You Never Told Me If There Was Any Moon in Baltimore

I wept a tear here, Susie—on purpose for you—because this “sweet silver moon” smiles in on me and Vinnie, and then it goes so far before it gets to you—and then you never told me if there was any moon in Baltimore—and how do I know Susie—that you see her sweet face at all?
—Emily Dickinson to Susan Dickinson, October 9, 1851

You never told me if there was any moon in Baltimore,
or paper is there paper there. Or are there
banners of spit yoking clouds,
a Bureau of Appetite, little ants
strolling to work as they stroll
to work here.

I remember each breath
was a bitter spring drink,
something to fight for that I loved
to fight for. Sweet breath hard breath.
Every breath a stone-cold bird
in thaw.

My boyishness, my beg.
The earthen gloves of a cat
on porch wood.

Permit me voyage, love, into your hands,
I read. Permission to mistake your hair
for a different color, permission
to crack thick bread
on breath.

I know your hair is red.
You never told me if there are sucked-thin
chicken bones in the sink
today. Or sweet faces
crystallizing in sour milk,
resembling moons. Is the midwinter sun
properly ballasting your legs? Does black rope
resemble a hand at the throat
resemble a stouthearted river
resembling breath?

I am robust for I
slipped on ice today. On the ground
I was a rough sleeper, turning and sweating
and kissing snow too much. Much like I can never
touch grass enough, skeleton-dry blond
sheaves of prairie, reddish wires
of bramble on the interstate’s
skirt, even festooned with cans and white
plastic bags like a wraith’s hair,
even when they’re tangled
and baffle me.

I am easily confused and must neaten myself.
Excuse me—I’ll be back—
I’ll be soft with the blunder
of an ice swimmer, birdlime pasting
elbow joints and ankles, pliable
and happy and easily led.

I know some stars are red.
By the coals of distant lamps, I can make out
tracks in frozen rivers whose names
are felt knowledge. Nevertheless I would like
to hear you tell it: Is there fruit
at the grocery store? Do hills sigh
as you drive past? Do fields say your name
as I do? Sometimes I say your name out loud
to no one, just to change the galaxy’s dust
with a thumbprint.

Read on . . .

Am Looking For” a poem by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram