This is the part where you think you don’t

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This is the part where, you think, you don’t know anything, for surely if you knew something, you would feel compelled to say something, unlike, you think, the other part when you knew something and didn’t say anything—that past part, the long part, the part eating up your life, the part you tell yourself you’re not in now. Tell and tell.

This is the part where you try to act like life is the same but you can’t because it’s not.

Always behind any surface that you show, it’s like you’re some cartoon character who—running away from some danger—has sawed a hole in the floor only to fall through it a long, long time and end up on the opposite side of the world. But no matter where you are, run away and it will keep you running. You think. You think that, but you don’t believe it.

Then one day you know this part you seem to have fallen into is really going nowhere—it’s static, it’s like waiting but not waiting for anything in particular, or maybe forgetting what you’re waiting for—but it’s just the waiting part, a part without the usual parts of waiting like being patient or impatient, like checking and checking the time, like daydreaming at a stop light or idly flipping through a magazine in some waiting room. It’s not that kind of waiting.

It’s waiting that’s a kind of absolute stillness in which you’ve stopped trying to know anything because there are so many things you know that you wish you didn’t. The phone bills, the messages—endearments, pleas—not meant for you but written nonetheless in searing letters in the front of your mind.

Maybe you were waiting to know but when you knew, the waiting didn’t stop. Maybe you gave up on knowing—so much transportation, so many ways to get to the wrong place. All those other things you didn’t think about then or didn’t do—doors you opened when you should have been locking them, things you looked into when you really should have run away. Now there’s no not knowing.

And now you know what part this is. This is the part where you keep in deep silence the other’s secret, the secret that is also the secret of how you’ve been wounded, the burden of it, this part where all that’s left of you is where the secret is, the part where the other’s secret is all you have left of him.





“Prairie Dogs Disperse When All Close Kin Have Disappeared”

We waited. We longed for your warmth. The way
you know us better than we know ourselves.
The way you brought the squash casserole to
Thanksgiving. How we loved that casserole.
The way we saw you once—alone, gazing
out the kitchen window at the back yard
looking a bit as if you’d lost something,
then another time in full moonlight
standing at the edge of the yard during
a party like you were listening for
something in the music. Oh it was dry
in our world without you—your peripheries
were all your own, for you were firmly in
our hearts. Sooner than later, we lost
all interest in nourishment and our
reproductive success. What could have been
so bad in our little house in our little
town that you’d leave like that? Was it some
careless thing we said? Whatever it was,
we didn’t mean it, or didn’t mean it
that way. Was it that time one of us hollered at
the moon? Or when one who won’t be mentioned
got deep into the moonshine? Did you just
wander away on a whimsy, or were
you escaping or inescapably
drawn elsewhere? We looked and we waited,
disappearing one by one, here then gone.
We dispersed—each to our own loneliness
without our kin, without you. If we had
a place to stop, we’d wish you to come home.




The title is the title of an article by J. Hoogland, “Prarie dogs disperse when all close kin have disappeared,” Science


Black Butterflies

We waited to hear and never did—
now winter comes and waiting ends
or all there ever is is waiting.
We’d have settled for mere hailing or
old news or old recriminations—
we long ago gave up on love declared
and other things we thought we knew.
Nights by the fire it’s the past I see—
my dresses and my hats and boots, things
you burned before you burned my books.


O if there were knots
could tie the shining day
to its shininess,
ghosts loathe to leave their
home. Afterthoughts like
automatic writing–
waiting, waiting, waiting,
not to confuse
the memory of it with
the regret one later feels.
What happens that
cuts you back
attaches itself,
renovates the far mind,
arrives before you do.
Such tiredness not
to resist fortune
or where you hid in your
some garbled message
from the darkling empire of
the rotary telephone.

Waiting, Not Knowing

It’s waiting and not knowing that’s the worst
that’s what people say in the in-between
to hope not knowing’s worse than what we’ll lose
to hold off what once known will be an end.
Waiting can make time slowly orbit round
where not knowing is something of relief
or cast the mind far out where it will drown
in dark futures that populate our sleep.
But knowing doesn’t cancel waiting out
when waiting’s filled with futures that have passed
filled up with what we do not want to know
a memory of worry that will last.
Even so, knowing can be worse than not
and waiting’s knowing if that’s all we’ve got.