I've expanded like the swollen door in summer
to fit my own dimension. Your loneliness
is a letter I read and put away, a daily reminder
in the cry of the magpie that I am
still capable of inflicting pain
at this distance.
Like a painting, our talk is dense with description,
half-truths, landscapes, phrases layered
with a patina over time. When she came into my life
I didn't hesitate.
Or is that only how it seems now, looking back?
Or is that only how you accuse me, looking back?
Long ago, this desert was an inland sea. In the mountains
you can still find shells.
It's these strange divagations I've come to love: midday sun
on pink escarpments; dusk on gray sandstone;
toe-and-finger holes along the three hundred and fifty-seven foot
climb to Acoma Pueblo, where the spirit
of the dead hovers about its earthly home
four days, before the prayer sticks drive it away.
Today all good Jews collect their crimes like old clothes
to be washed and given to the poor.
I remember how my father held his father around the shoulders
as they walked to the old synagogue in Philadelphia.
"We're almost there, Pop," he said. "A few more blocks."
I want to tell you that we, too, are almost there,
for someone has mapped this autumn field with meaning, and any day
October brooding in me, will open to reveal
our names--inscribed or absent --
among the dry thistles and spent weeds.
"Yom Kippur, Taos, New Mexico" from All-American Girl by Robin Becker © 1996. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.