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ISSUE:  Spring 1994
The way they begin again
In the air is obscene:

The way they keep starting over—
Reaching for, reaching for— Adding on another version,
   And then another.

Each one equally true in time,
Or so it would appear: all of them
   True in the end,
Even the thinnest
Excuse, now—swaying and turning
   In on itself in this light
Down at the end of a limb,
   In thin air.

A map of our hungers,
Like the placemat, for tourists, —
The deep, even blue surrounding
This state pocked with enticements:
Oranges, rockets, half-naked girls—
We open the menu over.

It shouldn’t be this clear:
    Our need for each other.

The way they begin again,
Not trusting the earth,
    Not trusting the air,
The way they keep asking
    Is it, is it;
The way they keep starting over,
Wanting more.

Dense and tangled:
    The trial and trial and trial.

I think there was something else
I wanted to say here. . . .

And is there a tree there, one tree,
Somewhere in the center?
Somewhere you could get to
With a sharp blade, a single
Tree lost in the forest of itself
Uncertainty conjures up,
Saying, Maybe,
Not yet, And also, But if
, and
Perhaps. . ., Et cetera, et cetera?

Not any version more or less true, however:
Only anterior.

Imprisoned in its doubts—
“Empiricist!”—like a curse.
    Poor tree,
Physician and invalid at once:
Afflicted with a “mysterious illness,” and
    Constantly coming back
For more tests.

(As though the billowing green
Silken tent grew its own
Tethers, as though the swelling
Balloon gave birth to the intricate
System of ropes and weights keeping it
Pinned to the ground.)

An intelligence mad in its rigor,
    Its rigorous doubts.

Do I love you? Am I really
In love with you?
(Yet?) (Enough?) Is this
What I wanted,
Is this it?

And the sight of them cut
By the side of the road,
Sickening: deep
Entanglement, still
Writhing, cross-section,

The nest of snakes.

To begin again—
Further out on a limb—
I can’t bear it. Nothing
But rough drafts,
The lines left unfinished,

Not forever.

And the glossy leaves
Gleaming against the blue
Sky now,
Not enough?

(But the reason for this?)

(Freud, exasperated—
    Stock still on the threshold—
Surrounded by journalists,
Raises his hands to his head,
“All that matters is love and work!” Words
Lost in the crowd
    Of distrusts.)

The tentative
Versions, beginnings
    (Again), additions—
No, wait, please, I’m sorry, I didn’t
Mean to, let me explain
tremble in place
Like the dangerous live

    Wires the hurricane left
In its wake (the signals
Stopped, the voices
Went on, but in
Silence), in this
Breath of a wind,
    In this breath. . . .

(And the earlier certainties twist, strain,
Caught in the trap they set.)

But I can’t
Finish this.

(Married over and over again,
As though that would help.)

I wanted to grow
Out from the center, one
With myself: smooth
And singular,
As though I’d gotten it right
The first time,
Taking a shape
I could keep
Faith with. I had an idea
About destiny, fate,
I wanted to have one
Uncomplicated desire:
To say yes
And to mean it,

Nothing held back.
For once.
At last.

Terrible to be so obvious.

But just a choice,
    And then another choice,

And then another after that?
The slender roots trailing out
    In mid-air,
Incoherent. . . .

Not to be able to stop this. . . .


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