Dusk: July

by Marilyn Hacker

Read by Tom McLaughlin

Late afternoon rain of a postponed summer:
wet streets, wet slate roofs, swish of tires, wet awnings,
pin-curled neighbor leaning out on her wrought-iron
window-guard, smoking,

wet chestnuts, wet lavender by the river’s
shades of gray-green. This oversubtle season
will not burst, all clarity into sunlight.
Petal by petal,

tiger lilies open up in a pitcher,
orange, yellow, stars of beast-faces yawning.
Leaves like feast-day offerings round an altar
drop on the carpet

I would love my move, but my love is elsewhere.
I would take a walk with her in the evening’s
milky pearl. I’d sleep with my arms around her
confident body,

arms and legs asprawl like an adolescent’s
We’re not adolescents. Our friends are dying
and between us nothing at all is settled
except our loving.

We’ve loved other bodies the years have altered:
knuckles swollen, skin slackened, eyelids grainy;
bodies that have gone back to earth, the synapse
of conscience broken.

Softly, softly, speak of it, but say something.
We are middle-aged and our friends are dying.
What do we lie down beside when we lie down
alone, together?

If I could remember the names, the places,
rooms and faces, gestures and conversation,
I’d have some excuse for the years passed through me
like air, like water.

School friends who turned into suburban matrons,
bar friends, one-night-stands who are dead of AIDS, or
tenured, or in jail, or suburban matrons;
great-aunts, grandparents

of whom I had nothing to tell my daughter.
Those dead Jews on both sides of the Atlantic
disappear again as the year two thousand
washes us under.

Seize the days, the days, or the years will seize them,
leaving just the blink of a burnt-out lightbulb
with a shard of filament left inside that
ticks when it’s shaken

Fix the days in words and the years will seize them
anyway, a bracket of dates, an out-of-
print book, story nobody told, rooms locked and
phone disconnected,

cemetery no one will ever visit.
Who knows where my grandparents’ graves are?
Who cut
through the gauze unveiling my mother’s tombstone?
I don’t. I didn’t.

Light is still alive in the table lamp I
switch on in the nine-o’clock twilight; music
still alive in the street noise; mine one more shadow
drawing the curtains.

I just want to wake up beside my love who
wakes beside me. One of us will die sooner,
one of us is going to outlive the other,
but we’re alive now.