Excerpts for Stag's Leap


The Last Hour

Suddenly, the last hour
before he took me to the airport, he stood up,
bumping the table, and took a step
toward me, and like a figure in an early
science fiction movie he leaned
forward and down, and opened an arm,
knocking my breast, and he tried to take some
hold of me, I stood and we stumbled,
and then we stood, around our core, his
hoarse cry of awe, at the center,
at the end, of our life. Quickly, then,
the worst was over, I could comfort him,
holding his heart in place from the back
and smoothing it from the front, his own
life continuing, and what had
bound him, around his heart--and bound him
to me--now lying on and around us,
sea-water, rust, light, shards,
the little eternal curls of eros
beaten out straight.


Stag's Leap

Then the drawing on the label of our favorite red wine
looks like my husband, casting himself off a
cliff in his fervor to get free of me.
His fur is rough and cozy, his face
placid, tranced, ruminant,
the bough of each furculum reaches back
to his haunches, each tine of it grows straight up
and branches, like a model of his brain, archaic,
unwieldy. He bears its bony tray
level as he soars from the precipice edge,
dreamy. When anyone escapes, my heart
leaps up. Even when it's I who am escaped from,
I am half on the side of the leaver. It's so quiet,
and empty, when he's left. I feel like a landscape,
a ground without a figure. Sauve
qui peut--let those who can save themselves
save themselves. Once I saw a drypoint of someone
tiny being crucified
on a fallow deer's antlers. I feel like his victim,
and he seems my victim, I worry that the outstretched
legs on the hart are bent the wrong way as he
throws himself off. Oh my mate. I was vain of his
faithfulness, as if it was
a compliment, rather than a state
of partial sleep. And when I wrote about him, did he
feel he had to walk around
carrying my books on his head like a stack of
posture volumes, or the rack of horns
hung where a hunter washes the venison
down with the sauvignon? Oh leap,
leap! Careful of the rocks! Does the old
vow have to wish him happiness
in his new life, even sexual
joy? I fear so, at first, when I still
can't tell us apart. Below his shaggy
belly, in the distance, lie the even dots
of a vineyard, its vines not blasted, its roots
clean, its bottles growing at the ends of their
blowpipes as dark, green, wavering groans.


My Son's Father's Smile

In my sleep, our son, as a child, said,
of his father, he smiled me--as if into
existence, into the family built around the
young lives which had come from the charged
bouquets, the dense oasis. That smile,
those years, well what can a body say, I have
been in the absolute present of a fragrant
ignorance. And to live in those rooms,
where one of his smiles might emerge, like something
almost from another place,
another time, another set
of creatures, was to feel blessed, and to be
held in mysteriousness, and a little
in mourning. The thinness of his lips gave it
a simplicity, like a child's drawing
of a smile--a footbridge, turned over on its back, or seen
under itself, in water--and the archer's
bow gave it a curved unerring
symmetry, a shot to the heart. I look back on that un-
clouded face yet built of cloud,
and that waning crescent moon, that look
of deep, almost sad, contentment, and know myself
lucky, that I had out the whole
night of a half-life in that archaic
hammock, in a sky whose darkness is fading, that
first dream, from which I am now waking.

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