Then she says, of e.e. cummings,
that when one resorts to numbering poems
instead of titling them, it’s clear that each
is merely the passage of time between tumblers
of whiskey, the most recent version
of an old trick for the acquisition of women,
and I am cockswollen enough to confess
that that is what poets do.
What is a word, after all, but rarefied desire,
abstracted possession ? And who would deny us this,
since in the world as it is we stand to gain so little ?
But I won’t refine my argument. I’m busy, far too busy,
with the shadows beneath her clavicles,
the subtle, laughing movement of her eyes.
I won’t discern from her arch voice, the delicate posture
to which she returns at the end of each marked gesture,
that she’s a well-intentioned but vain woman
entertaining herself with my helplessness before the idea
of my hand on the pricked skin of her pale thigh.
Every spr ing, in this city, another woman, not
beautiful, not advantageously educated or employed,
crouches on the 16 square feet of concrete
outside the patio doors of her studio apartment,
to plant mint and basil in the pot opposite the pot
of marigolds which the rabbits do not eat.
If I knew how to love, if I knew how to do right
in the world, I’d leave this woman with whom
I’ve been talking, this woman too beautiful,
too educated ever to suffer anything but malaise,
and cross the traffic-laden night, the littered
parking lots and battered lawns, to tuck a folded
epistle among the chewed but indomitable basil.
Instead I’m pointing out the seeds of the cottonwood,
borne on coats of fluff wherever the breeze
will take them: a slow, methodical propagation.
In the blare of the streetlight, they are the night’ s
metaphor for the mayfly hatch which doe s not happen here.
Ephemera, they’re called in the Latin, winged
for but one night, to breed and die.
One seldom hears, these days, of a plentiful hatch,
where bulbs are black with the singed dead, and cars
wreck with the slick of them on highways.
I suppose there are people, friends of mine even,
who do not know that the mayfly flies to any
nighttime light, which seven hundred years ago
could only have been the moon and stars
reflected on the surface of the water.
To fly to what shines, helplessly, in a world
which obsoletes your life’s one gesture.
You see, now, how easy it would have been?
Amy Groshek holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She works as an online learning designer and programmer, and lives in Ashland, Wisconsin. Read Single Life #1, #8 and more poems in Contrary by Amy Groshek.