Posthumous Man


I hate the world.
I have come to the edge.

Our neighbor’s white
bean field in a snow fog.

Three weeks of it
shedding in the warmth

like smoke from fire
lines set against the trees

or the season’s
cold boredom with itself.

Mud in the white
field. A hump of gray snow.

Nothing is there.
I hold the dog tight

on his leash. Gray
snow: gray coat, rising now

—scuffed like a bad
rug, scruff-eared—so we watch

nothing rise in
the white bean field and shake

off a night’s sleep
and sniff, sniff, peer over

at us. Winter
wrens in a fluff. Rustle

of bramble. He
trots off at precisely

one hundred and
eighty degrees from where

we emerged from
the woods, into the woods…

The long-married abide in privacy
longer and longer. That’s one irony.
After hearing the coyote crying
a week, ten days, maybe more, late at night
through the glassy air, crying like a bird
his song among the billion stars, we saw him
sunning asleep in the neighbor’s old field.

And he woke. And saw us. And, unafraid,
loped off. We rise each morning alone from
the shape of our bodies in flannel sheets,
burrow beside burrow, where we dream of
running, bleeding, food, feral sex, each
to his or her own outlandish nightlife.
We walk in the world, we sip our coffee

at a clean glass table, we love our child.
Then come to an edge, where the world
meets the soul, and the soul knows once more
what it holds, such capacity
to inflict harm or injury, easy
as a snowfall and fog’s long rise back.
It does, or does not, again and again.

I hate the world:
It batters too much the

wings of my self-
will. He’s writing to Fanny

a few weeks cold
after the nightingale.

He hears it sing
in lone, full-throated ease.

And knows himself
grown spectre-thin. Even

in sweet incense,
full summer, his sadness is

a bell’s birdcall
tolling him back from thee

to my sole self!
He’ll sail himself, next year—

a man post-
poetry and posthumous,

too numb to feel
the sun over Naples,

to heal his
scavenger lungs. His hands are

white cold. His nails
are ridged, like a field.

He writes, to Brown,
were I in health it would

make me ill. And
means, of course, his heart’s lack

—white trees, white waves—.
It is death, without her.

I hear behind me winter wind. It whips
the sycamores, whose leaves are large as sheaves
of paper, brittle-brown or blowing down.
It whips and shakes the blanched-bone trunks of beech.
Despite the cold it’s humid, a warm
exhaust of fog and breathing of the mud.
Back down the path I cut all summer, down

the ridge and up the drumlin rise beside
our creek, you’re reading. Or you’re watching out
the windows where I’ve vanished with the dog.
I’ve learned when I should leave. There’s privacy
You crave, as I do. The irony thereof.
It is my source of fear. The sheltie wants,
growling at his leash, loose. I won’t let him—

the coyote would kill him simply.
So we watch. Long snout. Bone-slender, his high
rear hips. He’s a reel of fog unspooling
toward the far, half-shadowed rim of trees.
Uptick of grackles, more wrens—. He’s loping.
Now he’s running through the field toward the woods.
By the time he is halfway, he is gone.

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