We’ve said desire requires absence.
We’ve said a lot, the good wine gone,
light draining. Outside, pavement dizzy
after summer rain. My friend is pacing,
pawing through books, his bleared mind
lighting on the best ideas—economies,
verse, origins of words, the flawed
exchange of need for need—and
what we feel is not want, but is pleasure.
My company is clever and sad by nature.
Faced with anything, he’ll sum it up:
my drafts, a cryptic film, his childhood
neighbor off to war. We don’t enjoy the world,
he says, until we make it memory;
what we feel is fleeting, and we know it.
Well, who would disagree with him?
Here he is, my friend, his flushed face
breaking into thought while he teeters
at the window with his empty Dixie cup.
It’s pleasure. Tin blinds tick in wind.
The air smells of grass and exhaust.
Soon we’ll head back to our separate places,
wet world turning into fog. And he’ll move
to Texas, state of wildflowers and oil,
the weirdest state I can imagine. For now,
what happens is simple. The present,
with this dull, preemptive grief he’ll claim
inevitable, is full of him, as the window
is full of that slender, lurching body, his self
becoming acute, a little hurtful, always better.


 

Special mention, 2011 Ruth Stone Poetry Prize, judged by Claudia Emerson.