But something comes between us, like glass or water, a distance I cannot avoid: four poems by Lawrence Raab

Why It Often Rains in the Movies

Because so much consequential thinking
happens in the rain. A steady mist
to recall departures, a bitter downpour
for betrayal. As if the first thing
a man wants to do when he learns his wife
is sleeping with his best friend, and has been
for years, the very first thing
is not to make a drink, and drink it,
and make another, but to walk outside
into bad weather. It’s true
that the way we look doesn’t always
reveal our feelings. Which is a problem
for the movies. And why somebody has to smash
a mirror, for example, to show he’s angry
and full of self-hate, whereas actual people
rarely do this. And rarely sit on benches
in the pouring rain to weep. Is he wondering
why he didn’t see it long ago? Is he wondering
if in fact he did, and lied to himself?
And perhaps she also saw the many ways
he’d allowed himself to be deceived. In this city
it will rain all night. So the three of them
return to their houses, and the wife
and her lover go upstairs to bed
while the husband takes a small black pistol
from a drawer, turns it over in his hands,
the puts it back. Thus demonstrating
his inability to respond to passion
with passion. But we don’t want him
to shoot his wife, or his friend, or himself.
And we’ve begun to suspect
that none of this is going to work out,
that we’ll leave the theater feeling
vaguely cheated, just as the movie,
turning away from the husband’s sorrow,
leaves him to be a man who must continue,
day after day, to walk outside into the rain,
outside and back again, since now there can be
nowhere in this world for him to rest.


Walking Alone

Where the wild poem is a substitute
For the woman one loves or ought to love,
One wild rhapsody a fake for another.

– Wallace Stevens

It is night. For hours I have been walking,
wanting to see you, hoping you might
appear suddenly by the side of the road,
on a bridge, or in the arc of headlights
bending toward me. I have continued

beyond any place you might conceivably be.
Sunk into a dark hollow, between trees
and stone, the river goes where it has to go.
In the cold air I construct long conversations:
whatever we wouldn’t say if you were here.

I recite poems. I return home and write more.
You are, of course, attending within them,
beautiful and calm, near a window
or by a bridge before winter. I fix you
safely, where we might find each other.

But something comes between us, like glass
or water, a distance I cannot avoid.
We meet by accident and fall away.
I come back here, compose another poem,
and walk about at night reciting it to you.

Everything I conceive as possible returns
to an ordered page. I wish I were blind.
I wish my fingers would drop off.
What are they doing, writing all this again?


Marriage

Years later they find themselves talking
about chances, moments when their lives
might have swerved off
for the smallest reason.
                                     What if
I hadn’t phoned, he says, that morning?
What if you’d been out,
as you were when I tried three times
the night before?
                           Then she tells him a secret.
She’d been there all evening, and she knew
he was the one calling, which was why
she hadn’t answered.
                               Because she felt—
because she was certain—her life would change
if she picked up the phone, said hello,
said, I was just thinking
of you.
            I was afraid,
she tells him. And in the morning
I also knew it was you, but I just
answered the phone
                            the way anyone
answers a phone when it starts to ring,
not thinking you have a choice.


Afterwards

I wasn’t thinking of you.
But so much stays the same.
Even a room resists our efforts.
The old things are taken away,
given away, lost. A different
picture then, a new chair.
Entering, I expect you to be there.

These are the inescapable
phrases that hope for more:
something about the weather,
and all that can and cannot
be healed, and how, and how long.
Time passes and it reminds us
of everything we happen to remember.

Then we return to the same
few objects, few events. The house
darkens, and the lights come on.
And even this room
changes to fit your absence,
no matter what we say or how
we choose to think about it.

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But something comes between us, like glass or water, a distance I cannot avoid: four poems by Lawrence Raab

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