When I fell in love that winter, there wasn’t a pine
As tall as my own esteem. You’ll have to accept it
On faith, it’s true, but I walked like a god of the forest
Who juts his chin and shakes the hair from his eyes
Because he’s young and knows it. And if you remember,
So many years back when you were fresh and brilliant,
How one soft touch can addle the wits and turn you
Into a poet or philosopher,
Well, you’ll forgive me if I swear I heard
The secret heart of the world, and found it good,
Good as we dream it should be or may have been
In the old days and far far away. I was
Anthony the magnetic. The wind, I thought,
Sang for me what it could, the branches swayed
In proper time, of course - I was the first
(In love you always think you’re the one and only)
To interpret the significance of trees,
Chill light and water and sky. To me the world
Was all one living thing whose name I knew,
And nothing rose to the shores of light but to sing
Of love in a morning-language so old the sparrows
Could follow too, and chatter their hearts away.
Then I and the one I used to love would walk
To the edge of the woods, and there, too full of ourselves
To break the spell, we’d listen, and sometimes kiss,
Sometimes sit with a lunch of cheese and apples.
Then all was calm and in its settled place.
One night, too bitter to open the door, we hugged
Beside the stove, and I was aware, believe me,
Aware while touching her lips so near and open
Of pines which nodded in time, Orion the hunter,
The round of heavenly animals peering in
To wink at us - why not? We all made love,
I and the woman I hummed to and earth and heaven,
For Love is a celestial harmony.
I know, you’ve heard that easy word too often,
Love, Love; but it’s only human to dream the lovely,
A young heart loyal forever - soft as a web
Which shakes when the wind is light. I’d like to believe
And I tell this to all the faithful afire to save me
And fold me into a world as it might have been,
Good people, happy - I wish to God that life
Were really a little chapel with each jewel
In its eternal home, to bend the sun
Into an iris or a mystic rose,
And that I could rhyme on love in the good old way.
I’d like - but it’s hard to sort what’s true, to find
What kernel of gold gave rise to the kingdom of heaven.
And I had built a paradise for her!
But when the shine had worn, the foolishness
Simply grown dull (see, I’d professed “I love you”
So often it had become self-evident),
Maybe it was an angle of light and shadow,
Or luck, but there she stood, frying peppers, this
Woman I loved, aloof as a winter pine
Single and tall amang a stand of pines
That sometimes touch each other, and sometimes not.
Celestial harmony is pretty, but
No alleluia soothed me to sleep that night.
I felt her depression beside me, as the sleet
Insisted upon our window, drumming for chaos
And night, for nothing at all which makes much sense,
No god, no goddess, no form, music, nothing.
I abandoned deity then, and since she’d still
Greet me with coffee and not many words in the morning,
She must have abandoned hers. If God exists
He fell too, risked his peace for the luck of the draw,
Grew humble, finite; stuttered. This is love.
This is impossible for me to prove.
This poem first appeared in the book Peppers as part of The New Poets Series, copyright 1991.