Geography of Home

From The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.

Sudden winter rain a need like night
camellias that morning startling
a thing remembered how we fill
our days of ornaments
unwrapped and scattered across
the kitchen table chocolates
in a silver box from home wind
white and furious watching
the first hour of Fanny and Alexander
Christmas Eve snow falling candlelight
feast at the end of day a family
gathered and then, the stark unraveling
ice breaking on the river
beside the house children
shocked into submission
reality broken ever since

That night the voice on the phone
once held me steady
sometimes that is enough a man
with a full heart and stories
thick snow on a lake white breath
of horses small children digging
tunnels in the fields beside the house,
afternoons with an English novel or the film,
because he misses home, but won’t say
this is where he asked her
to marry him under the stars
a bottle of champagne wedged

in a snowbank as if songs were true
stories as if joy could be anything but
elusive promises made
before God sometimes
a sudden turn in one direction
or another eyes that meet
or do not across the bar
the risked kiss unbuckled belt
and so it goes a stranger
came out of his house
to speak to a woman this was
as calculated as a long voyage
shaving cream caught in his ear
this too was planned one thing
on his mind his stories as old as the sea—
the first stab to his heart
home on holiday leave that
night and the snow was falling
the girl’s hair was full of snow or stars
caught on their eyelashes and tears
he got down on his knees his uniform
shining buttons none of that mattered

he moved in we wore
the same size jeans we fit
like us no arguing with that
forget the world let us

be happy when we are happy
that story that stays with me
his submarine surfacing
into a swarm of monarchs
crossing the Atlantic mid-day
no clouds the wonder of it
so much sunlight with you
it was something like that
he said and then
a child conceived because
of me the memory of that
story not written anywhere.

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