Your parents had reached a long slow time,
as animals do, the great center of their lives,
when they gleam in their fells as though eternally,
unchanging. Or as a day can seem eternal
if you lie and watch the full clouds, conscious
of your own time: you soon must get up and leave.
So father, mother, the small shabby town,
its patch of earth going on as though forever: you
forgot them there, where they’d been since you started out
and where you could find them again—as anyone
forgets what he has to lean on
so deeply and heavily that it wounds his side
and the pain seems only himself.
Ungrateful? So you accused yourself one day,
waking suddenly. And when you went at last
to look for them where they always are, they’d gone,
or were withered alive, their mouths opening and closing
without sound. The buildings had leaned still farther
toward the dusty weeds and crumbs of old machines
littered everywhere inexplicably. And now
who will explain them? Your grandfather’s day
is as absent from your thought as is your own
gestation. And check the records:
what is written down says nothing.
The volumes all avoid the one question you have.
They’re like the notebooks you kept in adolescence:
you turn the endless pages and you wonder,
what did I know or feel, how did I live then,
what was this violence and love, this utter newness,
invention that could sing water and light, raging
at the first touch of dying, never mentioning death?
You went back and the bones of your native town
were like that, records from which something had escaped:
a skeletal mill that roofed ghostly technologies
where men once worked, coughed, burnt, bled.
And that way they had permitted the long pageants
of the children. And their mothers—whose images,
vague, identical, stalk by in the nights,
each one sorrowing and serene, her starved, enamelled,
hard flesh torn, her dress the blue of late dusk,
the heaven behind her a work of flat blinding gold.