Apologia Pro Vita Sua

We don't have much time so we have to work
slowly. We unwrap the small,
almost-animal form until it whimpers
under the heat of our gaze. We put the books
up on the shelf; we take them back down again.
At evening, chin back and the neck
like a skyscraper, we give up smoke—a colony
of ghost-howl. Color of light
that collects on rooftops, with desire
propped like a water tower in the corner:
each day ends in the labor of small hands,
through delicate hair. I remember a time
with a woman I knew only as the sound of her hair.
After we had both come, and spent ourselves
on the smells of each other, we went up on the roof
and lay down on my leather coat, wishing
that people could see the stars in this city.
And I remember how I slipped into sleep for a moment
and was back by the hayfield of my boyhood,
with my brother, crickets sparking in the failing sun
that paced out beyond us and burnished the tips
of the nearest pines. How the edge of that forest
was only slightly farther away. But I never touched it.
It seems I am always running ahead of my needing,
looking out from a higher window of the body
to see the edges of things, the weight
of a pound of grapes in my hand, that tactile rush
of consolation. But I am here now.
I am resting my head against the part of myself
I am willing to put down.
Why didn't we enter that field?
Why didn't we cross to that border, Neil, to see
what it felt like to push the first foot down
into the shadow and the cooler ferns?
At night, my breath slacks into darkness
and I feel the air winnow through my arm.
I am beginning to see how I am that field,
that moment pushing sunset, blank distance to the treeline,
how the woods at the end of me are porous, giving,
how they shimmer on air.
The roots are moving, out of sight.
The crickets singing through me.
Tonight I will sleep like a just man,
a good man, a man who has hurt others
in order to lay his head down.

Jay Deshpande's poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Washington Square, La Petite Zine, Narrative, Handsome, Shampoo, Spork, and elsewhere. He is the former poetry editor of AGNI and he curates the Metro Rhythm Reading Series in Brooklyn. (j.a.deshpande@gmail.com)

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761