Perhaps a keener sensitivity to the cold
an inclination to get home earlier
that hesitation before opening the long awaited
package of books delivered in the mail.
Wondering, shall I go to a movie?
From the three occupations of your night, you choose none.
Perhaps that look, more serious, though not burning
you sometimes turn upon things, and they comprehend.

Or at least you imagine so. How faithful they are, the things
in your study. The old pen you refuse to exchange
for some other containing the latest chemical secret, an immortal ink.
Those marks on your desk, it’s hard to tell whether time
the wood itself, or the dust engendered them.
You know it well, that desk. Letters, essays, poems
all issued from it, from you. From that hard substance
from its serenity, from that felled forest they came:
the words you unearthed and pieced together, one beside the other.

You run a hand
over its gnarled surface. The varnish worn off. No, the tree
reemerging. The road returning. Itabira in the distance
watching for your arrival, long awaited, without a sound.
The desk grows lighter, as with it you drift
through latitudes of patience, acceptance, resignation.
Watch the desk as it flies! Don’t touch it! That winged desk
from whose drawers spring dark pages—secrets, finally liberated
and scattering across the mineral landscape, enshrouded with silence.

Back again, precise familial
territory without dreams. As if already intuiting
that someday these rooms will be emptied, the walls wiped clean
a truck parked outside, and the movers climbing in
while in some municipal registry an entry will be cancelled,
you scrutinize intently every scratch
each color, each facet
of the old familiar things.

The family is, after all, an arrangement of possessions, a sum
of lines, volumes, surfaces. It’s the doors
keys, plates, beds, forgotten parcels
even corridors, and that space
between the cupboard and the wall
where a certain amount of silence, dust, and silverfish always gathers
and from time to time is swept away…but still persists.

By now the explanations are gone. It would be difficult
to comprehend, even this late in time, why one gesture
unfolded, another failed, so many others barely outlined;
as it would be impossible to hold all those voices
overheard at lunch, at dinner, in the interval of night
one year, then another, and on and on and on
all the voices heard at home in those fifteen years.
Yet they have to be somewhere: congregating
saturating stairs, leaking from the pipes
embodying old papers; having lost their strength, their fervor;
existing now only in the cellars of memory.

How can one know? At first it seems deserted
as if nothing remained or a river swelled
through the rooms, submerging all.
The sheets turn yellow, ties fray
your beard grows in, falls out, teeth loosen
arms hand limp
particles of food drop from a shaky fork
things keep falling and falling
and yet the floor is clean and smooth.
People start taking to their beds, float in the air, disappear
and everything is smooth, except for the face
bent over the desk, where everything is still.

This Issue

July 18, 1985