I never could tell whether my editor thought
I was a poet playing God or a creationist
Count them, Cathy, I would say,
the Days of Creation, played in reverse,
starting with the woman climbing into the man
like a hide-and-seek kid into a wardrobe,
and the man climbing down into the reddish dust
of broken bricks, and all the flying things
and residents of sea and lair
climbing into successively less
complex renditions of themselves,
and the violent waters and the conscientiously
objecting land, and peace and love,
and hope and change one and the same,
and the darkness like a Plague
of Darkness falling…
Cathy was closer to me than any human animal
had ever been, a hovering ghost disguised
as a headless lady.
The view from her parapet in the early eve
offered the viewer the bloodless bullethole
of the sun, searing itself into the brain,
the brain standing at attention, gazing out
toward the scrub that had grown for eons
between Cathy’s sad little parapet and the sea
and that grew, so slowly, into a wall of thick
black trees, with the sun standing before it.
(Between the viewer and the trees.)
Haven’t you ever wanted to say something serious?
she would say. Haven’t you ever admired the moth
like a fleck of ash from a distant fire?
Its designation in Latin breaks into a blaze
of prism color. Write that.
Here I would fling myself against the wall
and hang there for support. But for my breathing
she would have asked herself for forty minutes
by the clock if I was dead. But I was the moth
playing dead in the early eve, as what moth-like thing
in the early eve would not?
Brother, I’m tucking this into you bucket
of provisions. A little cheese, two peaches. Six days
ago you climbed to the top of this column
and your work clothes are down here with me,
standing stiff with cement where you left them.
Are they as mad as you at God for not existing?
A guy showed me a print in a book he brought, a woman
held up serenely, on an invisible string,
and he wanted it to make me think of you,
but you said pictures like that and questions like mine,
without good answers or explanations, you can only look at
through a prism, as though through, beyond belief or dis-,
and you’ll see in the jillion angles there is
no question, no picture, nothing really real. So I give up.
I’m moving our chicken coops to the foot of your column.
It’s been six days, Kevin. What is this, really?
Also, why don’t you drink from the canteens I’m hoisting up?
If you’re embarrassed to pee from up there just remember
I’m usually busy throwing feed or filling canteens or cleaning up
after the crowds that have started forming to witness.
It was me, right, that taught you how to aim for the pot?
Like I even knew. I always thought since the earth is bigger
than you you might as well go with it and squat.
There’s no danger of you being snatched into the clouds,
where the sun is struggling to hide its light, and your column,
good and steady in itself for your having built it
under cover of night, will never touch its forehead
to the ground, at least not more than once. Sometimes
in the morning it looks like the fog up from the reservoir
has carried off or gnawed away your column’s foot
but left the rest upright in the air, with you on top,
on your knees, that singe of brown hair across your chest
and the rest of you clean and pale as an egg laid by mistake
in the dim water of a runoff barrel. And get this:
Yesterday two girls broke from the crowd with smiles
and started talking to your clothes like they could answer.
They just stood there, tired of stupid questions. I bit my lip
for pleasure, forcing annoyance into pain. How long will you
be up there, confessing to God God knows what, slumped
like one of those dolls they used to use to scare us
from having kids, with a knack for looking realistically
asleep, jerking upright when you least expect?
And when I say God you know who I’m talking about.
You’re thinking too hard about how the silver
clouds have these leaden linings. I’ve been to school
like everybody else. I can see the clouds from the ground
as plain as you can from your column.
So why does the sun waste its time trying
to hide behind them all the time? Like they said,
Come down from there and we will believe in you.
It’s harder for God to hide from us than let us
see him, but he can. Who ever learned best without
a teacher, Kevin? I do miss you. I love you, too.
Come down, please? Your sister, C.