I thought you’d never ask about the flowers. You see, the gatekeeper’s ardor has begun to fade. I trace sweetheart letters you’ve sent by post, count little stiches on the sleeve of a shirt. This is how I sharpen the needle. Then you cut the thread.
Now the leave-taking, the carte de visite. You’re always cruelest when I arrive with gifts.
So what do you like better, my dress or its shadow. What do you like better, the velvet box or the nothing inside.
What I meant to say: The field is just a field. The snow is just snow.
When I say your name, all the world goes out—
It goes without saying you startled easily, even when the drawers were locked. Husband, there are some questions you should never ask. You know our marriage is like an evacuation on the other end of the telephone, all static and snow.
(You see, the windows here were only made for show. How their silver fixtures beckon, like a flash of white at the wrist:
The sirens are sounding again, calling us back to the landscape, the widening dark that catches in the trees—)
When will you stop making small talk. Husband, there are some things only I can tell you. Which is to say, the gates have closed.
So keep looking out at the meadow, the beautiful arc that ivy makes against the stones.
You’re not leaving anytime soon.
It always begins with such elegance: the small curve of your wrist and a signal flare in the distance. That’s when the guard takes his post. Now storm sirens, as if telling us to run. You’ve seen the way snow gathers in a crevice, how ice is hoarded in the hollows of a brook:
(Husband, there are some things you don’t need to know. For example, the fact that every clock in the house stutters, like a bird striking its head against the glass—)
Which to say, I can’t help but wonder if the warnings are for me. You must understand, even the chill in this room is a decision.
A decanter poised on the table, an eyelash floating in the cup. The trestle cracked straight through with that strange longing—
Cold hand, burning building,
I haven’t seen you since the air raids. When your plane lands, that meadow won’t look at all like you remembered it.
Kristina Marie Darling is the author of over twenty books of poetry. Her awards include two Yaddo residencies, a Hawthornden Castle Fellowship, and a Visiting Artist Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome, as well as grants from the Whiting Foundation and Harvard University’s Kittredge Fund. Her poems and essays appear in The Gettysburg Review, New American Writing, The Mid-American Review, The Iowa Review, The Columbia Poetry Review, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. She is currently working toward both a Ph.D. in Literature at SUNY-Buffalo and an MFA in Poetry at New York University.