Like a name chiseled into the soft
Brown stone above a doorway,
I need you to stay above me.
I don’t want to meet by chance
And have to tell you how much
I like your poems. It’s New York,
Funny things happen if we aren’t careful.
The one before you was dead.
She was a drunk, too. I never
Followed a woman so far
Into the past. I walked her street.
Her old row house was revised
Into utilitarian multi-family
Dwelling. Her address only exists
In antique telephone books.
I read her letters; she went places,
Described the new foliage, the customs,
And sent back apologies
For what she did in the empty
Between poems. She didn’t like
To be alone. Terrible things
Happened that would just be boring
And hard if they happened to us.
The letters exhausted me;
And then, page by page,
She got quieter with her loves
And her hidden bottles didn’t
Clink so much, until
The last letter. I knew it was
The last. She didn’t. She wasn’t
Watching the pages dwindle
Into index. She was watching
The harbor and arranging
It would be sad
If you died but lovely from afar,
Like walking past a window
When someone is practicing
Piano or seeing a tall ship round
The island. You seem the kind
Who doesn’t believe in God
But has her wedding in a church.
Or maybe the opposite.
I’m guessing. How could I know
From watching you on stage once?
You were ugly enough to be
Beautiful in your overcooked finery.
Your fellow readers reported back:
Crazy, crazy, crazy. I loved
Your deadpan plea, so raw,
But all art, a threat that you will
Appear one day after I quit writing,
After I leave the city for the housey
Woods. Maybe a day that snow
Closes roads and a low smother
Of gray cloud covers the horizon.
In bird-less still, with your breath
Hanging like smoke, you will ring
My doorbell and ask a final time
For the one thing I can’t give.