Poetry | June 01, 2003

To divide naturally. Used with into: The specimens fell into three categories.


Fallen already, the infallible world

and its memory replaced by the fulcrum of words,

the accumulation of language. Into all this naming,


one thinks only of the remarkable, yet

in the wake of it, a kind of interior loveliness:

what would one say? Cuneiform gathered,


white as day. They had broken the surface of the water.

Followed by their repeated images. Words to words

collected in word books, in alphabetical order


to make one-dimensional, and linguate/literate, the three-

dimensional world. As if letters shaped with curves and cuts

can love up the geometry as it measures in its sweet little mesh


of ink and pulp the arc of any flyer, the distance

that, on any given evening, is so touching

we can barely find the sound to catch it.


So they saved their letters, words, pretty as a box

in a series of books: Abecedarium. Aevary.

Catholican. Dictionary. Manipulus.


But the homesickness remains. When the planet looks away

across the fields, the dark lining of the day in repose.

I wish I could tell you. Like the dictionaries,


the earth is veil of the primary world.

There was the lush place, immaculate as lust.

Its disappearance burned into language.


—fall in with. To come to an agreement.


Clear sheets, fresh medicine, and glittering brown

bottles, full with liquid drugs. Cutting us adrift,

where privacies occur, the bleak waves’ measure,

and doctors, whose ornate masculine cartographies

would navigate my mother’s darkening seas.

The nurses in the halls were starchy skiffs, like paper boats.


It unpolished us, took down the house eave by eave,

splintering the doorways, through which

the world began. The current draws us toward collision:

to know the teenaged drift of losing her, our long, white afternoon

dismantling, and she: the far-flung, worthy shore.


Last night, drowsy at the growing vegetation:

the heathy vines that overwhelm the porch.

Black Walnut, its exquisite earthliness, and I look up.

These shapes our longings take. Now daylight

troubles me, it asks me to remember


the way it was before: her several years of health.

Outside, the seashell-tinted birds, like flares, erupting

at sweet interval, attempt interpretations,

misinterpret. The second world is such a beauty

with its many gifts and losses. It’s something. It goes on.


fall for. Informal. 1. to become infatuated with; fall suddenly in love

with. 2. to be tricked or deceived by; be taken in by.


At first not frail because she was younger. At first comprised

of flesh and thought, brim as a basket of nectarines

and the lovely things of girldom, pearled, strong,


against the deciduous seasons, their losings of leaves,

their going away, a chastening, their slow descent,

baptizing the ground on which the solid flesh


walks out, conflicted: satisfied, yearning.

Against the long stem of flawlessness, they married,

and little girls threw petals, whites and reds


fluttering beneath the eye, sailing, cadence

like the inside of a woman, where everything is secret,

where everything returns, her envelope, her awning, the fertile,


furtive clock of her, inner pinks cloistered,

and full of prayer, oh how the body wants to be.

Against the illusion of the grassy world,


how it curves when you drive on it, promising,

untying the unseeable, the unbelievable, as it emerges: who knew?

The earth slopes down. Within the yes of her she is a lake,


ruddle of animal, holographic, the yes of her dwindling

under her canopy of skin. Inspired, the husband answers,

dressed only in his coat of wants, his teenage yes,


the customary planet of the body’s hard attention, his love for her.

And parting her legs out of homesickness, the blind eclipse

of them, against the sky’s departure. The many interpretations,


ciphering. Not noticing, because not looking? or

Not noticing, because not there yet: the inviolate,

indelible tattoo of cancer. It undulates,


displays itself in fracture, its geometric love of digging in

like a bad luck, a tracing of the Fall. The tragic earth

slopes down, and I express a wish in air:


that the sufferings of loved ones iridesce,

turn out to be transcendent, traverse the earth

like an embroidery, illuminate, emblossomed.


And reckless, invisible, I await the bloom,

her body among so many. But I see her:

pale, extraordinary, glorious, simplified: entire,


unadorned: lost of that birthmark:

relieved of that stain: articulate,

a pattern of air, and air.


The amount of what has fallen.


And this one for me, across that other, imagined transom:

the things the lost world says, it says: welcome home.

Mother as thin as the earth’s frail blessing,


out of the envelope of promise,

that day when you left, regretfully, the family,

and hovered, all the sheets were white, all our blood


seemed white in what was lost:

the parting, the divine just taken out of me

from your pale form and she flew into the trees,


above the trees, and gestures:

I only see the shapes: I am not,

she says, I am not but I can only see the shapes


against the curve of this madness, the comprehensible earth,

and its partner, beauty, the world’s diversion:

tree’s bright-limbed intensity against the division of the sky:


the bright shapes of her hair, sharp cheekbone,

the eye of lake, of gentle stone. The first innocence broken,

we could go nowhere else, nor return home.


The breaking of all skin and bone and muscle,

just to reach that castle of a heart: she was my heart,

and when she left, I felt the boat glide off without me:


above me, still, her strands of hair

grow into leaves, to limbs,

and honeyed birds can rest into the sky: what does she say?


But I discern her moves Things

are not as they appear. The beautiful

endures. I love. I am not


I am not trapped here


fall away. 1. to decline; languish; weaken. 2. to withdraw support; part company


The day casts a loose, languid spell, a reckless,

forgetful lover, and I am undone again, hurt,

wet, fresh to its wantings. This secondary place,

its tertiary greenings, the expiration of the grasses

into my lungs, dressing me up inside.


I have left off from the wanting.

The days of squirrel skin and little graves,

of call and response, brimmed up

with amulets I cannot name:

hard, dark feather, headless crow.


The sacred losses, having fallen.

We cast off the bad memory

as a useless skin, and left it out by the fence,

crisp as straw. In evening, daylight decreasing

as afternoon begins to forget herself


and the vines, tenacious, desperate,

loosen their grasp, the petals bowing,

the vegetation shedding rain.

We loved the gardens,

so pregnant, emerging. But then they grew fallow


and sloped with their weight, like the necks

of the deer at the end of the season, skinny

and haunted. So breathtaking, so ready

for their end. Like any gorgeous thing,

they’ll fall away.

If you are a student, faculty member, or staff member at an institution whose library subscribes to Project Muse, you can read this piece and the full archives of the Missouri Review for free. Check this list to see if your library is a Project Muse subscriber.