All of life involves looking at an apple
or sweeping leaves off the porch
or cooking pot roast and mashed potatoes.
This happens as we move from the city
to the suburbs, and from the suburbs
to the beach. The old people trail after us,
moaning about loss, complaining about
their aches and pains. We are above
all of that. We have the beach right
outside our window. Our brothers
are in the kitchen, our sister is on
her way over from the subway.
My aunt, who is also my godmother,
is sitting outside our old apartment
building in the city. She still loves me.
When she sees me, she insists that
we have a dance together, right
there on the sidewalk. But there’s
no music, I say. She says, you don’t
need music to dance. So we begin
waltzing together. There is no apple
either, and the beach turns out
to be invisible in daylight.
Does everything always have to be about you?
You in the boat on the ocean in search of refuge.
You weeping in central Europe and Russia
while dogs are barking and peasants are weeping
for freedom. You rhapsodizing about clouds,
bitter tears, the winter asleep in the flickering city.
You make the wilderness teem with hoards of grievers.
You hang your fur coats in the office while the servants
marry their daughters off to the ignorant farmers from south
of the river, where begging bowls line the banks
and bliss goes full circle from our memories to the forest trees
to the sparkling wine-drenched underworld of aliens.
There the slaughtered hide in the high grass and pray amen.
I call this time my own. I stand on the table top and whisper
nothings to the retirees, roaming the retirement home
without their pants. I cannot get good service here. Ever.
My calendar is filled with the onslaught of minutes, as they
fly through the fields where once the tyrants ranted
and heads piled up on the platters of the rich.
Beware. Be aware. Our mothers can’t help us now.
Our fever won’t break, no matter how much ginger ale
and brandy they make us sip. Our shoes refuse to fit.
Our dreams shimmer in the dark glow of pre-holiday
insomnia. When we sleep our lives come awake
in a fairy tale of war that we have the music for.
We are playing it in the living room right now.
I used to like to lounge around drinking gin & tonic
up in Connecticut, next to the Housatonic
back when everything struck me as ironic.
Now I can barely remember that ancient sonic
boom that lifted me right out of the chronic
despair I once felt. Maybe I need a mnemonic.
The music of our love was majestically symphonic,
its swelling melodies both angelic and demonic,
its simple lyrics heartfelt and laconic.
Yet now all my dreams are strictly Platonic,
and, believe me, I’m not trying to be sardonic
(nor should you accuse me of being histrionic).
With you, in bed, all sleep was embryonic.
The snores so sweet, so gorgeously harmonic.
Terence Winch is the author of eight poetry collections, the most recent of which is The Known Universe (2018). A Columbia Book Award and American Book Award winner, he has also written a young adult novel called Seeing-Eye Boy and two story collections, Contenders and That Special Place, the latter drawing on his life as a traditional Irish musician. His work is included in more than 40 anthologies, among them the Oxford Book of American Poetry, Poetry 180, and 5 editions of Best American Poetry. He is the recipient of an NEA Fellowship and a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Writing, among other honors. Terence Winch edits the “Pick of the Week” feature on the Best American Poetry site.