not the words themselves, but how
they wind around each other
like grapevines along a chain-link fence.
I know how it's done: the curt, argus-eyed
hellos to passersby, the courtesy questions
over the phone to keep the conversation
moving, like turning the page of a bad book.
I understand practicality. I understand
the emollient coos, infant-speech;
the harsh backhand bark against
your acerbity; the weeping tongue.
As does the world--even a child
can shed his natural-born cruelty
for a moment of understanding, the precursor
of compassion that can build men.
But it is this I have forgotten:
its ascension not unlike a god,
how to ease them together
into such an immaculateness that one word,
one feather removed would mean
the hard, dark earth, or the cold, bitter slap
of the sea. It is a sort of death
that goes quietly, a third-world death.
To think I had something amidst my grip,
that I could reach into the good light
of each morning, my footfalls
avoiding the crow-footed cracks
of the sidewalk, and down to the neighbor's
fenced off yard, snag an eye-sized grape,
and know its sweet juice would inspire.