Exhaling and Other Poems


The whistling language of Aas
was dead fifteen years
before people outside the village
knew it had existed, seventy
before I read of it
after reading some Darwish poems
and wondering if he liked doves
or deer more. I’m proud
that the current group of deer
in my yard stay when I go out
to pet the white cat who adopted us
and is blind in one eye, as I am blind
when it comes to the past: if it’s an owl
or piece of spider web
stuck in my hair, I don’t know.
I wanted to be moved
so read the poems, wanted to know
all the ways we’ve talked to each other
so read the book, wanted to change
the shape of my mind
so started typing and am sad
that up to now I’ve hidden
behind interesting people and facts
and not told the truth,
that I woke up at three
and got out of bed at four
to ask my breath
why it won’t let me go,
why it keeps wearing my chest
when I know it could be out there
with sparrows and clouds, sunwarmed
or splashing rain across its face.
That we’re instances of wind
never leaves my mind,
especially when I’m drunk
or sober or tall or getting shorter
all the time, we shrink
as we age and age
as the number of people we try to carry
grows, I have twenty
in my hands right now
and they’re not that big,
about the size of the galaxy
when I extend them into the night, light-years
between my left and right.
The whistlers could be heard
two miles away, raising the question
if everything we say
is a measure of distance, cup
or window or love, the gaps
between water and thirst,
seeing and doubt, freezing
and a sky that’s been a roof
over my head for years, protecting me
from having to look up
and not make sense
of a completely different dream,
one in which the sun rises
over a tugboat and not a mountain,
or has eight stars
where there’s nothing now,
an absence I adore
for the expectation
of what desire will make
of that open space, a space
the shape of everything
it isn’t.

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