A Year and a Day

I found this poem in an old journal, a fragment. In its new reworking I suddenly found myself recalling the terrifying scene in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein when Victor Frankenstein unexpectedly encounters the monster while hiking alone on a glacier -- a sublime and terrifying place in and of itself -- so that found its way into the poem as well. This was another obsessive, self-absorbed love poem, in language unabashedly hyperbolic, but I hope it is now redeemed. It is as true to me as a "Howl" was to Ginsberg.

A year since last I saw you. No: a year and a day.
The round red sun struck an octave falling,
rung out the interval as turning earth
returned to the self-same place in its orbit:
and what should happen, but nothing at all.
Nothing, or rather, another day void
to add to a year of days without you,
the same fields dressed up in the same green trees,
the same indifferent sky accepting bursts
of egomaniacal seedpods
attempting escape velocity.

During the year, I fled the quotidian,
twisting with maple propellers,
out and upward to the highest cirrus.
I sought the place of your waiting
somewhere in orbit beneath the Dog Star.
All too soon I fell, repelled
by a single graze of your cheekbones.

I thought the sun, unbent by atmosphere,
would melt your cold heart ;
the rain that came
we mistook for a sign of advent —
o roots, o tendrils, o new shoots twining,
abandoned as abruptly
to summer’s drought,
to hoarfrost cold,
and now, to this barren anniversary.

Each height I sought
you had already abandoned.
Each bloom thrust up —
whether the frail violet
     or the tight-fisted peony —
beautiful to me only
in some resemblance, passing,
to some aspect of you,
fell petal by petal to cindered ash.
Earth’s autumn hecatombs
were burned in vain at your altar.
I know you were always there,
just one horizon beyond me,
hurrying on, pursued, and pursuing
(I dread to name whom or what!)
Must I follow you to desert rim,
the unforgiving edge of the glacier,
the Mere de Glace where Monster
and Maker (for what else are lover
and beloved?) meet once,
soliloquize and part, sworn enemies?

For a year and a day you have fled me —
(Ah! it is a year and a day, times thirty now!) —
and still the secret lives, as flowers shriek
in fields the winds italicize with longing,
in wan birch forests that topple and fall
at your departing slant. The secret lives;
the long count of calendar days resumes,
and we (myself and all things living)
tread on in quest of that one contrary wind
that would be harbinger of your return.
I will not die waiting, but you will wait
’til your own death to plumb regret’s full sea.
Green things will bloom, mute, melancholic, doomed,
beneath a kettle of iron-gray storm-clouds.
Life will go on somehow, though gods are fled
and I, of words and love, am but a ghost.


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