Out for a walk tonight,
the dog is throwing all her weight
against the leash, lunging toward
the fat tomcat
licking his black ankles
with a delicious, solemn attention
at the top of the neighbor’s steps.
Because this is what the dog
was made to do.
Because for some lucky animals
the space between the body
and what it wants
is all there is.
I sat on the lawn watching the half-hearted moon rise,
The gnats orbiting the peach pit that I spat out
When the sweetness was gone. I was twenty,
Wet behind the ears from my car wash job,
And suddenly rising to my feet when I saw in early evening
A cloud roll over a section of stars.
It was boiling, a cloud
Churning in one place and washing those three or four stars.
Excited, I lay back down,
My stomach a valley, my arms twined with new rope,
My hair a youthful black. I called my mother and stepfather,
And said something amazing was happening up there.
They shaded their eyes from the porch light.
They looked and looked before my mom turned
The garden hose onto a rosebush and my stepfather scolded the cat
To get the hell off the car. The old man grumbled
About missing something on TV,
The old lady made a face
When mud splashed her slippers. How you bother,
She said for the last time, the screen door closing like a sigh.
I turned off the porch light, undid my shoes.
The cloud boiled over those stars until it was burned by their icy fire.
The night was now clear. The wind brought me a scent
Of a place where I would go alone,
Then find others, all barefoot.
In time, each of us would boil clouds
And strike our childhood houses
Not there to see midsummer’s midnight rose
open and bloom, me,
or there when the river dressed in turquoise
under the moon, you;
not there when stones softened, opened, showed
the fossils they held
or there, us, when the dark sky fell to the earth
to gather its smell.
Not there when a strange bird sang on a branch
over our heads, you
and me, or there when a starlit fruit ripened
itself on a tree.
Not there to lie on the grass of our graves, both,
alive alive oh,
or there for Shakespeare’s shooting star,
or for who we are,
but elsewhere, far. Not there for the magic hour
when time becomes love
or there for light’s pale hand to slip, slender,
from darkness’s glove.
Not there when our young ghosts called to us
from the other side
or there where the heron’s rags were a silver gown,
by grace of the light.
Not there to be right, to find our souls, we,
dropped silks on the ground,
or there to be found again by ourselves, you, me,
mirrored in water.
Not there to see constellations spell themselves on the sky
and black rhyme with white
or there to see petals fold on a rose like a kiss
on midsummer night.