought.

—and yet it stays.
here. —not on the mesa. but down below, in the crevices of rock.
where the water comes. that choice.


             and so…

                 once upon a time…
they found themselves again. —side by side.

                  in the deepest shade.

                                     by the waters.

                                                    most perfect…

“the deepest shade” and “most perfect” are from Ovid: “And within the deepest shade/the innermost recess, there lay a cave/most perfect.” The Metamorphoses, Book III, Actaeon. Translated by Allen Mandelbaum. Everyman’s Library, Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. p. 84.

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