Some people fall in love only once
and some never, and some like Elizabeth Taylor
or my Great Aunt Edna with a parade of lovers—
a wood cutter to whom she whispered into his sawdust
beard, I’m a plant and your kisses the rain, a dough-handed baker
whose warm bread made her cry
a merchant marine with a tattooed belly who woke
nightly trembling and gasping into her ear.
And some fall in love
with the same person over and over
for decades, and each time say the same
common, sacred things.
The workers at the post office
in Addis Ababa
can’t take my daughter’s letter
to her friend in Kyrgyzstan
because they say they don’t know
where that country is.
She shows them a map
but still they shake their heads.
In the morning with coffee and the evening under
a half moon and when we’re born and when
we wake in the middle of the night and don’t know
where we are. When the bus drops us off where two dirt
roads cross in the jungle and it rains and we sing
until the bus finally comes and we climb wet and steaming
through the door and settle on top of our bags and sleep.
When we get where we’re going and before we get there
when we’re hungry and thirsty and tired and can’t sleep
and we look down and see dolphins next to the boat
or the light in the water the color of sky past snow-covered fir.
When we see our children born and our parents die
and we lay the ashes of a child in a grave and later laugh
and look at beautiful women and eat dessert. When the beer
is gone and the band has finished playing and we walk home
through a maze of alleys and up and down a thousand stairs
to lie finally in our beds and listen to the breath of a buffalo
outside our tent or our window, or the voice of a dead boy
or the wind, the unending wind.
After pointing to the closest trotting
street dog and asking the closest person
where that dog is going
hundreds of times in various Honduran towns
during a six-year research period
and never getting another answer other than a shrug
my scientist brother concludes that nobody knows
where the hundreds of thousands of Honduran
streets dogs are going.
Because our lovers are strong and kind
and because they are cruel and weak and because we are everything
they are including jealous & thrilled & disgusted
& scared, and when we love
we feel all those things and also happy
& sad but despite our confusion
we know why we suffer
why we die, why we eat and sleep and why
we wake and what we mean
when we say the common, sacred
things we say.
We walked the mountain behind
our house and watched horse
heads bob up the brushy draw
and past them an old stone city
piled up the far side of the valley
under a pretty blue sky. She asked
where the baby horses are and we
felt breeze on our skin, the sun
on our skin, heard the echo of boys
laughing on the cliff behind us
and a man shout ándale at a burro
across the hill. The walk had opened
something like a new room in an old
house, like breath again after a while
without breathing. Who we’d be
when we felt new air filling the space
thrilled us. The light, the looking
the horses grazing their way up the draw
dun backs and sorrel heads showing
above the cactus and curve of the grass .
We saw no colts but I watched
and waited because as you said
for no reason that I could find
any reason to disagree, there are always
baby horses somewhere.