A lithe old woman holds a squirming boy
while she adroitly
eats a piece of buttered toast,
and her white cotton sweater survives it all,
weathers the cape. You learn a thing or two
in seventy years.
I have not published my intentions
in a long time now. If my hand goes
to the neck of the sheath, where the sword
hangs from the belt
not that you see sword or belt or sheath but still
if my left hand drops casually there,
it's because I feel the weight and swing;
my right hand ready to draw.
Who needs to know? I am walking
out of an office building downtown
with my head held high. That will do for now.
There are some who get good mileage
from dreams they bruit abroad, dreams
they've embellished for forty years or more.
I'm not one of those. My dreams shift,
terrify, humiliate: and the richness
of one glimpse of a shadowed face,
turned three-quarters from the light,
will pay me six years of hidden,
desperate joy, changing shapes more often in a minute
than yours in all the years of your integrity.
Each drop of rain makes a white shellburst
as it hits the street: the light runs slant from the east,
obscured till the event. Invisible before and after,
known only by the sudden, brief flower
that lingers against the retina, seen properly
only in helpless reconstructed memory --
a moment later -- in the dark.
The toast finished, lips wiped, syrup dabbed
from young Hercules' fists (strangling napkins
now, in augury of greatness) the lady lifts him
easily, and proudly -- how well I know
that lifted chin, that haughty gaze! -- he rides
her white cotton shoulder from the table to the gate.