There was an oak tree, a bench,
a stream, and a willow.
All of these things have no place in this poem,
but poetic significance never made sense to me anyway. Lets say
the oak tree is me, and you are the bench,
although I think youd rather be the stream,
and I wouldnt mind trailing branches and whispering leaves.
No, I am the oak tree, and there is bound to be something
in how Ive grown from something warm, brown, and wrinkled,
cupped in a palm and patted under earth. Theres nothing romantic
about being a bench.
The stream is better. Lets say that wed sit for it, as it drew us
always, in watercolours. (This may seem obvious,
but you know me, I like to be thorough.)
Always, the ripples across your nose and cheeks - always,
the willow tree, dragging its limbs across us, smearing us together.
Smearing is such an ugly word. But then again, so were you;
an ugly word, all consonants and a lack of Italian vowels. Your as were brash,
and every h was breathy. It didnt matter. I loved you anyway.
I didnt mean to say that not so soon.
Lets go to back to the start.
I was the one they warned you about.
I was the one they told you not to look at, in case I saw you looking
and looked back. I was the one they dragged you from,
as you insisted loudly, it was only a glance!
and besides, you had lowered your lashes, so what harm could it do?
I went up an escalator today and missed you, and your lashes,
and the way you had nearly looked at me. Ill admit,
I want to fall asleep to your fingers fluttering over my back,
and your palms cradling my ribs. I wont tell if you wont.
But enough about me.
I wish I could talk about you, but I cant describe what you are
and I cant describe what youre not. Believe me, Ive tried
and all Ive done is compare you to a bench.
Forgive me, darling, Im trying.
Lets talk instead about soft, blurry days,
and the time you measured my spine in spans of your hand.
Or lets not talk at all, and sit by the stream that isnt a stream
under the oak tree that isnt an oak tree, and listen to the willow
that isnt a willow.
The bench is still just a bench.
I take it back; you are far too abstract to be a bench.
You would wonder, chewing on a pen or a leaf or your hair,
if a moon can be nervous and a morning can break. If,
given time, we would all learn to appreciate Dante,
or music written for a vacuum-cleaner duet.
Come, I would say. Lets stay up, and read Dante, and listen
to a vacuum-cleaner. Lets see if the moon can be nervous,
and if we can break the morning.
Come, I would think. Let me chew on your pen, or a leaf,
or let me stroke your hair.
And then the words I didnt dare to think, like stay, and cradle,
and you, you, always you.
Ill be the moon if youll be the morning. Ill try not to break you
as long as you remember - Im only a moon, waning anxious
and waxing lyrical, mourning for a morning that hasnt broken yet.
Mind you, if Im the moon and youre the morning,
then how will we meet?
Something ends, and something begins.
It doesnt matter, anyway;
there is an acorn and a vacuum, a moon and a morning,
an escalator, a pen and a leaf, and always, always,
an oak tree, a bench
and a willow.