This is the river we walked to
and the road on which we made
the complicated jokes of the shy.
I snapped my towel instead of words.
Everything we said came from great depth and everything
meant something. You wore a gold ring—
I tried to remember the marriage hand
and thought how small your entire being was,
calves, lobes, frozen gestures in the air.
This is how you were—blue with cold and still wanting
to go further than you had ever been,
but you stayed with me, briny, hair-slicked,
and we drew much closer to the other side,
saying what I had heard lovers say,
trapped and deadly in each others’ arms.
Tonight, I walk among the houses of our new town,
the blond moon stopped among the trees and hear
a familiar bird-call like a murderer’s call
spreading slowly and invisibly along the grass.
The children don’t hear it. Pursuing
their soccer ball with total attention,
they kick at nothing. They love beyond themselves,
like things half-built and unpaid for in the yard.
Do you remember the warm river,
how the sun grew dry and red before falling,
tinting our hair and long arms? I remember you
flood-lit, in full song, more than a body.
Everything was instant longing, like a summer of childhood,
of lying face down in the grass trying to imagine
the face of a bird I could never see,
a couple fighting whose voices grew less clear, less good,
until all I remember is their song. Tonight,
as their red-haired son weeds the yard, our neighbors
argue in the heat. There are pictures everywhere—
don’t they know that what we count on, believe in,
is memory, and longing is longing for memory?
It is where all faces are pure song.
Michael Milburn teaches English at the Fenn School in Concord, Mass. (1982)