(read by the author, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, 2011)
Outside a gorgeous morning fog I stare at while
inside coffee spreads its alerting warmth and my mind
starts to soar, that sensation I have loved ever since, as a child,
I learned to read without moving my lips. Just in my mind!
How startling it was, like a radio or a river only I could hear.
Never back then did I wonder how to turn it off.
Now it’s how I can talk directly to you: oh fog, how I used to
watch you roll in on those spring mornings in Cassis, how
you could make the entire mountain outside my window disappear
and the whole world so visibly into a chamber of
such beautiful doubt that it would appall
when something so substantial as a bird would swoop out
and land on the terrace. Clarity, I suppose,
only comes when you leave but I love what soft featureless
comfort you are. And when you speak back, like the steam
I have watched in moments of perfectly useless concentration
emerge from the electric kettle on its way to climax,
a swirling atomic dust, particles
wobbling up out of the spout and then a thickening,
grainy as ash, and the force increasing and rising
high like the flame from an untrimmed wick and then
the curling plumes of voluptuous tresses of steam, thirty
seconds of such sensual escape!—
A domestic iteration of what Jupiter said
to Io, I think, in the Correggio where he comes to her as a cloud and
the soles of her feet glow rosy as skin flushed after a hot bath.
I think I could stand a long time and watch the fog calling its visual whisper,
while I eat an orange, its rind suede-soft under my fingernails,
the smell it fills the room with the opposite of fog.
Just come closer, approach an eros you cannot enter,
try to find where I begin in the faint outlines of trees that from
where you stand now look like a smudge, look like something
once there but now erased, that is to say, look like the past.