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long distance

— Irène Mathieu

            driving in early winter to my love who lives two states away
sprays of blackbirds fling across the slough tucked into the curve of an exit ramp
where Pennsylvania gives way to Delaware, of sheared cornfields, of farmhouses with
their splintered mouths opening to mudfields puddled with the palm of the sky, Lenape
land, fields covered in defeated stalks like small pyres pointing heavenward, clouds
sworn to mundane iridescence.

time spells out the movement of all matter, but only matter.

to watch a day end:       make your way through pink-skied country
how to hold the skeletons of poplars and power lines in the mind as they mark the miles—
here Maryland, here trees stripped of their flesh—

                                                                          the road opens up the land and we ask
                                                  if we were meant to see it this way.

closer to heaven the geese are pointing southward and it seems a small miracle of
organization, though maybe every creature moves as diligently toward warmth as I do
now. humans haven’t yet learned how not to kill ourselves a little each time we move.

now the moon is a bright coin, now a single planet beckons, hypnotizes, lantern-like,
maybe more beautiful than this one if we could set our hot feet on it. we call a thing
lovely only after we have broken it.

confused animal I am, mesmerized by the goldening horizon, my movements as purposeful as
a moth’s when viewed from a satellite that ribbons the earth for decades.
our heat-seeking will be the death of us—the same banality of a dozen moths’ velvety
bodies impaled on my car’s headlights

                                                 and at the end of these hours
there will be a glass of wine, some bread, the deep and satisfied stretch of my love’s
laughter over me. the interstate behind me will not be filled in my mind with fur and
smears of oil and the entrails of unlucky deer we leave in our wake.

for my father as a child it was the small magic of Christmas-lit homes that unstrung him
down to his bright core; for my mother, the awakening in a scalding shower. we seem not
to want for much, but oh, how even this much has taken! I think I love myself more than
I love the land, and that may be my greatest grief one hundred years from now.

the presumptuousness of asking forgiveness in advance—of the reddening sky, of my
grandchildren. the misguided thought that there is penance in a poem.
here is the Bay bridge, here the choppy Chesapeake waters, here the Virginia I love to
love from behind glass, gulls dipping with each pulsing brake light predictable as a
person’s heartbeat.

love, pick something to sacrifice. by which I mean I want to be both human and an
animal worthy of this speck of dust.


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