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the light from behind the fog which comes from nowhere

from in a prayer by mourning dove

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Staring out over the winter trees as in strokes the sky was painted into each color lighter, then darker, from white to blue, to the palest yellow and pink- each color less like a color, more like a sound, holding the phone like something I had taken, from the earth or my body, I wanted to tell you it was done. Instead, I told you I'd disappear. No more bringing you what I imagined were great novelties or even gifts, ____ that were meant and thought about, even a meeting with someone dear to me for you to be welcomed into my strange and limited and still very quiet and vast world- I imagined you and him sorting through my likeness, affixing different sentiments, both realizing the ways that you aligned, as chosen by me. As you chose me- I could not imagine this choosing- like when I looked into your eyes deeply but found myself surprised by my reflection in them. Even in manner, you were still mute, I felt. You would drive me here or there, to whichever mountain I fancied just as December began. You were all new to me in the way that words are still all new to me- I am constantly- taken aback- by how meanings are parsed this way- that that is a thing and that it means- what? We were in this silence over the phone, and I felt "lodged in my chest", I felt lodged in the trees that the migratory birds had just left- I thought hopelessly that you were susceptible to me.

There was no matter- simply. We could go to Cracker Barrel and stuff candy up our sleeves and drive on this highway again, out to the small blinking town lights of West Virginia, out to this no place where the hills still stand like solemn heralds to the deep and unrelenting sky. You cried when _____, and I think about how the tear fell from eye to cheek, and thought it strange that here was something of you, that had lost its animacy, and simply fell downward, beholden to gravity. I thought of that wetness which adorned the side of your face like an involuntary symbol neither wanted nor unwanted. _______anyway- what else was there?- and you held onto me as though I was pulling you out of some body, body of water- until we crossed over just as we had walked across the bridge together from my aunt's house to the isle of my childhood, a rocky outcrop in the James'. __________

We could even be friends during the day. I took you to meet my mentor on the Upper West, who was like what you aimed to be, a Jewish lady with many connections, while I met yours, a dominatrix who thought I was a heroin addict. She sat on her porch and smoked weed and I picked up the cat and put the cat down and picked up the cat and put her back down and stared at the wild brown of the hills, wondering what a stranger I was, a stranger for anyone.

It was unmistakable to me to be standing in those winter trees, feeling some nonexistent breeze, perhaps the lone long note of so many years ago when I had wandered this brown earth in a cultivated desperation, when I was glad to be cold and even estranged, in pursuit of limitlessness or some bottomless frozen lake. I had told him of the lake, too, I remember, back when there was something sacred about night or day, and every threshold had to be counted and I left a teabag in the cup after drinking the tea he offered me and then I ran off down the street because that's how I knew to live from the first moment of impact when he attacked me with a hug, and before and after that when I had lain immovable for days.

Now I fell apart, as the colors of the sky fell apart, shade by shade over the horizon marked in the wild dawn while she smoked her cigarette, with the childish tattoos showing on her thighs- her shorts too short for this weather, and her looking bravely out with again the storm of black curls, she had mocked Leonard Cohen's line because she knew I loved the song like I loved to tell the story of strangers becoming known and then unknown to one another: "many come before us I know we are not new..her hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm.." Knowing you was not some rupture- expelling myself from myself some happy day a year prior, on a girl's kitchen floor in some rehearsed bereavement, no air, no air but what is taken from the blood. No, this was simply a departure, like taking a bus or a plane.

I simply wanted that vast distance of the river as it turns the bend. I cannot always sit in the passenger with you at the wheel, though I love the way the sun settles on the far end of the dashboard as I point my feet up and downward, reaching again to touch the horizon. I was a fool then and am a fool now. I hang up the phone after this long silence as I had driven away without a word the night we first parted, no word but: "is that all?", a gesture towards your bag. I do not understand what the humans do, how people inhabit space together for long, except as the company of friends, but this? That you are near me and precious always? Devastating. I cannot bear you but I do not mind you. I can only let you go down the old road, bidding you all my blessings as you go. This separation will be good for you, I explain, but cannot tell when or how it is, only that the moment of our meeting precludes great loss, as simply as ocean meets horizon meets shore, and pulls away, and back, and onward. We sat on the church steps you just saying I could "do whatever I want" and I saying "don't do that, don't be that way, don't say that" before we walked to the island and you were happy again, even fiercely so, but tentative, hanging from the branches of a tree. We went to the old prisoner of war camps where I kindly told you I'd break your heart and you looked into my eyes and did not look away. I wondered if heartbreak would be as good to you as it had been for me, when I felt freer than I ever had, wildly free, and the landscape turned white, an infinite whiteness as it began to snow on the anniversary of the day I was born, and I felt glad to be unloved, better now to love still regardless as the first flake began to fall and I stepped aboard a train to the new continent. And later, in the city, I'd reiterate that love sometimes meant no love, meant leaving you be-


from in a prayer, released February 22, 2022


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