How often have I spoken of the thistle,
the honeysuckle, the blistering bee?
How often have I asked how? I’ve grown tired
of my questions. And you’ve grown tired
of the limits of my language. I hate this measure
of memory, the constant return to the creek, the field,
the sundering South. I want release from the pasture
of my youth, from its cows and cobs in the mouth.
Forgive me my tiresome nostalgia. Forget it.
Let me forge a fissure between what was and is.
I have no accent. You would not know where I was from
if I didn’t keep reminding you. Look at my city
shoes crunching through the new snow
on the sidewalk. Not a blade of grass anywhere.
Which is not to say, Praise the urban, privilege the shadow
of the alley over the shade beneath a tree, or the average sky-
scraper over a clearing.
Not in a surfeit of emotion, but in its thoughtful
consideration, later, when natural rage, through meditation,
may be pulled as milk through an udder, into a purer stream
—this is how Wordsworth would have it,
not red-eyed and trembling, but clearheaded,
the tempest assuaged. Can you believe that?
Easy to say from some green-lined walking trail,
but this is a city, and here is an old woman
on the curb, broken as easily as a wafer she might have
had with her iced tea later this evening. Here is a reason
to prefer whiskey over a cow’s poor offering. Whiskey,
essential as water, worthy of pain and erasure.
And she is one of many, so I drink to her and her and her—