Loosed from the rain, suspended
like a bough that broke and didn’t fall,
Sergei returned to fix the fake fire.
I’d worried the pilot was on too strong.
Though he fixed it for free, fire
always means profit and free
in this case means already paid.
“Finally,” I calculated,
“I found out I love you.
We achieved the physical
life of difference
we’d always held from each other inside.
I saw your life as if across a stage
I had tossed you a looking glass.
There are so many ways to think of us
that I have thought them all.
In one, we’ve been a painting
to which we were in a museum drawn,
stood peering at it for days
imagining the essays
and then we walked away.
In another, we preferred to dine
with literary people of unliterary sympathies,
who said at the restaurant, humiliating the effort,
Get your head out of books. Write for the waitress.
I close down around me like a thousand-petaled lotus
when I privilege my sympathy with others
over my system of belief, my thought
that at times I have no sympathy
at all, none except my own belief
that I have no belief
that is not a sympathy.
Freeing myself from what ailed me in others
gave me room to encounter someone new.
That’s how I took you, as someone
working for but excluded by virtue.”
“Makes me feel dumb,”
he said of my poem.