I Am Here
for Naomi, later
I want to speak to you while I can,
in your fourth year before you can well
before this river
white and remorseless carries me away.
You asked me to tell you about death.
I said nothing. I said
This is your father,
this is your father like water,
like a feather circling down.
And I am my own daughter
a phosphorescence on the dark face of the surf.
A boat circling on the darkness.
She opens her eyes underwater. The sun climbs.
She runs, she decapitates flowers.
The grass sparkles. Her little brother laughs.
She serves meals to friends no one has seen.
She races her tricycle in circles.
I come home. The sun falls.
You eat all day.
You want to be big. "Look how big!"
you cry, stretching your arms to heaven,
your eyes stretched
by all the half-terrified joy of being in
The big move clumsily, little love,
as far as I can see.
They break everything
and then they break
and a pool of decayed light sinks back into the
Writing these words tonight,
I am coming to the end
of my 35th year. It means nothing to you,
but I rejoice, and I am terrified,
and I feel something I can never describe.
They are so much the same,
so much the sun blazing on the edge of a
We are little children,
and my face has already entered the mist.
I hear you cry out
in the blackened theater of night.
I go in and hold you in my arms
and rock you, watching
your lips working, your closed eyelids
surge with the nightly vision.
I get lost too, Naomi,
in a forest that suddenly rises
from behind my skullbone on a night of no moon.
Stars hang in the black branches,
glittering like insoluble crimes,
calling me, over and over,
toward that thick darkness under the trees.
I turn, trembling, to run,
but it is everywhere.
I wanted to give you something but
always give you something else.
What do you call it when it is underground
like a cold spring in the blood,
when it is a poem written out of naked fear,
and love, which is never enough,
when it is my face, Naomi,
from which the darkness streams forth?
The petal falls,
the skin crumbles into dirt,
consciousness likewise crumbles
and this is one road the squirrel will not cross
I was here, Naomi,
I will never be back,
but I was here,
I was here with you and your brother.
Collected Poems: 1952-1999, University of
Arkansas Press, ©
2000. Reprinted by permission
of the author.