The fire's light falls in a rectangular pattern on the patio bricks. You match
the tongs to the steak's edge, reveal the precise crosshatch
pattern of the grill. I fear that we have become too punctual, exact – on time
in real time. For hours I used to wander our map, know your
audacity – brilliant like red maples and Pennsylvania Bluestone.
Now, we are silent as we sometimes are, and perhaps you regret
serving steak, which you have to grill and slice, and regret having to clean
up this dinner with its vegetables and rice, and even rue
the decision to marry me now that I am disabled, not able to do as I used to –
anything, really – and you are so silent I want to make as much
uproar as I can, rail against you for being so confoundingly stoic – but
silence has safety. You finish grilling, climb the porch steps,
kiss my shoulder, and enter the kitchen. I follow, my cane catching the metal
strip at the entrance, and I grab the door jam to keep from falling.
"Are you OK?" you ask. There is nothing in this world that could make me
tell you the truth. You remove the compelling red-cowhide grill gloves,
fill my white plate with asparagus and rice, thinly slice the London broil,
reserve the most tender for me, and with the same steady hands,
help me into my chair, guide it to the most suitable position at the table,
present my plate, and light the candles. We eat by their faint glow,
and my most secret self responds to your generosity with embarrassed
compliments about the food. Later, I watch you sleep, summer scent
of the grill in your hair, while your hands – unsinged, wide, loose on my breast –
claim me this night as your own.
* * *
IN EVERY LIFE BOTH*
for Allen Hoey
Moons tail of light touches
the still water of the lake
and secluded shore toward
Pegasus and a broad line
of distant trees. Across
the water, lights of homes
wink on. A passing boat
sounds its two powers:
presence and sorrow.
In every life, both.
A stripe of cloud forms
under the almost-full moon.
Spectacle Island's loon nest
cocoons amid dense grass
and weeds; one long call
wavers over darkening water,
while the reply – distant, trailing –
stills the heart. He says,
"Look at those clouds holding
up the moon, that light,
that reflection, the boat breaking
up the lake." The boat passes,
and the wavering path of silver
opens, then closes. Still, there is
no wind. I take the chance
this offers, absorb the boat's
caution and the loon's comfort,
rise from the chair, one hand
clutching my cane, the other the top
railing post, then stand and receive
his offer of brandy, auburn liquid
gleaming in the transfer.
"Some of us make our own light,"
he says – toasting the still moon
framed by a sky of broken clouds –
"here's to light."