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  • Combustion of Early Summer; and The Love of My Life
  • James Mccorkle

Combustion of Early Summer

The elation of the past is over, the news tells us, Suggesting it was there to begin with Or recoverable, like a heavy ore or a shipwreck.

But on closer inspection, the past buzzes around us, A conversation in another room we thought dormant, Soon its occupants will crash through the door

Wearing green sequin blouses that remind us of mermaids, The ones seen years ago in waterless tanks among dried starfish And draped nets, waving to us from a place free of storms.

You wonder about other places, less advertised, If another design had not been accomplished That drew upon a new notion of heaven.

Cushioned by the afternoon's orchid heat, Enveloping us with implied betrayals— It is possible, the narrator might be whispering—

There we might be unfurling like sails, Never going taut, the wind pulls us over the water, Whole populations streaming over reefs with marlin and sailfish.

Stories that make us up, until we are bankrupt, And we wonder who these people are claiming their pound Of flesh off our backs, pushing us into the dusty crowd.

We are trapped in the same voices we've known for years, Words drop among the glowing debris of streets— Which are yours or mine, what was said or when, unknown.

Sorting things out, nothing really fits: The puzzle of mountains with pieces from a regatta, We have pieces from other lives,

The difficulty is to remember them, hoping Caligula or Curie do not figure As the locking piece, the keyhole, the knob.

Dreams stare back at us, a coiled snake Leading us deeper into houses or along streets To a harbor whose palms have rotted, the furniture staved-in.

Along the shore the dead talk with us—they are the waves And the salvage-birds, the jackals that swarm Through the old hotels and in the weedy temples.

These sidereal landscapes compound: for a moment You are there, in the mullein-heat of ruins, before we lose sight Of the landscape, the dream chopped to a memory

At other times, there are sections we dimly remember: Another bay's cerulean expanse tips into the sky, Scattered sails tack for an unseen buoy.

The regatta holds its shape, like dreams that continue after waking, The city fills out for us again, with its seepage-stained Water-towers and the pigeon-clutter of roofs.

In the dense exhaust of afternoon, we move in and out of shadows Along Houston Street, as though bathing in ink And then washing clean of all traces,

The remaining light is so strong our white shirts Blanch the photographs of all tone: were you to the left, Or is that someone else strayed into the frame?

The shield of light expands over the imagined horizons, Everything fills itself with all else, That anything could be no longer interests.

The traffic lights change like dominoes falling, All the way up town as we move each to another, A roundel where passion is only in the figure.

Everything said spirals to a period, A rose that has dried almost to blackness, Its scent a window left open long ago.

We slide to this point perspectives chart, Infinite movement allowed only one course, What was meant to happens remains off stage,

So much for the pavane we whirled into; Sticking your tongue out, crossing your eyes, you spin Across stage, into the water-meadows abutting tank-farms.

The stage goes black, the curtains tear, Children are sent in to rip the floorboards up For firewood, pigeons circle out of the cracked vault.

Returning dripping with sedge and reeds, Tannic perfume soaks your clothes: no one can describe Your departure or arrival, yet we all have ideas.

Momentary grace or seduction?—no one knows Your reasons for taking up with us, perhaps the loneliness Of watching cities turn more fatal and rapturous

Each epoch slides into the next and claims its dead: What is the cost of all this, what has been put aside To keep the body tandem to the sulphur-lit city.

When you spun into your volute, there was...

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