An Imaginary Letter to My Friend, Irina, in Moscow
I drank Merlot last night from the wine glass you gave me
and thought about how we’d met when our children were
chubby angels, marriage still appeared the answer and the
Twin Towers still raised up above Manhattan like trusted sentinels.
I imagined myself visiting you in Moscow this winter,
how I would sit in a café with you, watching snow fall as
the waiter with dangerous blue eyes brought us black tea,
brushing too close to me for it to be an accident.
And you would welcome any news I had with a sweetness
I couldn’t find anywhere in America and
I would bathe in the lilt of your voice, old friend, as
surely as the swirl of black tea or snow across Red Square.
How the years have slipped away, with their endless
classrooms of eager students on one end and
detention-centers of soul-murdered students on the other,
both hungry, both at the mercy of terrible gods.
I didn’t know when we met watching our daughters
spin in their pink tutus that the silence of one man’s wrath
would become the ear-splitting roar of a whole generation,
that buildings would fall, that neglect proved worse than a slap and
that if we lined up all the holidays, all the graduations,
all the vacations and dinners and glances in the mirror
and all the clothes we have washed and folded, that it would
bring us to this quietude, balanced in mid-air.
You need to feel this letter in your hand, Irina, as it
vibrates with the passage of time because so little else
seems solid now, too much finds its stumbling way into
the corridor of years and children and men that
I can no longer keep track. And we would sit together
In the late afternoon sun and nibble on biscuits from Turkey,
watching old women with their bundles struggle by and
smile, remembering just this, as the moon grows large.
Can’t Google This
Google can satisfy the itch to know, but not to taste red bean paste,
to disprove or prove, but not to feel tenderness.
It puts an electronic flea market at our fingertips, sends a puff
of crack-like enticement via hyper-links, and we follow, ghosted.
It cannot love like a man, cannot fill the house with aromas of
Indian curry, cannot grow cilantro in a pot.
It can reinforce why and who we hate, fan the flames of perversion,
lead a trail of blood and tears to the long ago vanquished,
But dreams do the same, and better as they swirl through sleep and
moments with lovers gently spooning nourishment to one another.
The slant of Venice light on your sleeping face, burnished toffee, no redwood
how your breath, caught, then released, fills me with wonder and terror
The sound of wild green parrots (once some artist’s pet, multiplied) wheeling through
palm trees as neighbors make dinner, sigh at another shooting, hug each other.
It can’t best that first sip of morning coffee or offer
a single instance of holy nothingness, its relentless need to
jangle and jingle, blink, bangle and bounce until
we rise, red-eyed and unsteadily go to bed having learned
a whole lot of facts that melt together like crayons
in an oven, but leave us scooped out and stupid with fatigue.
Give me a handful of buttered light, church light, small light
and watch how one house after another winks dark –
And the obsession to know is laid to rest finally because
not knowing is a state of grace. Suspension then
quiet in the absence of false knowledge, holding hands
under the covers, the way sunlight pours into darkness into
coffee filters into the smallest of angels dancing moth-like
where no one can see them. This is the blessed life.