Turning corners through unknown houses,
showing up with a beard, or odd clothes,
you rustle the textures of my warped sheets,
insistent, tough as fall’s tomato stalks
ripped up by the roots with a dull drumroll,
scattering dirt into my shoes. Why
can’t you just pull down the sashes
when frost rimes the glass? Why not patch
that rut of your guttural cough? Why do you keep
turning up stinking half-drunk? Twenty years
have taught me about loving the swell of the dead,
their rank Persian carpets and well-lit attics,
sad fireplaces nobody uses. And just because
it’s coming on Christmas, no doubt you,
hidden like a bleak secret in among the rest,
think I pine for the canopied light of a Dresden
nativity scene, its cedar roof still mossy
beneath bubble-lights and heavy tin strands
on a blue spruce. By now you are always
impatient for another silky box of that ribbon
candy you so coveted, another tube of green
Palmolive shaving cream for your cup
and lather brush. Wrong again, dead man.
They don’t even make that goop anymore.
I looked. So go. Mumble your vast relief
to the crickets grown weary in the grass;
go whisper the dumb patois of your Slavic Russian
to the nuts thumping dumb under the pecan tree.
Explain to those brown leaves cupped on the wind
like withered hands to ears
exactly what it means to be fallen.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.