11. A Habitable Grief
I was a child in a strange country:
I was Irish in England.
a second language there
which has stood me in good stead--
the lingua franca of a lost land.
A dialect in which
what had never been could still be found.
The infinite horizon. Always far
and impossible. That contrary passion
to be whole.
This is what language is:
a habitable grief. A turn of speech
for the everyday and ordinary abrasion
of losses such as this
just enough to be a scar.
And heals just enough to be a nation.
A Woman Painted on a Leaf
I found it among curios and silver,
in the pureness of wintry light.
A woman painted on a leaf.
Fine lines drawn on a veined surface
in a hand-made frame.
This is not my face. Neither did I draw it.
A leaf falls on a garden.
The moon cools in its aftermath of sap.
The pitch of summer dries out in starlight.
A woman is inscribed there.
This is not death. It is the terrible
suspension of life.
I want a poem
I can grow old in. I want a poem I can die in.
I want to take
this dried-out face,
as you take a starling from behind iron,
and return it to its element of air, of ending--
so that autumn
which was once
the hard look of stars,
the frown on a gardener's face,
a gradual bronzing of the distance,
from now on,
a crisp tinder underfoot. Cheekbones. Eyes. Will be
a mouth crying out. Let me.
Let me die.
(from New Collected Poems. W. W. Norton and Company, 1st American ed. 2008)