"The Great Escape" by Robert Dowling Jr.
© Do not reproduce without artist's permission.
LARGO, TEMPO RUBATO
by Sarah Feldman
I was late, coming back – walnut leaves already curling at the edges
summer nights heavy with the scent of viburnum. Over and over
as we climbed I had turned back to see the world I was leaving – not,
you understand, from any love lost, but out of fear that the place
would become otherwise once left behind: the close-breathing darkness
suddenly pricked with stars. Why should I remember you tenderly,
who believes love is not love unless the ground opens underfoot? You interrupted me
at a time when my life was about to begin, my future still whole
and ripe with prophecy. The oracle said: You will marry the Light, and for days
I hovered like a kite in an imperceptible wind. The oracle said:
Love the earth, and you will be happy, and I learned to burrow.
You touched me – lightly, of course – and I grew solid,
a body with fixed structures and intractable gravity.
You spoke to me, calmly, as if my reply was of little importance
and I answered, knowing I could say anything
though nothing in particular came to mind.
Why hadn’t the oracles said: Love the earth and you will become earth –
exhausted, shiftless, crumbling? Like you, they understood force
was necessary but not sufficient – it’s not enough to lose the world
before one has understood it. I was informed of my fate early – but so casually
it seemed a single facet of an infinite unfolding. I was then –
but gently – drawn in towards an iron core of understanding –
always given enough freedom to break away and breathe the air,
always reined in again when the time came. I was sent back,
so that failing repeatedly to hold to what was given
I would learn to bend. I was led up and down and up,
until I heard, of my own accord, my one life calling clear
from the center of the cycle: the nothing-to-say, the years
side by side in the kingdom of stillness, the gradual acquiescence
to a not-unforgiving night – this is the love
I was built for.
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.
"Largo, Tempo Rubato" is the second excerpt of three that One Throne will publish from Feldman's forthcoming sequence, "Kore." The first appeared in our summer issue, and the third will be released in winter.