For Robert Lowell
We smile at each other
and I lean back against the wicker couch.
How does it feel to be dead? I say.
You touch my knees with your blue fingers.
And when you open your mouth,
a ball of yellow light falls to the floor
and burns a hole through it.
Don’t tell me, I say. I don’t want to hear.
Did you ever, you start,
wear a certain kind of silk dress
and just by accident,
so inconsequential you barely notice it,
your fingers graze that dress
and you heat the sound of a knife cutting paper,
you see it too
and you realize how that image
is simply the extension of another image,
that your own life is a chain of words
that one day will snap.
Words, you say, young girls in a circle, holding hands
and beginning to rise heavenward
like white, helium balloons
in their confirmation dresses,
the wreaths of flowers on their heads spinning
and above all that,
that’s where I’m floating, Florence,
and that’s what it’s like
only ten times clearer,
ten times more horrible.
Could anyone alive survive it?