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The Long Marriage

If the night were not dark enough,
not dark enough and too short,
then we perhaps would not
have had the patience to find again
in each other the light,
a tiny light, but still light enough,
enough to draw us close again—
that small light in the other
the only light that can lead us home.

the math teacher walked through the door
and went straight to the empty blackboard.
He did not say a word, did not look
at the class. He drew a perfect circle.
Then with his back to our eyes,
he began to write the proof for the area
of a circle. His chalk clicked against the emptiness,
filling the space with points x and y and
cos and sin and theta and n and limits and infinity.
The room was cold. The proof was brief
and elegant. He stood back and crossed his arms
over his chest as he stared at the work.
That, he said in a voice both humbled and grand,
is more beautiful than any poem ever written.
Though I could not feel any warmth for the proof,
nor for the man who averted our gaze, I did admire
his reverence, and drew in my notebook
an imperfect circle more like the shape of a peach—
something sweet and golden and soft,
its juice about to spill across the page.

We Do It Until We Don’t

Sometimes it seems as if everyone
in the world is lonely, all of us
shuffling around, slumped by the weight
of our singular lonelinesses. As if
we all drank the same sad tea.
As if our loneliness also makes
us blind and deaf to each other,
unable to see that everyone else
is as broken and blemished as we are.
Every time we think we find
an answer, some path to wholeness,
it turns out to be another dead end.
How could we all be so lost together?
Sometimes there is a light inside
the loneliness. And it grows
and it grows more and more intense,
as if to say, “There is so much light.”
But that is not the answer we were
looking for, and so we go on searching,
carrying our loneliness like a basket
full of dark black stones, somehow
not noticing that we could put it down
any moment, even now.

Fermata

Sometimes, astonished by beauty
the heart fumbles the next beat
and the breath stops—it sounds awful,
right? but you know as I do that these
are the finest moments in life,
when we somehow escape the bells
of the hours and shackles of language
and wade in the edgeless fields of infinity.
But then the involuntary nervous system
kicks in again with its relentless drive
to pulse, inhale, exhale, and blink, and the brain
begins to rifle for a word or two to explain, to share,
perhaps to prove what a strange and beautiful
terrible marvel just happened.

one leaf near the eye
covers an entire forest—
I begin to suspect
I have thousands of thoughts
like leaves

It had not yet hit the cement floor
and shattered into incalculable smithereens.
I was, of course, in a hurry.
It was, of course, glass.

I can freeze it, the moment
I knew the bottle was going to fall
and there was not a thing
I could do to stop it—

that moment as brief as when
I decided to tell the truth
after he asked the question
I hoped he would never ask.

All those shards—they never
go back to a whole. How the sunlight
gathers in them, thousands of prisms
scattered all over the floor.

Tasseography

is this a poem
about tea, how it burns
when the lips are too eager

*

fennel, chicory, cardamom—
it always smells sweeter
than it tastes

*

the bottom of the cup,
the bottom of my thirst—
these are never the same

*

Darjeeling, Darjeeling—
ask me if I’d like some so
I might tell you yes, yes

*

tell me the truth
I say to the tea leaves, but
I don’t ask my real question

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