When we met, I truly believed
these huge trees we admired were ghosts
of the mangroves that slept in the mud
in a paradise I could expect.
Like wisteria vines wound so tight
they slice a slim road in the bark,
your loss widens the path.
In the recordings she made in Zurich, H.D. says, wounded heel, and I remember how you called me Hermes. She says, purple sandal. When my grandmother killed herself, you called me Toth. How long did it take me to understand that, though I was neither, these two names were the same?
violet violet hyacinth violet violet—
these are Sappho's epithets doled out slowly.
Our minds traced them, brother,
petal by petal.
The older I got, the more often you called me brother; other times, Zeke—the name you three had invented for the imaginary son and sibling. If I could flood these lines with light, I would choose the light that gathers at the end of the day between the spindles of the staircase in the house we never lived in.
I wrote this (or something like it) once:
she wants to walk into an emerald
What I meant was, I want to walk
into the hot heart of an emerald
and stay there, an eye inside
innumerable eyes, each one tuned
to hum green.
In December, I flew down to see you. I waited all day. I drank house red at the new pub across the street and missed the crummy grocery that had once stood in that spot. Joni Mitchell came on the radio, but I ignored the coincidence. The door was red. Your house number still began with my birthdate, like the number above your office door, 328. When I saw your daughter, I knew how little I belonged.
We talked about my son. And you asked me to repeat two lines of Elinor Wylie: "Down in the Puritan marrow of my bones, / there's something in this richness that I hate." Choose safety, you told me. I sobbed later, wondering how in the hell anybody chooses anything. I'd flown all that way, and I wanted to come the next day too, but when you said, This may be all the time we'll have, I believed you.