And then there was that time—he’s telling
someone, years hence—he hopes to be—when we all
ran a raging fever, when we slewed
from the gas range to the icebox, when nothing,
not even the voice of our parents, could calm
us down. You hated me, she says, and I
hated everything you said. We barely remembered
the commons, the playground, the vacant
lot, even as a concept. Something was hiding
in a corner of the basement, misshapen and
scary, and it got out, made skittering hoof-clicks
in the dark across the polished hall floor, left
a funny metallic taste in the bottom of the water-
cups. It’s not that something happened, but that
something had been happening all
along, growing up beside us
like an unnoticed sibling or
a spectral husband. Corner-
of-the-eye stuff, you know?
The colder air braces you against
the fall, when it finally comes.
There’s a rabbit in the backyard, nosing
around among the leaves you haven’t
raked. Mail stacked in the hall, a dozen
files cluttering the desktop. You shift
and putter, neaten up and put away.
This is no time for pretending everything’s
changed or everything’s alright, that the gears
have somehow slipped or the shiny machinery’s
broken.This is how it’s supposed to work, this
is where your day-in-day-out has brought you.
The fever broke, he tells the child
on his knee, just nodding off
in sleepiness or boredom, and the sky
was clear and pure and clean.
We could count the fingers before
us, put one foot in front
of the other. We knew our right
hand from our left, and our neighbors
from our enemies. Who we were allowed
to love, and who was off limits. The rabbit
is gone, and all the little squabbling sparrows.
The brilliant yellow leaves are mostly fallen,
crunch damply under our waffled
boot-heels, or mutely let themselves
be gathered in. And down the street, the engine
is still running, solid and remorseless.
O David Kaufmann, sage and bewildered
lodestar of these marginal notes, pray for us now
and at the hour of our waking, pray for us
before the Law and beyond the door
through which we passed unknowing.