First Poem After Parting

A flock of birds flying above a tree with the sun in the background, in golden hour
Gregory Halpern / Magnum

This is what I wanted, isn’t it? This house, quiet
as sunlight, grass on the other side of these windows

fading from gold to green like a woman taking
off her makeup. I have waited and waited to hold

my grief. Tied her up in garbage bags under clothes
I intend to donate, slipped her in the side pockets

of suitcases and empty slots between cigarettes
in packs I carry always in multiples. I trained her

to stand behind doors, to exit as laughter from my
throat. Waved her at all the protests where I hoped

she would slip out of my fist like a red banner
printed with the many names of justice. And yes,

I have more than survived this way, not noticing
how she grew and grew, the way my body pinned

to the aisle seat in coach is suddenly a roar pointing
at the clouds. Dear God, I want to be made of more

than this. While he packed, I wiped the counters,
the spines of poets lining the walls of the attic, office,

kitchen, the porcelain surfaces, of all traces of him; I did
what I couldn’t that night the leaves were dark with hurricane

years ago, thousands of miles away from anyone else
I knew, with nothing to my name, having left the second

country of my childhood, where T was devoured by
the dragon on his back, and P, and C, and C, and J, and H

are buried alongside my childhood, grinning like knives under the evergreen. Go, he’d said, because words are

the closest invention we have to the sun—they can make
anything grow. I thought then of all the places that have

made me go; how going is a kind of life, too. Just
yesterday, we marveled at mountains peeking their cheeks

between pristine New England gables as though asking
to be kissed, as though we have not been their destroyers.

My feet hurt from cheap new shoes, and he held my hand
like it was a soft, new planet while we climbed over the chain

guarding the shortcut through the field. Beloved, can you
tell me what is the difference between grief and gratitude;

tell me, how does the sky go on and on?