Rain on the West Side Highway, red light at Riverside: the more I live the more I think two people together is a miracle. You’re telling the story of your life for once, a tremor breaks the surface of your words. The story of our lives becomes our lives. Now you’re in fugue across what some I’m sure Victorian poet called the salt estranging sea. Those are the words that come to mind. I feel estrangement, yes. As I’ve felt dawn pushing toward daybreak. Something: a cleft of light? Close between grief and anger, a space opens where I am Adrienne alone. And growing colder.
Can it be growing colder when I begin to touch myself again, adhesions pull away? When slowly the naked face turns from staring backward and looks into the present, the eye of winter, city, anger, poverty, and death and the lips part and say: I mean to go on living? Am I speaking coldly when I tell you in a dream or in this poem, There are no miracles? (I told you from the first I wanted daily life, this island of Manhattan was island enough for me.) If I could let you know - two women together is a work nothing in civilization has made simple, two people together is a work heroic in its ordinariness, the slow-picked, halting traverse of a pitch where the fiercest attention becomes routine - look at the faces of those who have chosen it.
Across a city from you, I’m with you, just as an August night moony, inlet-warm, seabathed, I watched you sleep, the scrubbed, sheenless wood of the dressing-table cluttered with our brushes, books, vials in the moonlight - or a salt-mist orchard, lying at your side watching red sunset through the screendoor of the cabin, G minor Mozart on the tape-recorder, falling asleep to the music of the sea. This island of Manhattan is wide enough for both of us, and narrow: I can hear your breath tonight, I know how your face lies upturned, the halflight tracing your generous, delicate mouth where grief and laughter sleep together.
No one’s fated or doomed to love anyone. The accidents happen, we’re not heroines, they happen in our lives like car crashes, books that change us, neighborhoods we move into and come to love. Tristan and Isolde is scarcely the story, women at least should know the difference between love and death. No poison cup, no penance. Merely a notion that the tape-recorder should have caught some ghost of us: that tape-recorder not merely played but should have listened to us, and could instruct those after us: this we were, this is how we tried to love, and these are the forces they had ranged against us, and these are the forces we had ranged within us, within us and against us, against us and within us.
There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees, A quiet house, some green and modest acres A little way from every troubling town, A little way from factories, schools, laments. I would have time, I thought, and time to spare, With only streams and birds for company, To build out of my life a few wild stanzas. And then it came to me, that so was death, A little way away from everywhere.
There is a thing in me still dreams of trees. But let it go. Homesick for moderation, Half the world’s artists shrink or fall away. If any find solution, let him tell it. Meanwhile I bend my heart toward lamentation Where, as the times implore our true involvement, The blades of every crisis point the way.
I would it were not so, but so it is. Who ever made music of a mild day?
Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read to the end just to find out who killed the cook. Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark, in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication. Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot, the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones that crimped your toes, don’t regret those. Not the nights you called god names and cursed your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch, chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness. You were meant to inhale those smoky nights over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches. You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still you end up here. Regret none of it, not one of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing, when the lights from the carnival rides were the only stars you believed in, loving them for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved. You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake, ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied of expectation. Relax. Don’t bother remembering any of it. Let’s stop here, under the lit sign on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.