Terry L. Kennedy
The Ways In Which Leave
Cold coffee ringing a mug
and a bill, forgotten, beside it: this
could be the beginning of morning—this
could be the end; these are some things
that confuse: the leaving you now—warm
under quilts, rhythm of your sleeping as light
as the mist as easy as sunrise; and it’s not
that I can’t be there, beside you, tonight,
it’s more this persistence of gravity—it attracts you:
the sag of the clothesline at the edge of its use,
the leaves on the maple near the end of October—
it’s someone else, not you, that I find in the yard,
scattered on the porch, clinging to the dog
as your flooding heart brims & puddles
the chipped cement below your head—
should we call this a state of abundance,
something overwhelming; this untenable frequency
between need & desire: how in fall, we bumper
the parkways embracing the trees at the arc
of their triumph; how when they’re stripped naked, raw
& open, we’re wintered away while the sky
outside is bright & clear.
Surprisingly, your name’s still on the list—
first, third, it’s unimportant;
the music has yet to take form but it’s already floating
on the current of chatter, imperceptible, like her side-long glance
from across the room or the dull ring that will sing with your heart
come Sunday morning. But for now, there’s only
anticipation—the wait for that certain light
that no one has shown you but you still understand, like the lilies,
who know when to dig deeper, hold their ground, or frailly rise,
open & flower, which isn’t quite right, you realize,
but that doesn’t matter; this warm cup of beer,
her breath on his neck, is a truth you believe in,
like all of that clutter filling her house: carnival bears,
cheap glass figures, cryptic notes hastily sketched
in bright colored crayon—all of those things she likes to surround her
so that when she is lonely, chosen or otherwise, she can think of the times,
the reasons they loved her.
Those boys, they’ll rip your heart out, she said—
what you’ll always remember is that this night
marked the last time she kissed your lips, said I love you.
It is not the sand or receding tide,
heavy with salt, that I am thinking of,
my hands rubbing my eyes
as if they were some genie’s lamp,
my wishes with me all along.
I am thinking of rain at the end winter—
what a comfort it is
to find hope in the hopeless—
like repetition, like ice.
I am thinking of the cardinal
who tries to fly through that just-cleaned window,
how good it must feel to finally forget,
resting your head on the cool cement.
I am thinking of Cassandra,
whose story’s so tragic, it could only have come
from a guilty heart.
I am thinking of silence, the silence I hear
when your name is a question,
your absence somehow making this room
quieter than ever before.
And so I’ll sing that yellow bird’s song
For the troubled times will soon be gone.
Spring’s first flowers are pushing through
this lonely wall of winter—
such simplicity: two notes, an Epiphone
and it’s 1935, again.
The highway and the brick house
have vanished with the morning dew,
and the ancient pecan I hid behind as a boy—
I can see my grandmother through its branches.
Such a comfort to know that we will die.
The two stones in the old pasture
will become a hundred. I knew this time with you
could not last forever.
Fade in the harmonies
so the voice that strummed my heart
moments ago can become a wind
that blows this storm out to sea.
Now I know why I’m so afraid:
the sound of you carries me off
like a newborn forced to make his debut—
full of fear and longing.
Someone with my name
has been peeking from the gnarled trunk
of the pecan all morning.
Please tell him I’m not ready.