only the crossing counts by C.D. Wright
Sifting through my notes, journal entries hastily scribbled on pieces of paper and stuffed in my bag to be re-examined later. Business cards from shops and places I’ve eaten. Brochures. Receipts. Maps. Itineraries and tickets. Trying to trace my way back, trying to build a narrative. Where I’ve been, what I did, who I was with.
S. slept for twenty-one hours after we arrived. We’re both exhausted like we’ve never been. I wonder if she feels the loss keenly now, or if the hours back home are filled with family, and finding your place again in the scheme of things.
I listen to my father talk about what’s happened while I was gone. The world revolving still. I am trying to be here.
only the crossing counts
It’s not how we leave one’s life. How go off
the air. You never know do you. You think you’re ready
for anything; then it happens, and you’re not. You’re really
not. The genesis of an ending, nothing
but a feeling, a slow movement, the dusting
of furniture with a remnant of the revenant’s shirt.
Seeing the candles sink in their sockets; we turn
away, yet the music never quits. The fire kisses our face.
O phthsis, o lotharian dead eye, no longer
will you gaze on the baize of the billiard table. No more
shooting butter dishes out of the sky. Scattering light.
Between snatches of poetry and penitence you left
the brumal wood of men and women. Snow drove
the butterflies home. You must know
how it goes, known all along what to expect,
sooner or later…the faded cadence of anonymity.
Frankly, my dear, frankly, my dear, frankly
First published in Slate, 22 December 1999.
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