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Colette Thomas



[since you asked]

I
sometimes it's a matter of looking in the mirror
sometimes it's packing your bags, latching the shutters
and leaving instructions for the caretaker
I don't remember there being so many forks in the road
veins on the back of my hand   blue rivers to the heartland
when I finally found your address
they told me you had moved--five, six,
seven years or more--nobody knew where
on the dust-laced streets of this godforsaken town
no one I ask can give me directions
sometimes you just start walking
sometimes you just keep going

II
you can fool some of the people some of the time
you can fool yourself a lot of the time, but not indefinitely
how's that been working out for you
a stranger turns in the waiting room and asks
how much longer do you think that fragile little platform
can hold up all that weight?
a tract that's been overplanted   a forest overgrown
wildfires have their function
hold it off if you think you can
there's something about sleeping on the ground in the open air
nothing between you and the billion lights
glittering along the lining of that vast unreachable curve
something about the clarity that blows through
after the house burns down
leaving more in its place than you imagined you lost
no fooling

III
I would recommend riding out to meet it
I would recommend wearing sunflowers and nothing else
on a blue morning
after the sea has dragged back whatever it chose to take
after the silt has dried to a fine powder
and begun its migration on the next breeze
they've all left town and now is your chance
you can think ruins or you can think highway
either way   either one
I would advise leaving before nightfall


[after]

what I expected
if I expected anything at all
was a kind of echoey reverb
footfalls down the locker-lined corridor after school
those hallways going on and on in their sepia retreat
but no
it is very very quiet
even I
who invested beyond all prudence beyond all need
in the costly brocade of speech
even I am left without the vowels and consonants it might take
to populate this space
what else but to lie down with one ear pressed to the cooling earth
the slow brown leaves drifting down
small swirling gestures against the vast and irreducible blue
one or two glancing off my hair
the soft hollow at the back of my knee
a kind of unplanned kiss
delivered from the other side of the emptiness
as light as the press of footsteps that have already gone away
not those at the wet sand's edge as the tide comes in
but those other steps
in the vestibule
in the lengthening light after everyone has gone home
except one quiet man with a broom
who goes on working long after I recognize this place
I did not expect to visit again


[markers]

if I spoke every language but yours
softening face of sheer granite
ripe smear of mulberry
solitary crow feather fluttering down
compadre   corazon   mi amigo
how fares it with you
though I might not have wished such a stringent blessing
I rejoice with you now
to have come this far
knowing the avalanche has closed the pass behind you
there is no other way
petroglyphs   their gravid whispering
any language but yours
meine Freundin   mon frere
we come to this point   all of us
staring into the dust for tracings
cursing the erasures
at noon the shadows won't help
we've all heard the stories
the trudge across unforgiving sand
curtains of heat shimmering from dune after dune
to arrive parched hours later at the start of the circle
the very same
marked with the stamp of your own eroding bootprints
you fall to your knees in the face of the irrefutable
I would not have wished it
but you see   how skilled you have become
how your heart has swallowed the gold of the whole wide desert
you shine with it
lighting your way
lighting mine
in any language but our own
sine curve of secrets threading back and forth
the closed circle opening
my friend   bright mirror of my heart
those footfalls echoing down the canyon
those snowdrifts covering whatever has passed through
traces and erasures
the softening face
the sweet and whispered this way this way






Colette Thomas
Colette Thomas has presented her poetry in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere since the early 1980s, in settings including the Library of Congress, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and Harvard University. She is the recipient of several poetry awards from Harvard, where she studied with Seamus Heaney. Her poems have appeared in Grand Street, Poet Lore, WordWrights, and other magazines, and in anthologies of Washington-area poets. Colette also teaches Daoist meditation and is a long-time student of the I Ching.



                                    

 

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