The body of my love is a familiar country
read at the fingertip, as all children learn
their first landscape. This is the accepted face
secure of harm, in whose eye I am at home
and put on beauty as the thorn in autumn wears
its bright berry, the sky its haycock summer of cloud.
And here in a miracle season no storms cloud
our halcyon day nor prophet stains a green country
with wry mouth twisted to what vision wears
his own griefs. Music is struck off rocks, we learn
the sun ripening behind walls of flesh, the bird called home
pilgrim tracing with sure wing a world’s face.
He whom I love is more near than this one face
shaped for me at my beginning, dispersed like cloud
in death’s careless weather. At the end we come home
to the same bed, fallen like stones or stars in a country
no one travels. Only the mindless winds learn
our history, yet for us each man his mourning wears.
We are what we have been. The living creature wears
like trees his grain of good and evil years. The face
is schooled by daily argument of pain to learn
disguises for the private wound. None knows what country
lies under the shut skull, or dazzling beacon of cloud
beckons the always outcast through stubborn exile home.
This dear shell, this curve my hand follows, is home
also to the stranger I may not meet, who wears
deeper than tears his secret need. He walks a country
I cannot touch or reach, where the remembered face
burns under brittle glass of winter, and every cloud
holds in its core of ice the dream I may not learn.
Or is he Orpheus, leaving my daylight kingdom to learn
Eurydice for whom he enters the dark god’s home?
Hermes, show him this woman, in her cerecloth cloud
of sleep! She is not prey to the subtle worm which wears
already at my cheek. No word unlocks her face
or voice answers him out of that silent country.
Yet always we ride out winter and the face
of famine. We return, and O then morning wears
mountains, our signal joy climbing a cloud.
© Mary Stanley