Sophie Cabot Black reads three poems from her third poetry collection, The Exchange, published in May by Graywolf Press.
I could only close my eyes on the blue
Shirtsleeve of leaving and understand
I was to make my own sentence. No voice
Heard as once imagined nor did she
Beckon and somehow know what I did not
Know, behind her what I loved
All the while. I stayed as long
As I could; each morning I made the mind
Work again, each evening faced the window:
This much I remember. But to solve
Where you are you must finish. Ahead a color
Best called white in a room that appears
Unlike any other. Everything used
To get there will fall away. And to look back
Is to watch the child lie down on the floor
In the exact outline and angle I once was
To see what I saw. To take on the precise edge of
How it ends is also where it begins.
It Never Goes Away
I will try to know your death exactly
As you do. The moon has shown up tonight,
Coin in the palm of one we wait for, sunset
Long gone. So hard this practice to wake
Into no more light, not even in the place
You left it. Then each morning comes
And you are followed by the rise
Of landscape everywhere. We never know
How much it takes, this business
Of departure; you stare into ocean
Outdone by all you want. Enough
Of what continues. Here it comes again,
The turning of dark and dirt, unable to stop;
Love, even with everything to be sad about.
I can only do what is here. But you
Have an entire congregation of choice,
If you are who they say. The child
Believes you cannot be, just
Doing nothing. I watched, I asked
But also without going very far.
I took care of myself. I took care
Of myself, thinking much too often
I took care of someone else.
Everything feels like payment. In fact
We come into this paying. And you, who are
Nowhere to be found, who make
No noise, who cannot be smelled or tasted,
Wander through with all of us wanting you
At the same time. Oh to be wanted
Like that, for you to pull up a chair
And let your knees touch mine.
For one moment not to answer
The other call, not to look
Past my shoulder when something else moves.
Reprinted from The Exchange with permission of Graywolf Press. Copyright © 2013 by Sophie Cabot Black.