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The Wait

by Sophie Cabot Black

Each promise I break is toward a definition
Of god. Angels decay, the breakwaters return
Their low lives to water, the dunes

Slip monuments. Polite, I tried even
Loving a stranger. Into the dark woods to find treasure,
Then braved bringing it back into light—

Oh the light gristling down. There were places
I had to sit with my back against the wall,
Nights I talked because I thought talk

Would make night friendly. I tried silence
To hear everything, stopped making love
To keep the spinster happy. I let children

Sneak away from me, one by one into the dark,
Brutal and blank. I heard only one man say
He was sorry for the damage. I watched him

Walk away and come back, walk away and come back.
This planet loves insistence: people forgive
For acts they can’t remember. There’s been

No true dominion. I try to lose details as quickly
As possible. Fingers of land crumple into seagrass. The sun
Burns in the water. I wait for an honesty larger than my own.


Sophie Cabot Black received her MFA from Columbia University in 1984. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly and Pequod. She most recently won the 1988 Grolier Poetry Prize. (1988)

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