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The Hours Before Leaving

ISSUE:  Summer 1979

The morning paper spread across the table in full light,
a bar of butter, sweet rolls on a plate,
how ineffably these strike you, how you’re taken back,
remembering that moment you touched
the red tongue
of a carousel horse, when you felt joyful and afraid.
So many places in these hours:
even that morning in August, sitting at a garden table
   overlooking Niagara Falls,
as you watched the spray carry downriver over the gorge
then drift back through the sunlight
onto your paper
opened to the crosswords, you thinking of machicolation
   although it would not fit,
when at the base of your tooth the small abscess broke.
Que je n’en sois pas séparé éternellement!
What can be said now? Light. Heat. Abyss. Goodbye. And
   may the self break free
that too often seemed narrow when it meant to be precise,
in morning coat when it meant to be kind,
may those times you got down on your knees to pick burls
   from the carpet
give way to what holds and grows more open,
for the moment is expansive
and you want to say sea lions plunging off the rocks, but
   nearer the tongue,
like cowhide, yet still too far to get to and impossible to say.

In these hours,
the road begins to shape itself miles before you arrive, and the
up the mountain is as clear and familiar as your street, now
   the bonds unloosening, now falling away,
until where you are
surrenders itself to a landscape composed of a brilliant
   separation of objects which your agitation touches: the hedge with dried berries
   outside your window,
on the mantel the paper clips you interlocked last night, then
   put aside,
these take on a purpose from which you’ve been let go, and
   on your street the brick houses
collapse upon themselves like the detonations of seaside


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