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Were You to Die

Steven Heighton
From:   Ecstasy of Sketpics. House of Anansi Press, 1994.

Were you to die I'd be free to go off
and see the world, and sleep in every elsewhere
I might never arrive
— yet I might choose to travel alone
from window to window looking out
on the streets of your city
where your friends still expect to see you sometimes
or mistake you for someone, out of custom — love —

Without your thrashing, manic dreams, my body
would sleep better
but wake more tired. I'd let the garden go to seed
the way I always meant to
and when I looked out the window into the yard
I'd never miss the snowpeas, beets and roses
but your sunhat I might miss — you hunkered down
in a summer dress, your fingers
grouped like roots in the raised beds,
your stooped, stubborn nape, your cinnamon-
freckled shoulders —

Were you to die, my heart
would be free to pack a bag
and book passage for the riot of islands
I might have been, and shared
with the one and numberless "beloved" we fumble
our whole lives glimpsing
a moment too late
when Eden was always the one who stayed
rooted in her changes, and gave you
the island in her arms, and when you slept
somehow she travelled, and when you woke
she was changed —

Were you to die, my mind
would be free to twist inward
the way fingers fist, and fasten pat
on its own taut notions, theorems, palm shut fast
to the snow that pooled there and seemed to flow through
when the skin still flowered in fullest winter
and I loved you, and thoughts, like books,
were doors that opened outward
not coffins, closed,
not cells —

Were you to die and free me
my body would follow you down into the cold
prison of your passing, and warm you when all the others
had turned away, and try bribing
the keeper with a poem, or fool him
with keychains of chiming words — an elegy
so pure he'd be pressed to cry, eyes
thawing and the earth warmed, April
when rain falls like a ransom, through opened arms
that bore the sun down with you, warm.

Steven Heighton's works copyright © to the author.

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