Issue 110, Spring 1989
When I caught sight of them, the secret lovers,
I had been watching the pink-edged white blossoms
in the garden below
fall, once in a great while, off the black-limbed cherry.
Watching one petal start the slow drift over
then blow off sideways a while then stutter
down of a sudden to the wet black soil.
Poppies in a bathtub. Glistening lettuces.
Seven white irises along the far wall.
They were heading along the steep chalky road
that bothers this green hill all the way down,
late afternoon sun laying their shadows out, sharp, long,
sometimes running a bit,
onto the white dirt.
Earlier rain. Then suddenly sun.
Wings to every bud, every latched-on sucker.
Each thing swaying from its tight home.
And turning, and opening, because so held
The green stain spread.
I had been watching—between the lettuce and the small
hydrangea—how the white cat sits
tracking the shadows of the quick birds above her—
and once saw her spring as if from sleep and not miss—
flurry of white—
then the quick head shaking the neck of the thing.
All afternoon me leaning and watching.
All afternoon her watching the shadows
flitting crazy over the greens that break them.
She never looks up.
Hunts wholly by shadow.
Time and the opening in it.
As if I have no place really,
as if there is nowhere to go.
Sounds rising up now and then from the valley—
intermittently a dog.
Shadows of other terraces. Birds diving to feed.
When I caught sight of them they were near me,
a two-faced machine of gripping
him tucking her hair round her ear as they talked.
There was orange blossom, honeysuckle, in what we all
And buzzing in the evening air of small bugs lingering.
And cries where children behind the wall were playing.
On the steps across the street a teacup of flour.
Three mismatched linen napkins folded below it.
And sun on the steps.
And heat the steps can keep awhile.
There’s the cat which is still, which doesn’t look at
There’s the ladder still up in the tree they’ve found—
though the pruning’s long done—There are its prongs—
it’s a long one—spring out the topmost leaves
—two stiff antennae nothing can twitch—
There’s the feeding on up of the non-
Now they’re at the foot of it in a shady patch.
I know it’s not my place to watch.
And what is poetry to do now?
What is it going to keep in life that life is ready
to shake off, sleek now,
It wants to stick to the skin of the beast
(there’s singing to the radio out an empty window)