Good lord but you did hard time in the library.
Strolling through once, I saw you holding
An Essay Concerning Human
Understanding at arm’s length, looking at it
as if it had arrived early for dinner
just to tell you it didn’t love you, had
never loved you, and twenty years later
you’re still standing there with a naked face
and a spoon in your hand.
Where were we in our Pynchon seminar–
Maxwell’s Demon, concatenation,
coprophagia?–when you dreamily said,
“What was that song my father sang
in the bathtub when I was a girl?” to which
Professor P replied as if you’d said
knock-knock, “Mrs. E, I don’t know what
song your father sang in the bathtub.”
When you I thought when you were
a girl, when you were.
Oh all the heady things I knew then
that look now like distant hills or army
tanks in some damp country where I
don’t have a map and don’t have a tongue,
now that I know what I don’t know.
But I get you now, now I know
nothing ever stands between you and
the look of things when you’re flying past fifty
and nobody knows you and you don’t know
who you are. When everywhere you are
some kind of traffic cop is looking at you
sideways as if to say you dumbass, why
didn’t you just gun it through the light?
In the middle of some night, your father’s
singing wakes you like Billie Holiday
inside your brain: do nothing till you hear
from me. How we obeyed, how we
never heard from any me.