"Until We Meet Again" by Robert Dowling Jr.
© Do not reproduce without artist's permission.
ADAGIO (FROM "KORE")
by Sarah Feldman
Because the signs are piling up
again, the sparrows chasing each other
across the yard, the groundhog’s ascent
smooth and shadowless, and because
the way things are going, I seem to be leaving,
I wanted to say, before I forget,
that I was not miserable throughout the time
I spent in your world, not entirely.
I wept – I refused – I lay motionless – but these, I can see
were only the instincts of a spoilt child, who, presented with some
strange and unwelcome supper, turns her face away
always expecting something else will be offered.
Or else I simply believed in the finality
of what I’d become in that darkness, having almost no basis
for comparison. When I drifted, letting spaces,
chairs, bodies soften into indistinguishable shadow,
when my fingernails bit red half-moons
on the inside flesh of a forearm, it was because I thought
I could not do otherwise – though the opposite was also
true, that the further in I travelled, the more
I sometimes turned to find the way I’d come was wide
and only gently sloping. If I refused to acknowledge the tendrils
of light forcing themselves through the stiff clay
yet they did not stop coming; again and again
there were some three or four minutes in which I was nearly
content – humming the Dance of the Blessed Spirits,
or gently untangling a few strands of hair – but I closed my eyes. I kept
these things from you not by design or neglect – but by some part of me
that kept warning not to swallow, not to sleep, not to make concessions. I reserved
that ancient right of ambivalence and complaint which is the one defense
against false spring; my soul, having tended to elide its joys
taking flower for fruit and seed for feast, now learned distance. It is one thing
to be wrong about one’s suffering, to take for punishment or illness
what is only the natural constraint of the unravished heart –
but to mistake happiness – to choose in love
what will be thrust on one in any case, in life – not once,
but over and over. Those cries – yes, or enough, or, nothing
more than this – what were they but the sound
of the forced soul giving over
the one thing left to it?
Sarah Feldman is a dual Canadian/American citizen whose imaginative landscape draws on both coastal British Columbia and the Connecticut River Valley. Some of her poems appear in the anthology Undercurrents: New Voices in Canadian Poetry, edited by Robyn Sarah.
"Adagio" is excerpted from Feldman's forthcoming sequence, "Kore." A second excerpt will appear in our fall issue, and a third will be published in winter.