To him, who’d never heard
Of any world where promises were kept
Or one could weep because another wept.
He is out of place
in a world like this. A world
where wealth is taken advantage of, where
trust is only lubricant for trade.
He is the kind of master one hears
discussed by fence posts: “Well, he’s rich,
I suppose, but no businessman.”
He grows, but he grows etiolated.
This master, like his house, is painfully visible.
Ashamed of his shoulders and large,
awkward hands, his gently crowded teeth.
“He’s a good man, though.”
Just too trusting to prosper,
too moody. Simple. Young. Embarrassed by his power, yet
bound to show it off in a fantastic mansard rooftop
and pseudo-Gothic porch. Fragile as the glass in his windows.
He has the utterly naked look of someone
being stared at, someone American and gawky.
Someone who is about to be left alone
again, and can no longer stand it.
Do you know I hear
your voice above all others,
even when you speak
low? That I memorize
your footsteps, know
your stride. Remember
the color you wear
and notice when
you enter. Want
to be seen, and also
want to hide.
I could not sleep. I thought
I’d sweat and falter, but I spoke.
And you said, “that was kind.”
There is a deep loneliness
I thought you understood,
in our hush. Stairways
remember as do doors, trees,
front porches, and water troughs.
I wonder if I was new
to you. Or something chronic,
old, common. You’d heard
it, no doubt, a dozen
times. Did I disgust
you? I could not
hide. We can only be lonely
for so long. I did not know
until I saw your eyes.
I cannot speak, I cannot
sing. I too am desolate,
desolate and even ashamed.
I will not stay in our house, now
it is so desperately empty.
I will go somewhere and become
lost. All that is present is a single
pair of tracks straightening
into the distance.
Quotes (In Italics, in order): W.H. Auden, “The Shield of Achilles.” Hirsch, “Edward Hopper and the House By the Railroad,” Ibid., Ibid., Carolyn Forche, “Travel Papers,” Hirsch, Ibid., Ibid.,
Credits: Edward Hopper, “House By the Railroad,” Terrence Malick, Days of Heaven.