by Maxine Chernoff
“To philosophize is to learn how to die.” Montaigne
Of houses, empty or noticed, to rooms whose lamps have left their light behind,
ancient after time has landed in the breech of its excess, dropped there as if a
package fell from the arms of a woman.
Of glasses once filled whose essence is left in a stain that looks clear in most light
but carries a tinge of its erasure when she notices it late in the night after he is
Of windows, whose eyes are shut to the diversions of their intended gazers, birds
passing on their sheer migrations over oceans filled with brine.
Of gardens where he sat or she sat amid the trickery of a season and its aftermath,
patchy on the lawn and patchy in the sky, gray and listless for a time before
respecting the progress of feeling as it overtakes the geography of plants.
Of reasons which fill a space but not adequately, which stretch like deserts
between needs vocalized or calmed, written or whispered, answered or forgotten
by the time an answer is prepared.
Of books filled with language that is never proper to the moment but serves as a
repository of the possible though the possible is not enough, as a tent is never
enough in a storm.
Of eyes that fill with knowing or restless asking or a glance that means retreat or
surrender or that a village lies in waste, a life is lost, small as a child’s attempt to
capture a mote of dust above his bed in moonlight from a gibbous moon.
Of melodies whose notes contain the promise of an answer, as if music is an
answer or patience a virtue or love an antidote.