Autumn Poem


When you are in Arizona with the boys, the house,
always cold in autumn, sits alone on the street.
There is no love in Utah: the birds have left the rotting
grape vines, the leaves have almost all fallen.

I try to fill the rooms with the you that is
not you — the language I might say, the symbols of you
I feign by pulling on the kitchen
blinds and opening the doors for shadows. I realize
I can’t shovel light into the far corners
or smear it along the wood floors; that I’m useless
flapping my arms to bring in the living
afternoon air. The sun, slow over
the mountains and early under the neighbors’
houses, is little convenience. I turn the television
way up, but it doesn’t help —
just traces of traces.

It’s not the cold darkness of fall that keeps me
on the couch or makes me put on a sweatshirt
for bed. Your absence is a pressure no amount of Byron
or Levinas can shield; it pushes down the laundry
chute, it’s inside the xylophone
radiators and stuttering water pipes, the old
refrigerator that explodes and grumbles without
warning. In the morning it fills the circular
window with condensation and keeps the screen
doors slow with melodramatic sighs. It pushes
me over the table, stove, my pens and papers,
all the while whispering: breathe, breathe.