Histories

(for John)

After everyone’s asleep, I turn on the TV,
Mash the volume down to a mutter,
And watch a documentary forest tumble
As a lyrebird warbles it to its doom.

This morning we climbed history,
Scrambling to the top of an ocean cliff
To watch an oncoming November storm.
I scraped my knee sliding down a ridge of talus —
A lesson in balance and a smear of blood on stone.

I learned a history spelled out in peanuts,
Carver to Carter, pressed flat
Between the covers of musty textbooks,
Given flesh as Dead Old White Guys
Standing at lecterns shaking their fists at the future.

The woman who laid her son’s helmet down
At the top of the granite courthouse steps
Knows what history is, and what it costs.
A hundred phone cameras make her a digital immortal.

You take my hands crosswise in yours
And pull me the last six feet up the slope,
Kiss me full of honey and fire,
And turn me to watch the cumulus gathering
From the shelter of your body’s rain shadow.

I stop to talk to a potter working in a kiosk,
Watch her slurry-patch a cracked jug for firing.
I hand her five pounds. She looks at me oddly,
But marks the bottom with my initials.
I’ll collect it and its secret tomorrow afternoon.

(2012)

This was another go-round for me with what history means on a personal level. I wrote this poem in the days after John took me to see the home in Wales he’d bought for us.

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