after Montale

You don’t remember the custom-house
or the drop to the rocks from its sheer height;
it’s been waiting, lying empty since your grief
thickened to a swarm that night
and paused, trembling in the door.
For years, the south-westerlies have lashed
these ancient walls and now there is no love
left in your laugh: the compass spins,
free-wheeling; the dice are wrong.
You don’t remember; other things distract you;
you are winding back the line onto the reel.
A strand is still anchored in me, but the house
drifts away; its weathervane, unhinged
and blackened, clatters round and round.
I hold a strand at anchor here
but you have gone, listing into your own dark.
On the lost horizon, the tankers kill their lights.
Is this the sea-route here, safe passage?
The waves still crash under the cliffs.
You don’t remember the house, or this,
my famous evening, and I don’t know now
who stays and who is leaving.

This Issue

April 6, 2006