First and Commerce, Bluefield, WV
History of Desire
When you're seventeen, and drunk
on the husky, late-night flavor
of your first girlfriend's voice
along the wires of the telephone
what else to do but steal
your father's El Dorado from the drive,
and cruise out to the park on Driscoll Hill?
Then climb the county water tower
and aerosol her name in spraycan orange
a hundred feet above the town?
Because only the letters of that word,
DORIS, next door to yours,
in yard-high, iridescent script,
are amplified enough to tell the world
who's playing lead guitar
in the rock band of your blood.
You don't consider for a moment
the shock in store for you in 10 A.D.,
a decade after Doris, when,
out for a drive on your visit home,
you take the Smallville Road, look up
and see RON LOVES DORIS
still scorched upon the reservoir.
This is how history catches up—
by holding still until you
bump into yourself.
What makes you blush, and shove
the pedal of the Mustang
almost through the floor
as if you wanted to spray gravel
across the features of the past,
or accelerate into oblivion?
Are you so out of love that you
can't move fast enough away?
But if desire is acceleration,
experience is circular as any
Indianapolis. We keep coming back
to what we are—each time older,
more freaked out, or less afraid.
And you are older now.
You should stop today.
In the name of Doris, stop.
Falling and Flying
Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It's the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.