Always Getting Away

In dream I came close to what was lost.
I could almost reach it, there in the gone
dark shaft of the past. Always rain, always
a fly slapping against the window glass.
If learning comes in stages, forgetting
falls in layers the same way: the edge
of a sandstone cliff slipping into the sea,
breath escaping into air, so we spend
our lives trying to draw it back
into us, what’s always getting away,
so that words like death or belief seem
no less real, no further from touch
than hammer or lily or silk. Like the future,
the past is always nameless, eluding
our grasp, though we blame the rain,
or a dead car battery, the expense, the risk,
bad taste or luck or timing for what fails
inside us, absence accumulating weight
on the scale of memory. I wasn’t the first
or the last along that path, our steady steps
up the steep hill beside the waterfall. That night
we sang while an ocarina whistled like a mad
lost bird, mysterious and sad. Next day
the songs were still there, under
roots exposed by eroding duff, trapped
in thin crevices in the rock. Turning back
I could almost hear them: echoes
of a sound that never was, beautiful fossils
of imaginary beings unearthed by the constant rain.

(kz 1992)

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