When We Leave Each Other - excerpt
I wish I could write a poem
must be the unwritten line with which
every poem in the world begins.
And now I’ve gone and written it.
At least it lends these words a certain weight.
Don’t expect rhymes either, because I’ve always hated rhyme.
And unlike most people
I have trouble remembering poems that rhyme
but can recite a million unrhymed poems by heart,
including this one, when I’m finished.
I often think that rhymes trip over themselves,
as if rhyming were like soccer,
which unlike most people,
I’m not that wild about.
What else? I don’t like the smell of bakeries
but I love the smell of the butcher
even though I’m against the killing of animals.
And when more than three people start to think the same
thing as me, I know at least one of them is wrong.
Therefore I say: down with the monarchy,
free the house pets!
I hereby publish my manifesto
in the form of an unrhymed poem.
It’s a manifesto because of the logical meaning of the words.
And it’s a poem because I say that’s what it is.
Things that were here before you died
and things that came after:
The former includes, above all, your clothes,
plus your jewelry and photographs
and the name of that woman you were named for,
who also died young.
Plus some receipts, the arrangement
of that corner in the living room,
that shirt you ironed for me,
which I keep tucked
under a stack of T-shirts,
plus certain songs, and the mangy
old dog that still stands around
smiling stupidly, as if you were here.
The latter includes my new fountain pen,
the familiar perfume
on the skin of a woman I hardly know,
and the new light bulb I put in the lamp by the bed,
by whose light, in every book that I read,
I read about you.
The former remind me that you once were,
the latter that you no longer are.
And what I find almost too much to bear
is this nearly imperceptible difference.