I stop a tall girl all in blue on the hall
and receive first a harried and desultory apology
then, point blank, news that you passed late last night.
You passed at three-thirty in the morning.
What is it, some sort of exam?
She smiles at herself,
epicenter of this
revelation, I find myself walking along
a high ridge in the wake of an ice storm
at the heart of some annihilated fairy tale
of forest in West Virginia,
a redwing blackbird’s
feet clenched to one crystal branch
per deceased tree: eyes stitched shut
and beak wide open.
And finally, there it is: your face, floating
at my feet with nose pressed to transparent black ice;
yes, you are certainly dead, all the signs point to it.
Wrapped in white cerements,
white face more youthful
and grave than I have ever seen it, frowning slightly
as though it were reading, one eye blind
in a blond swath of hair,
vague smile like the velvet depression
the lost diamond has left in its case;
now strangely you are moving
in a wide circle around me, stepping
sideways in time
to some slow stately dance
hand in hand
with the handless
in their identical absence
of affect, lips moving in unison.
I can’t hear a thing, but it’s said
the instant of being aware we are sleeping
and the instant of waking are one
and the same—and thus, against delusion
we possess this defense.
Only if you refuse
to respond, if I can only write you,
and write on black wind-blurred water, what’s the use?