We remember the rabbit when we see
the duck, but we cannot experience
both at the same time
—E.H. Gombrich, Art and Illusion
WHAT do you remember? When I looked at
his streaky glasses, I wanted
to leave him. And before that? He stole those
cherries for me at midnight. We were walking
in the rain and I loved him.
And before that? I saw him coming
toward me that time at the picnic,
But you loved him? He sat in his room with
the shades drawn, brooding. But you
loved him? He gave me
a photo of himself at sixteen, diving
from the pier. It was summer. His arms
outstretched. And before that?
His mother was combing his soft curls
with her fingers and crying. Crying.
Is that what he said? He put on the straw hat
and raced me to the barn. What did he
tell you? Here’s the dried rose, brown
as tobacco. Here’s the letter that I tore
and pasted. The book of blank pages
with the velvet cover. But do you still
love him? When I rub the nap
backwards, the colors lift,
bristle. What do you mean?
Sometimes, when I’m all alone,
I find myself stroking it.