The Last Time

I stopped and picked up
a camellia petal as I walked
through the Arboretum.
It was late afternoon and shoots of light
beamed through the old growth in
long ropes, splinters of
I wondered at this petal,
the rhubarb hue, warm rose gloss
scented faintly of red hots.
I inhaled so deeply
for a moment that when I lifted
my hand from my face
it stayed there, petal to nose,
one soft blossom to another.

And I think how often we can only
describe any one thing in relation
to another:
how from our train window
for eight days across Siberia
we admired the plains or birches,
the stars or lakes
and exclaimed how like Wyoming
or Kansas
they appeared.

This wait, it reminds me of that time
we were in line to cross the border
and guards, no more than boys,
unstrapped their guns
and knew that they could keep us;
They had us.
Without their ink our passports
remained lifeless husks,
worthless tickets to the good life.

The warmth of air, or the chill of it,
a V of geese, or the wafting of music
drifting out across the corridor,
a shape in our bed that for a darkened moment
we forget belongs to whom,
these long lies we tell ourselves,
insisting we are original, we are
the source,

unable to call anything,
this film, this book, this face,
this green lantern, this airplane droning like a tuba,
this red-chipped radish, simply