Saturday, March 03, 2012

True Love


Think, remember
when Saturday was a day free of duty
and we would rise with the golden sun
spreading its fingers across the sky and rolling back
the bedsheet of the night,
golden fingers massaging the day into light,
angels with six wings and a thousand eyes
singing across the sky
a song of rebirth and hope.

Into our backpacks the things of the day:
rope, gauze, tape, grape jam, bread.
Through our suburban paradise of trim
lawns and cut personalities, past the fake
smiles of fathers
whose idea of duty was to stay in a box
as small as possible, to rule
in a box.

Down the slope of the spiral street, a DNA
helix the size and shape of the border
of our souls. The street bordered by trees
taller and older than we will ever be.

Into the woods our wandering feet, the crash
of branches breaking,
the sputter of leaves offended,
the release of spring from pink flower-petals
bruised by our golden feet.

We nearly stepped on a snake, light green,
which chased itself in a circle
and finally caught itself by the tail
before looking at us,
eyes black in the deep pool of forest light,
as if embarrassed.


We washed ourselves in the stream which, laughing, ran from us
in a waterfall of golden flickering sunlight, teasing, skipping
from rock to shining rock, disturbing the gloom
which we allowed to settle on our brows as we talked of the flash
of blue in a certain girl’s eye, the flicker of red on the lip
of the boy we had fought, the pure white of the snow
we would miss until it came again and made us bundle as tight as ticks
beneath a calcifying black cloak.

We decided all the poems ever written were variations on a single theme,
but we could not agree on what that theme was.

Lunch was grape jam on bread, and we said, breathing hard
with the exertion of climbing the hill
out from which we could see the valley spread, green with shadows
and black with sunlight, golden with pure beauty,
that true love could not be an emotion, but could only be an action.


Climbing back out of that shadowed valley
I lost my breath and had to lean
against the trunk of an evergreen tree
and you said that if love were only an action,
how could your mother still love you after you called her
all those horrible names that one time;
how could your parents
say they loved you when you were off
at camp. The sun, I said, not quite understanding
what I meant, does not shine any less bright
at night or behind a cloud.

So we went to the church to try to talk
to Father Peter, but he was locked in his study
buried in the finer points of ecclesiology,
so we went to the sanctuary, bowed, and stood
looking at the blessed face and I said,
love is pain,
and anyone who says otherwise
is selling something.

Were we wise children? Probably not.
Probably we were just dumb enough
to face things better left unexamined.

But somehow I can’t believe that.


Back home, your mother was spreading white sheets
on a clothesline. The sheets billowed in the wind
like the sails of the ship that the willow tree was, years ago.

Like the banshees we are, we howled
and charged, leapt the chain link fence and blinded ourselves
with white as we charged howling through

the embrace of the bedsheets, staining them with the dirt
we bore from the woods. We loved your mother, and she loved us,
and there is the deepest mystery of all.