by Rita Dove
Impossible to keep a landscape in your head.
Try it: all you’ll get is pieces—the sun
emerging from behind the mountain ridge,
smoke coming off the ice on a thawing lake.
It’s as if our heads can’t contain
anything that vast: it just leaks out.
You can be inside a house and still feel
the rooms you’re not in—kitchen below
and attic above, bedroom down the hall—
but you can’t hold onto the sensation
of being both inside the walls
and outside looking at them
at the same time.
Where do we go with that?
Where does that lead us?
There are spaces for living
and spaces for forgetting.
Sometimes they’re the same.
We walk back and forth without a twitch,
popping a beer, gabbing on the phone,
with only the occasional stubbed toe.
The keyhole sees nothing.
Has it always been blind?
It’s like a dream where a voice whispers,
Open your mouth and you do,
but it’s not your mouth anymore
because now you’re all throat,
a tunnel skewered by air.
So you rewind; and this time
when you open wide, you’re standing
outside your skin, looking down
at the damage, leaning in close …
about to dive back into your body
and then you wake up.
Someone once said: There are no answers,
just interesting questions.
(Which way down? asked the dove,
dropping the olive branch.)
If you think about it,
everything’s inside something else;
everything’s an envelope
inside a package in a case—
and pain knows a way into every crevice.
You can find this in the June 2020 issue of Poetry Magazine.