Corydon & Alexis

shepherdboy?   not the most salient image for contemporary readers
nor most available.   unless you’re thinking brokeback mountain:
a reference already escaping.   I did love a montana man, though no
      good shepherd

rather: a caveman, came spelunking into that grotto I’d retreated to

what light he bore illumined such small space—physically, temporally

and did he have a grove of beech trees?   no, no grove
but together we found an old-growth stand of   redwood

we gouged each other’s chests instead of wood:   pledges that faded
he was not cruel nor I unwitting.   but what endures beyond any

example: he took me to the ocean to say farewell.   I mean me: farewell
      to ocean
the ocean, for that matter, to me.   us both fatigued, showing signs
      of wreckage

and that man I had loved stood back from the edge of things

he did not hold me

I expected not to be held

we all understood one another: shepherd understudy, ocean, me

and did he go back to his fields and caves?   yes, but they were gone
strip-mining, lumber, defoliant, sterile streams: you knew that was

weren’t we taught some starched sermon: the pasture awaits us

back up a moment: the forest you mentioned—remember, instead of a grove?

untouched for the most part.   some human damage, but not ours

we left no mark, not there in the midst of those great trees:   
not in the concentric rings that might have held us far past living

instead, I put that man, like so many others, on paper—
a tree already gone from sight where once it had drawn the eyes
upward: the crest of a mountain.   crumpled thoughts, crumpled love

shepherdboy, do you see the wild fennel bulbs I gathered for you
olallieberries, new-mown grass, the tender fruits of   the coastal fig?

I put them on paper, too, so fragile.   for nothing is ever going to last

                                                                               For Haines Eason

“corydon & alexis” first appeared in Poetry Magazine. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Source: Poetry Magazine (Poetry Foundation, 2006)