Which is to say
I find it interesting that when you sit next to me, you sit up
so straight. We step on the rotting bridge, patterned
with mustard leaves, stamped down into the creases
of the beams. One summer, you propped against trees
to wait for me, to walk. Did you once maintain that
you have touched too many people? Behind the ear
or warmly on the shoulder? This is for protection, which you call
stamps in your passport, which is to say leaving before the sun rises,
which is to say not wetting down the burning duff before rehabbing
the soil. Sometimes there is no amusement left
in watching the mail arrive. Sometimes the storms come
from the southeast. There is humming in my ears, and it is breath
coming in but it is also the wind passing through the pine trees.
I knew this would happen, that larches turn yellow from the top down
in high elevation, but when I see the first one, it feels as if
I must have missed the letter saying you might not make it after all.
Autobiography of night
Speaking of my completeness, I never lock the bolt
when I leave, I am unable to remember
the name of the haiku master. The names, the titles have all
fallen into the water. They have dissolved, missed the intended
path of curing pain or embarrassment. I don’t remember
how deep the water is. There is mud
in the spring, like Alaska. Have you never
given a piece of your small effort to a neighbor?
Never baked a thing? And do you bring along your relatives? I keep
checking the weather, the days spent waiting
on the high desert hills. They are always so brown,
but for the one burst of green that is surprising;
amazing that spring still happens
considering everything else that is gone,
your grandparents, all of them. A childish sad;
they were mothers and fathers to yours.
The leaves are now piles of dirt crusted snow on the pavement,
and when autumn finally quiets to winter, as the snow
sifts down to the road I think of a lover
who couldn’t sleep. And I imagine he still can’t sleep,
his sadness resting wholly on his chest, his eyes open
in the dark cold of almost solstice and I remember
that I don’t know what to tell him to make him feel better
about all of this. The night is deep
in December with clouds darkening the dark, where voices
might be lost anyway and when I speak, I don’t know for sure
that I am speaking. Because no one looks at me, no one
speaking of my completeness.
Before going back
Allison Linville received her MFA from the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana, where she also worked as the editor of CutBank. Her poem "Which Is To Say" was recently awarded an Academy of American Poets Prize. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in the Tahoma Literary Review, the Bellingham Review, Cascadia Review, Cirque Journal, the Whitefish Review, and more.