It seems that it comes down to night
before I can write anything down, even
anything on your birthday, which is the day
that you cannot, for the limitations
of your broken foot, dance, as if
you’d ever intended to.
I am sensitive to punctuation
and wonder if I should enshroud
that last clause within parentheses,
believing that those would provide
the most accurate representation
of what I was trying to say, but
I left it as a comma because
it allows for a little ambiguity, and a poem
should always allow for a little of that.
We don’t want a poem to be merely
clear, because that eliminates its power.
Obscurity alone is not a particular value,
but competing meaning is, because the poem
is an examination of the uses of linguistic meaning,
and we run our lives continually against
this grave inability to communicate our thoughts
accurately with words
or without them.
In this way, it doesn’t resemble
the television commercial, as you know, which
must send forward only one message. Only one
message but certainly the commercial can
repeat that message in a number of ways.
You must recognize this by now,
since you manipulate those messages,
as all of us manipulate the messages we make.
As I have finished my poems each night, I lie down
and sleep, and my dreams become occupied
with those I’ve spent the night writing to,
and the stories I dream of them are not
necessarily true, or clear, but they have
meanings that are somehow true. In one,
people were eating pears. They held the pears
vertically in the palms of their hands, biting
into them as if they were trying to
bite into the fleshy heels of their right hands
as if they themselves were the sensual fruits
they wanted to devour. In another dream, I ask
people with pears (pears seem unavoidable
at those times when they are least needed), but
none of whom would ever answer my question.
I have no guess what my question might have been.
If you walk slowly up the hill
from this camp, dragging your foot, itself
encased in something resembling a ski book,
you learn how small changes make large
differences, how the unexpected has always
the greatest effect on your life.
As you marry my daughter, and my only one,
this year, you will expect some changes
in your life, but those won’t be the ones
you will notice, in the end. Instead, you will
notice the ones you had never expected,
and they will occupy your life to such a degree
you will think you are living a second life
simultaneous with the first, until you realize that
your imagined life never came to be,
because whatever you expect is the least
likely to happen.
Life is a structure, but only after it happens,
the carapace of meaning holds in what it can,
for as long as it can, but it needs something
to hold, something to organize. You are
the great experiment of life, or one of them.
Everything happens to test you and to test
whatever assumptions you have.
Don’t expect anything
and nothing will happen.