Back to Issue Thirty-Two

Statue from Antiquity



Anonymous, Rome

I understand it is neither memory nor future
that turns the wild composure of your face.
And it is more than your eyes,
scorched to blanks from dust storms
in the desert, the rain
blown in folds against your dress.
Now there are churchbells, armies, winds,
salts and metals washed by rivers, stiff prairies,
the hunger of a whole village, unfathomable
heat—and spiderwebs ripped by falling leaves,
storm-clouds in vivid
speeds. I touch your arm—something
surges in your frame and locks into your eyes,
a swimmer unrisen from the depths.

There is no deep shelter. What you see
has moved a long way off, gray rains
brushing over a lake. Never again
will you return to pain or ease, never see
less. What was it for,
this possession by no one, what am I
meant to understand beyond
the blast of power. Everything
I have created with my life and everything
I have managed to wreck is mere shyness.

When I lived, it was windless and quiet.
Change was constantly upon me, an island
asleep between waves.



Evenings and Days



Having woken many days I still
can’t account for
myself, at night on the floor
with books spread
around me, spines black
below the lamps. I read
about the houses of the rich
and the poor, a woman thinking,
a woman combing her hair, the great
pain that would come to a young
man. You can hold
an umbrella above your head
and look out at deep
calm, rain drumming to
nothing. Walking through
traffic the steady roughness of
engines, and in dusk or late
evening the grasses seem
darker than trees. If you stare
at something for a long
time you may come to
trust it. That thin
shadow of wire fence through
dense heat was your life.
And even so you stepped past it.



There were evenings when the iced
air softened our throats, days
when there was such
light on the snow you could barely
see it. There are always
moments when no one
speaks. In summer my friends
lead their kids across cement saying
Look. An airplane floats past, a bike
netted with baskets. Their children,
always moving, understand
the absence of wind. I admire
how they rush into space,
use their arms to make the kiosk
grand. At the park my friend’s daughter
a shining bead on the field
as she kicks the ball, abacus of
laughter. We hardly know
who we are but we go on
living. A man I loved has let his
heart go slack. A city I loved
is a stack of properties.
There is always the deep
need of something gone.



Of course there were days of
extraordinary clearness, the sun
casting beams through wires of
rain, and you caught
the tired eye-muscles
of the clerk but because it was
late did not bother to say a brief
word. I am awake
but unable to recognize
the route, though I feel a slight
rise in the earth in the public
park and dearly love the benches
that hold the old men.
When I was young I wanted
the giddy pain that came with
love but now would give
anything for understanding,
one person sensing
the other, and joy
that rushes in for no reason.
When the morning is quiet
I can hear someone trimming
those trees, a young girl smokes
as she waits for the bus.
Somewhere in myself she is
completely at ease. Clouds
seem to be rising from the west,
the end of who we are comes
towards us—strange new
machines and ruined lands—
and though the people I saw shared
some of my fears we never
spoke. I was more
diminished than I knew. What
is it that brings me to you.



You Are not summer



You are not summer. You are not
highways by fields, the invitation to speed
through. You are not the rain or the days,
the willow-leaves running with water,
letting go. I don’t know how clouds disappear
or where my words fall. If you were here
to ask I would hook my fingers
into yours—you are no quality of fog or darkness,
no headlight or searchlight but one path
in the morning, one worn winter parka.
If you kick your shoes off and walk
barefoot across the cool wooden floor
I will say yes, or I will say nothing or brush
a few pine-needles from your shirt,
you are sunlit pages of night but never sunlight,
you are no zeroes piling up by the doors,
you are not trust, not speech,
just when the days were of no use
you paused and stopped, you were no question,
you had no expectation, you closed
your eyes in a breeze but were no breeze,
you would not walk through me if you could,
no picnic or banquet or thunder,
no slow bird above a river
where we won’t sit in summer, just watching
the emptiness recede, the water arrive.




Joanna Klink is the author of four books of poetry. She has received awards and fellowships from the Rona Jaffe Foundation, Jeannette Haien Ballard, Civitella Ranieri, the Bogliasco Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Trust of Amy Lowell, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Her new book, The Nightfields, is forthcoming from Penguin in July.

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