The crush of it: not just the body swaddled
in the sweat of fear’s embrace, but the thought
confined and bursting within its battered valise,
buckled and strapped for a trip to nowhere
but a smaller place inside a cell where every
pulsing neuron pounds against the tightening vise
of silence—so when you crawled under the house today
to unearth boxes stored with the season’s ornaments,
I stood trembling at the sink upstairs, with thoughts
of a past I’d misered away like ingots in a vault.
How can I explain what surges through me,
except to say some memories are airless tombs:
In a dilapidated 70s gray New York Central smoker,
I once sat beside a double-paned window whose seal
had broken. A yard’s width of water sloshed to and fro
between those panes, like an aquarium, but compressed.
Upper Manhattan’s blind, abandoned tenements lurched
and sped, slowed to a stop, then lurched again, till gone
through dark I arrived at a my loveless station. The miracle
of terror is how it feeds on a logic of incongruity:
A mosquito had spawned inside that stagnant space. Just one.
Pale-winged. Tapping the inner surface at the highest edge
of its world. So bloodless, then suddenly inexplicable, depthless
and abstract. God, under such weight, my breath shortened—
as here, looking up from the spigot’s stream, the colander
brimming with its green absurdities of Brussels sprouts,
I thought I glimpsed again that doomed insect, probing
blankly at your winter-shuttered kitchen window,
and felt once more immured in that bilge-filled railway car
among the bankrupt city’s brightest as they ferried toward lives
more radiant than any I’d ever known. That’s how you caught me,
trapped in reflection. That’s when you said, Look what I’ve found,
forgotten, and held out some bright, insignificant thing.
—And turning, I opened to you for the first time.