And to our ear, the words saleAnd sail are pronounced the same,And this is the same boat we rentedBefore, before the first windowOpened on the old house, beforeThe glass was forever scratched,Before its latch broke off in ourHands, and it, like some thought,Would never shut again. TryPutting patience in an emptyBucket, or try to wear foreverThe death scarf taken as a souvenirFrom someone whose last thoughtsWere of starving of something,Or simply staring at the curtainIn the breeze, the open window,The world outside of us,The ensemble of late, great sounds,The upupa’s wobbly flight intoThe flowering acacias, all flair andAll plume, or the spoon’s soundIn the empty bowl, crutched inIts limitless clinking. The secondThought has to always followThe first, frisked and shamed andAbsolutely hiding nothing asOriginal as change, the faint bloomOf those we were sure had died,We had been to see them off toTheir own deaths, more of the same,The same ground holding a differentBody, shovel slashing earth, a moundThe rain eventually flattens, likeFlatter, like a false friend. But let’s [End Page 139] Think the worst, that we didn’tChange planes, that the gardenDidn’t like being a garden anyLonger but had no way of tellingUs that, and there’s MahmoudDarwish, dead and done for, fourCommemorative stamps on a letterStill on a desk, that we’re thinkingWill someone at least please sendIt! Let it travel in someone’s pouchTo some other part of the world,The opposite of world, where weWander like postulants, readingThe same word again and again.It’s the again we want to gainsayBut can’t, turning off the flashlightAnd thinking again we can see,If we really want to, in the dark,Seeing something sempiternal,Lacking sameness, a pair of shoesWashed up by a wave, our size,But where would we walk inThem, where would they takeUs that we really wanted to go,Stepping over a stream, we whoOnce read all that the wind wrote,Water boiling in a clay pot andSummer heat, the heart havingFailed we can’t bring ourselves toWrite about, the long absenceOf death, and then death, likeA clean cloth on the window,Wet hands wringing out the scene.
Awakening of all things, spiral failure (to deceive); lebensraum, life space (taking Poland); spinal; the new and the more of the same; the same boat we rented before; the words sale and sail are pronounced the same; lack of same, simultaneous, ensemble, assemble; sempre, sempiternal; anacoluthon, abrupt change in syntax in a sentence; semplice, hamadryad, same summer in a different year; sand blind, semi-blind, sentient, changeover, clang, clang; changed the yard into a garden, a light that changes color; change planes; after Mahmoud Darwish’s death: four commemorative postage stamps [End Page 140]
Edward Mayes has published poems in the Southern Review, Poetry, the New Yorker, the American Poetry Review, and The Best American Poetry, with recent poems in the Kenyon Review, the Gettysburg Review, Blackbird, and Crazyhorse. His books include First Language (Juniper Prize, University of Massachusetts Press) and Works & Days (awp Prize in Poetry, University of Pittsburgh Press). He lives in Hills-borough, North Carolina, and Cortona, Italy, with his wife, the writer Frances Mayes. [End Page 167]