Do we become the things we love?
Maybe that is what he was after,
my father, when he arranged, ten years ago,
to be discovered in a mobile home
with a woman named Roxanne, an attractive,
recently divorced masseuse.
He sat there, he said later, in the middle
of a red, imitation-leather sofa,
with his shoes off and a whiskey in his hand,
filling up with a joyful kind of dread--
like a swamp, filling up with night,
--while my mother hammered on the trailer door
with a muddy, pried-up stone,
then smashed the headlights of his car,
and locked herself inside.
He paid the piper, was how he put it,
because he wanted to live,
and at the time knew no other way
than to behave like some blind and willful beast,
--to make a huge mistake, like a giant leap
into space, as if following
a music that required dissonance
and a plunge into the dark.
That is what he tried to tell me,
the afternoon we talked,
as he reclined in his black chair,
divorced from the people in his story
by ten years and a heavy cloud of smoke.
Trying to explain how a man could come
to a place where he has nothing else to gain
unless he loses everything. So he
louses up his work, his love, his own heart.
He hails disaster like a cab. And years later,
when the storm has descended
and rubbed his face in the mud of himself,
he stands again and looks around,
strangely thankful just to be alive,
oddly jubilant--as if he had been granted
the answer to his riddle,
or as if the question
had been taken back. Perhaps
a wind is freshening the grass,
and he can see now, as for the first time,
the softness of the air between the blades. The pleasure
built into a single bending leaf.
Maybe then he calls it, in a low voice
and only to himself, Sweet Ruin.
And maybe only because I am his son,
I can hear just what he means. How
even at this moment, even when the world
seems so perfectly arranged, I feel
a force prepared to take it back.
Like a smudge on the horizon. Like a black spot
on the heart. How one day soon,
I might take this nervous paradise,
bone and muscle of this extraordinary life,
and with one deliberate gesture,
like a man stepping on a stick,
break it into halves. But less gracefully
than that. I think there must be something wrong
with me, or wrong with strength, that I would
break my happiness apart
simply for the pleasure of the sound.
The sound the pieces make. What is wrong
with peace? I couldn't say.
But, sweet ruin, I can hear you.
There is always the desire.
Always the cloud, suddenly present
and willing to oblige.