Blackboard covered with a dust
of living chalk, live chaos-cloud
wormed by turbulence: the rod glides
and the vet narrates shadows
I can’t quite force into shape:
His kidneys might . . . the spleen appears . . .
I can’t see what he sees, and so
resort to simile: cloudbank, galaxy
blurred with slow comings
and goings, that far away. The doctor
makes appreciative noises,
to encourage me;
he praises Beau’s stillness.
I stroke the slope beneath
those open, abstracted eyes,
patient, willing to endure whatever
we deem necessary, while the vet
runs along the shaved blonde
Today I’m herding the two old dogs
into the back of the car,
after the early walk, wet woods:
Beau’s generous attention must be
brought into focus, gaze pointed
to the tailgate so he’ll be ready to leap,
and Arden, arthritic in his hind legs,
needs me to lift first his forepaws
and then, placing my hands
under his haunches, hoist the moist
black bulk of him into the wagon,
and he growls a little
before he turns to face me,
glad to have been lifted—
And as I go to praise them,
as I like to do, the words
that come from my mouth,
from nowhere, are Time’s children,
as though that were the dearest thing
a person could say.
Why did I call them by that name?
They race this quick parabola
faster than we do, as though
it were a run in the best of woods,
run in their dreams, paws twitching
—even asleep they’re hurrying.
Doesn’t the world go fast enough?
We’re caught in this morning’s
last-of-April rain, the three of us
bound and fired by duration
—rhythm too swift for even them
to hear, though perhaps we catch
a little of that rush and ardor
the sound time makes,
seeing us through.
Big blocks of ice
chug down a turning belt
toward the blades of a wicked,
spinning fan; scraping din
of a thousand skates and then
powder flies out in a roaring
firehose spray of diamond dust,
and the film crew obscures
the well-used Manhattan snow
with a replica of snow.
Trailers along the edge of the Square,
arc lamps, the tangled cables
of a technical art, and our park’s
a version of itself. We walk here
daily, the old dogs and I glad
for the open rectangle of air
held in its frame of towers,
their heads held still and high
to catch the dog run’s rich,
acidic atmosphere, whitened faces
—theirs and mine—lifted toward gray
branches veining the variable sky.
Today we’re stopped at the rim:
one guy’s assigned the task
of protecting the pristine field
a woman will traverse
—after countless details are worried
into place—at a careful angle,
headed toward West Fourth.
They’re filming The Hours,
Michael’s novel, a sort of refraction
of Mrs. Dalloway. Both books
transpire on a single June day;
that’s the verb; these books do
breathe an air all attention,
as if their substance were a gaze
entirely open to experience, eager
to know—They believe
the deepest pleasure is seeing
and saying how we see,
even when we’re floored
by spring’s sharp grief, or a steady
approaching wave of darkness.
In the movie version, it’s winter;
they’re aiming for a holiday release,
and so must hasten onward.
Someone calls out Background!
and hired New Yorkers begin
to pass behind the perfect field,
a bit self-conscious, skaters
and shoppers too slow to convince,
so they try it again, Clarissa passing
the sandblasted arch
bound in its ring of chain-link,
monument glowing gray against the gray
A little less now in the world to love.
Taxi on Bleecker, dim afternoon, after
a bright one’s passing, after the hours
in stations and trains, blur of the meadows
through dull windows, fitful sleep,
heading home, and now the darkness inside
the cab deeper than anything a winter afternoon
could tender. Nothing stays, the self
has no power over time, we’re stuck
in a clot of traffic, then this: a florist shop,
where something else stood yesterday,
what was it? Do things give way that fast?
PARADISE FLOWERS, arced in gold
on the window glass, racks and rows
of blooms, and an odd openness on the sidewalk,
and—look, the telltale script of cables
inking the street, trailers near, and Martian lamps,
and a lone figure in a khaki coat poised
with a clutch of blooms while they check her aspect
through the lens: Clarissa, of course,
buying the flowers herself.
I take it personally. As if,
no matter what, this emblem persists:
a woman went to buy flowers, years ago,
in a novel, and was entered
by the world. Then in another novel,
her double chose blooms of her own
while the blessed indifferent life
of the street pierced her, and now
here she is, blazing in a dim trench
of February, the present an image
reduced through a lens, a smaller version
of a room in which love resided.
Though they continue, shadow and replica,
copy and replay, adapted, reduced,
reframed: beautiful versions—a paper cone of asters,
golden dog nipping at a glove—fleeting,
and no more false than they are true.
Your old kitchen, dear, on Bleecker: sugar, dates, black tea.
Your house, then ours. Anyone’s now. Memory’s furious land.