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I said some nonsense or other to them
and they mocked back, "but we're your one design,"
or "you're our one design"--which was it?
The pen slipped and capered on the page,
escorted by ripplings in the atmosphere
like breeze with nothing to blow against.
"We wear no form or figure of our own
--a wisp, a thread, a twig, a shred of smoke--
to tell us from the motions of the air.
We'd love to live in even a bubble,
to wrap around its glossy diaphanous,
reaching and rounding, as slinkily real
as a morning stretch or a dance in a field.
But we know only this air, and memory,
once, or several times, removed and turned,
the pang of a once-had, a maybe-again,
that shifting half-light, our home and habitat,
those hours, soft-toned, windless, that favor passage,
the usual relay of twilights. And,
how often a century? The sun eclipsed,
that 'created' half-light, not dusk or dawn:
us glowing through, our light, our element,
in which we show best, glow best, what we are.
Yesterday some snowflakes slipped through us,
refreshing kisses passing through our heat.
Ah, we wanted to say. If we could have,
we'd have laughed right out from sheer surprise."
And what else? "We've got you to stand for us."
And I have you, I said, to float for me.
Out of the blue, one of them lipped to me:
"A handful of days can hold a whole life,
sunlight dazzling on a blue foaming sea,
the touch of a body and nothing more,
one whisper which was the very whisper
for which you had waited hour after hour,
maybe not the same words, not the same voice,
all those words other and voice still other,
the ring of unknown words, those were the ones."
The hand that held my pen began to shine:
"How sad are those who borrow their solace
from several days never to return,
some incident of passion or promise,
some glimpse..." "Oh yes, but sadder still are those
who never bask on even that brief beach."
How blue the sea looked; it shone and they shone;
now they glittered with an utter glitter,
now they beamed, for this was their greatest yes.
"The special few are those who live full joys,
not a day, a week or a mooncycle
but an extension of years, or a life."
"Chimera on the surface of the sea,
haze that lies heavy on a salty sea,
haze hovering over a summer sea,
despite the scintillations of the sun."
"Where will all this lead? It will lead nowhere.
Nowhere at all is where we want to go.
A blue nowhere made up of blue nothing,
a moment of bliss lasting a moment,
long enough for life, that long and no more."
**To download a free broadside of this poem go to: http://www.knopfpoetry.com/broadsides.html
From the Hardcover edition.