Like deer attracted to the city lights
and we, with flood-lit yards, looking out
at those startled faces staring in . . .
The same way a shore and waves hug each other
like an unraveling mirror
as one prevails
for the briefest churning
and rhythm returns then synchronized
with two separate movements that could be nothing else . . .
I felt a clear sense round the table,
while picking up from everyday time,
that I’d touched the hem again
of what I want. Even the napkins peaked
like linen volcanoes. Someone talking, last night,
not second-hand, but not about himself,
told a story about a friend.
Their childhoods, manhoods intertwined,
and then one day like an explosive internal heat
the friend felt conflict unwind
like a helix hidden under his skin.
He was drawn helplessly, let’s say, into leaving,
putting down what he’d taken up,
stethoscope, books, a lawn, happiness, he called it,
and into entering
a haunting ocean, then plotless mountains
as the man at dinner judged it, escaping,
until three wives later, playing marathon
rounds of Beethoven sonatas
his fingers bled in a shopping center
and he captured the Guinness Book
for the longest uninterrupted concert
of the Master’s vast breaking with the past.
Like Ovid’s Book of Sorrows
and Letters from the Black Sea,
sometimes those who find exile
discover they were seeking it
never wanting to yield except to
what won’t consent to be left behind.
Out of the night its reason flashes them,
sometimes no more than a snowflake
with its brief lace.
In Holland his fourth wife took his name.
While lying in his arms, among their feather pillows
she unexpectedly lifted
the knife of her nights in Auschwitz,
when another child put a comforting hand,
numbered and half-dead,
on her tiny shoulder. The older girl
whispered rain-filled stories to her,
lifting up slivers of warmth
from an extinguished world. In the shameful
darkness we know—in the strange way
dawn has terrifying pillars—
the older girl will be
Anne Frank. The man who was speaking blanched.
The candles on the table
sputtered and burned.
Wallis Wilde-Menozzi’s latest acceptances have been from The Kenyon Review, Southern Review, and Cream City Review. Her manuscript White on White is looking for its publisher. (1992)