"The Saturday Matinee"
Forgotten strings. A woman wearing black leans back against a mantelpiece.
The view from where I sat was of a street above a canyon,
And the story was a melodrama with a cast of four.
The subject was an ordinary way of life, defined by principles
I'd usually ignore, and messages that came to me in
Words that I'd eventually forget, or hadn't actually understood.
Yet now and then I'd have a dream in which a feeble light was visible beneath my door,
And unfamiliar voices mumbled in the kitchen; and then I'd wake up in a sweat
And feel the language closing in like traces of the people who'd been
Close to me at different stages of my childhood,
Mouthing a kind of rhetoric I thought I'd long ago outgrown,
Whose undisguised appeal could reach me like a popular song,
Directly and without any hesitation; or like a movie,
Strong and sentimental, filled with images of faces I could feel.
--Cut to home: the summer slides away in pages,
And the dreams that used to trouble me occur less frequently.
Sometimes I sit here, waiting in my mind as in the
Theaters where I'd watched them gravitate across the screen,
Vacant beneath the skin, projecting the emotions they were made to feel
And breathing in the atmosphere of infantile
Rage that lets them remain alive. And I can hear them
In the lyrics of a song accompanying a private tune, the argument concealed in a lament
--Although I realize no argument can bring them back to me,
Or let me speak to them again. I sit here mulling over moments
With the flesh scooped out, the impulse spent
And feeling nothing but the words--like Scarlett, in a furnished room,
Imagining her abandoned house, immense and uninhabited
And filled with silence and the sound of birds, its rafters open to the weather,
Dust motes floating through the air that X and Y had breathed
--Only no one misses them, and no one cares.
Where do words go, once the hurt that puffed them up has healed?
The private ones still hurt. But publicly, a sort of calm prevails,
As a door bangs, or a car drives past the corner, or overhead a cloud goes sailing by
And gradually their stories disappear like wonderful balloons
Rising straight into the sky, on an August day.
From The Constructor: Poems (1999)
Used with permission of the author.