The Too Late Poem
Nothing in the room can go back.
The ashes couldn't be paper again,
the paper couldn't return to its parental linen rags.
That arrow doesn't reverse: the linen
could never again be a possibility
waiting, alive, inside the field of flax.
Whatever's recently happened
in the room is beyond the boundary of this poem,
but we know this: its people can't go back
to who they were before. And the light,
here, now, or any light as the day goes forward,
yours, or mine ... it can't regain its first existence,
at the start of things: an innocence.
For once it touches the world, it becomes complicit.
She's left the room. He stays in the bed,
below the covers, and when she exits the house
—the door is audible—he curls up, bean of sadness
that he is. Her travel is greedy, it needs the miles (by now
she's past the city limits). His is weaker, but ambitious,
if by fetal position we mean a desire to travel
the whole life-corridor back to its insular source.
I'm sorry, but we can't: nor can the photons of the cosmos
do a U-turn and reconstitute the Original Field of Energy
the size of a barnyard egg. They're going to scatter outward
over the edge of zero. Barnyard egg ... he remembers
his grandparents' small, hand-labor farm ... the horror when he first saw
a decapitated chicken running crazy in the grit, to flee
the fate that had already happened.
The Kitchen Sink: New and Selected Poems