At the hour the streetlights come on, buildings
turn abstract. The Hudson, for a moment, formal.
We drink bourbon on the terrace and you speak
in the evening voice, weighted deep in the throat.
They plan to harvest oysters, you tell me,
from the harbor by Jersey City, how the waters
will be clean again in twenty years. I imagine nets
burdened with rough shells, the meat dun and sexual.
Below, the river and the high rock
where boys each year jump from bravado
or desperation. The day flares, turns into itself.
And innocently, sideways, the way we always fall
into grace or knowledge, we watched the police
drag the river for a suicide, the third this year.
The terrible hook, the boy’s frail whiteness.
His face was blank and new as your face
in the morning before the day has worked
its pattern of lines and tensions. A hook
like an iron question and this coming
out of the waters, a flawed pearl—
a memory that wasn’t ours to claim.
Perhaps, in a bedroom by lamplight,
a woman waits for this boy. She may riffle drawers
gathering photographs, string, keys to abandoned rooms.
Even now she may be leaving,
closing the door for some silence. I need
to move next to you. Water sluiced
from the boy’s hair. I need to watch you
light your cigarette, the flickering
of your face in matchlight, as if underwater,
drifting away. I take your cigarette
and drag from it, touch your hand.
Remember that winter of your long fever,
the winter we understood how fragile
any being together was. The wall sweated
behind the headboard and you said you felt
the rim where dreams crouch
and every room of the past. It must begin in luxury—
do you think—a break and fall into the glamour
attending each kind of surrender. Water must flood
the mind, as in certain diseases, the walls
between the cells of memory dissolve, blur
into a single stream of voices and faces.
I don’t know any more about this river or if
it can be cleaned of its tender and broken histories—
a tide of voices. And this is how the dead
rise to us, transformed: wet and singing,
the tide of voices pearling in our hands.