People keep saying to see the new opera. The main character, this aspiring artist, a man of modest talent who’s destroyed by fate, reminds them, eerily, of you. You’re curious, of course. You go by the theater just to look at the posters, but as you’re walking through the alley the stage door flies open and the director is there, frantic, screaming you’re on in ten minutes, where have you been, and you realize you’re naked under your coat, you don’t remember a single line, and you’ll have to go on like that, you’ll have to go on and sing.
Surrounded by ragweed and burdock. The silo, crumbling then, invisible now. A nimbus of squirrel skulls glowing yellow in the dirt. My memory as empty. Did I climb to the barn’s lightning rod, or just threaten? We weren’t farmers. In summer, the dead man’s fields, ours via probate caprice, sprouted gladiolus, blueberries, rhubarb. We watched bewildered, filled vases and bowls, but most of it rotted where it stood. The daffodils still come up without me to cut, rubber-band, and sell them by the roadside. Four cars a day came by. Here’s the rusty coffee can I dreamed full of dimes.
Appeared to her in Sioux Falls. Lime, lemon, orange.
vertigo rushed up like an angry dog
to a fence. She went white, fell down the well
of herself and wept.
Late at night, in the motels, when she’d fallen
asleep, I cried too. I whispered curses to the awkward stacks
of white towels. Hating anything out of balance. Hating
her, her new failure. In the mornings
my checkbook voice returned, low and soft. For an angry dog
whose yard you wish to cross.
We both hated my balance, hated her imbalance, needed each.
Sudafed, acupuncture, allergist.
Yoga, chewing gum, Zoloft, Chinese tea.
She was afraid of going blind. She constantly described
colors and shapes, as if I had gone blind.
They turned purple. They floated. They darted.
We went arm in arm without passion, like elderly French.
Internist. Neurologist. Ophthalmologist.
Otolaryngologist. A different neurologist. Psychiatrist.
She would not allow the warm towel over her face in the MRI.
The nurses seethed. She set her jaw and vanished
into the gleaming white tube. The machine banged like hammers
on a sunken ship’s hull. She listened to Bach through headphones.
The magnetism passed through her mind in waves,
like wind through the sycamores, touching
everything and changing nothing. Her courage! If courage
is what rocks have. My God, how I loved her. Badly.
The spots were like metaphors. They told us something
by showing us something else. And so for a time
we could go on believing things were what they seemed.