The Haunted World

I remember fishing as a child, the rod bending with weight, the times I wondered if the line would snap from strain, if that which was caught would be suddenly freed.

And I remember too, the later years, when I wondered if love was like a net in one of Neruda’s poems where we caught ourselves, becoming landscape, becoming the shore’s endless rearrangement, becoming something less fluid as that other defined us, as we saw ourselves through their words, becoming less fish and more fixture. What we became then if that other ever unhooked us. If that line ever snapped.

Weeks after I last heard your voice, when some kind of angry fever set in and I felt myself retreat like a kind of hibernating thing still wishing for winter, for cold to make my heartache still, I thought about tides, about the way they too retreat and then return. Wondered what I was to return to.

This year, when there is virus everywhere, we all learn retreat, but it is only the retreat of to our separate corners, it is only the retreat of time out, of flag on play, of pause. Only a pause, the oblivious birds flying wide past my window, that wind, wild through branches.

People panic, on the internet and in stores, two weeks in and they worry they can’t figure out how to be alone or, if not alone, how to be still, two weeks in and I wonder if they are dreaming now that same maybe that once I had dreamed. Of the befores that did not become afters. Tides, interrupted.

But, still this is only the retreat of pause, not like the year I lose your voice and then too my own, my mouth silent, me, only an eye left to see the haunted world.  You teach me silence, and in the years after I do not unlearn it, not even on nights when a man sleeps next to me. I do not tell him my dreams, the nights when they are still of you. I swallow that like I do the rage of that first year, all that incomprehensible grief.

In the spring rain, the heart breaks, maybe, or maybe it does not. Maybe in their homes people figure out, finally, how to live with themselves. Maybe they never do, winding their cars through silent streets on their way to somewhere, more afraid of their own silence than of sickness. Maybe, in the spring rain, there is still wind winding through those branches, maybe there are still those swooping oblivious birds. And maybe it is only me thinking still of that shore I could not claim, all that wet now just sea in my eyes, my eyes, still full of that haunted world.

The one in which you get to go back.

And I never do.

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