See

They see us when they look at us,
animals do, the way we cannot see
each other.  Do they, one wonders,
ever look at the world in any way
that is not seeing, is their seeing
like being seen, no difference,
just being.

How little of that we can stand.
As soon as a future comes to mind,
the present is spoiled with loss–
loss of something the present has
that the future won’t, loss of
something we think the future will
have that the present doesn’t.
Not like real losses that stop time
and allow no interval in which to
even know what it is but the state
we’re in, like only being, maybe,
maybe only not.

When animals watch, they become
what watching is.  We think they
hope and fear as we do, we think
their watching is anticipating or
watching out. But unlike us, they
know how not to know, they know
how to occupy an empty space
in which something may happen
or something may not.

Surely their watching doesn’t
haul quite the freight of ours–
after all, we sometimes watch
for things to make them happen,
we can look at things and make
them disappear, we can make
things mere objects in our minds
so we won’t see them.

When watching falls away from
being, there’s no seeing, we
watch from outside ourselves,
watch out for things that have
already happened and cannot
be prevented or undone, watch
for things that have never
happened or never will, or for
something that will happen
but won’t be what we want
or will be what we want but
we no longer want it.

All this watching and wanting
my mind feels its way through
on its way to the scene of
all the looking and watching
you do: the way you must
look when you watch women
strip, how you look and look
and look at photographs of
women’s private parts,
parts for which women become
mere frames, how looking
keeps you safe from seeing,
how what you really pay for is
watching yourself in the scene,
watching yourself getting
what you want over and over
again, and never getting
enough of it.

That night the car hit me, I
thought you’d been hit too, as
natural then for my only thought
to be for you as it must have been
for you to pull me away from further
harm. But then we were mortal, and
there was something not to love
in that, how untouchable being
wounded made me, how solitude
settled down around me, a house
locked up tight from outside.

There was a couple sitting at a
sidewalk table watching us as we
dragged ourselves out of that street.
Later on, an image of them took up
residence in my mind as the first
thing I saw when I suddenly wasn’t
dead. Even so I didn’t think it strange
they just watched–early on I learned
not to count on other people for
much of anything. I counted on you
just to live life with me, and you did
until you left me with a past in which
you didn’t, that past in which I
didn’t know what you knew until
you didn’t care if I did, you.

At least it was a familiar state
of being: a mind so empty it had no
room for anything else, the depthless
look of things like a revelation I was
seeing life as it really always had been,
a conviction hard to shake even ten
years on.  No way of looking at it
conjures up anything not flat or empty
to see, not even what that eternal
couple may have seen, sitting there
serene as gods or cats, watching us
with their naked faces, unabashed.

o

© 2012