swollen from years of walking in sawdust
dawn to dusk in a thousand
Cincinnati butcher shops. You hobble to the door
to hug my daughters. It’s a long drive from the hot south
to this windy, frost-heaved frontier, where we speak,
as always, our pidgin of nods and sighs, signifying nothing.
It’s not that we choose this halt language, it’s that love itself
is the gulf over which we cannot speak, or, if we could, could not
make ourselves heard.
I dreamed I saw you in some cavern
chiseled out of stone as dark as iron,
with the bad light sifting down
and you in your stained apron, behind the counter,
shuffling through sawdust. Your thumb is wrapped
in a huge bandage. The meat case is filled with the dead.
One at a time, you heave them onto your sloped shoulder
and stagger to the walk-in cooler, laying them down.
Each time, from its depths, you bring out another,
led by the hand, blind in the light. They stumble
into the darkness. All night you do this.
You take them in blue, cold.
You bring them out warm, whole.
In the dusk, the bare Ohio hills
turn their wide backs to the wind,
like horses. I know a lifetime of silence
cannot be wished away, but now,
each time I see you – you
who loomed so large then, under the stars,
on Cleany Avenue – you grow smaller. Soon,
you’ll disappear. Before that, we must invent a language
we can both understand, cry out, howl, anything.
I turn from the window to say this,
but your chin is tipped to your chest.
You’re sleeping. And love, as always,
sticks like a bone in my throat.
Never mind. It’s a long night. Rest.
The silence of a thousand years
will not be broken for this.