Maybe I’m done with tragedy; I can’t say how
long I’ve loved without cease fire peeling
away from the Hindenburg like skin. That
nobody knows that infamous voiceover
was really recorded days later, the film silent
before being spliced into newsreels,
I love to tell others, though I’m unsure why.
And I loved the smaller fires
a boy could imagine, feverishly plot, finally make
with thieved matches and rolls
of toilet paper, paper ripped from magazines,
rotten fruit. Once, in my hand,
a thing blew up and through all
my fingers I felt the shock shove through.
Nothing was severed, made
stumps, though my ears filled up
with what seemed was wet
silence, cotton soaked through, packed deep.
At night, now, with my ears
pressed into pillows, the night
pressing back, below or beyond
the little breaths of my love
there is a high sharpness, a ringing
that marks narrow escape.
To think of it, to see again that sea teal sky,
is to feel summer. Now,
it’s winter and all day comes
hateful rain, spattering this part
of the world with the maddening stubbornness
of weather. In bed I’m alone
no longer and even in love
some small part of my brain seeks
to nurse a disbelief. But,
maybe I am done with tragedy,
no matter how seductive its narratives all are.
Even this is a story, these words,
all this shaped air, this habit
of speaking to whatever is broken,
or once was, or might be. True
to say that none of it, none of it,
matters. Why does it seem right
to now speak of flowers?
The pallid lily, the hydrangea-like foam from a wave.
I don’t know. All I care
is that we map out
with our bodies the night’s blindness. That we begin.
One more wrench lobbed into the gears of time
won’t seize up a single thing: not
the rain pounding at my door
like an aggrieved neighbor
whom I can’t help but offend.
I have been good, a long time I have been
the model citizen slash inmate
here in the kingdom of karma,
though I hardly cared: dawn
set the birds singing their odd hymns,
to which there were no
human lyrics, nothing to pretend
to others I knew beyond
reasonable doubt. Nothing
to tell you that I am
haunted by. I have been
waiting for the phone to sing out,
though the odds are
good it is not you
to sell me wood laminate for these floors
which aren’t my own,
I should probably tell you,
in case that is important
in some way I can’t yet understand.
A long time it seems
the rain has been trying
its liquid way in
and I have been good enough
to listen to it all
and say this is music
you should hear beside me.
Even the dark has come,
the whole night,
all itself unbroken,
the sartorial stars and the sky which is unbearable.
There is something
I mean to say just so
but it breaks apart, it breaks apart,
—Paul Guest is author of the books of poetry The Resurrection of the Body and the Ruin of the World (New Issues Press), Notes for My Body Double, and, most recently, My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge Award in 2007.
This issue of First Proof is sponsored in part by the Bertha and Isaac Liberman Foundation and the Thanksgiving Fund.