Emily Rapp

Love Song in Reverse

Believing the muscle of new love
could beat down the image of what finally happened in that place,
the heart’s better pattern pumping a blood talisman,

I drive to my old home one late afternoon,
the dark sinew of road gripping the wheels
between Austin and Lockhart.

I pull off the black top at the weed-flanked exit
in this one-post-office-Quickie-Mart-town,
and because life became a country song here,

the lyrics say a visit to this swollen hip of dry land
and a house with stories I want wrestled shut is a must.
I will sit in my rental car, taking my forcible peace,

doing whatever the song requires:
breathing deeply, chanting a memorized sutra,
talking to strangers I used to call neighbors who never heard a thing.

It is November, and warm, and along this gravel road,
running parallel with the dirty brown river
not unlike the disappointing River Jordan

in the middle of another humorless country,
I once ran at the knife tip of our life together,
my breath ribboning the air with miserable music.

Every evening I ran past a doomed German Shepherd,
his collar sewn into his skin by strain,
past the anatomy of rusted engines

splayed open to the sky, past cows motionless in the all-season heat.
Days before I left, I limped past a pale man
with suspenders tight as tape against his nipples,

who appeared as I crested the cornerI never got beyond a certain mark
to whistle two bars of a tin-can harmonica tune before he said to me,
“If y’all hurt so much, why don’t you just walk?”

I walked home, sat in the porch swing,
watched the water of the Guadalupe River rise in the rainstorm,
and knew I’d never be this lonely again.

The woman who lived here before us would not understand our fights
or why my blind, incontinent Saint Bernard, for the rest of his life,
settled his righteous, arthritic bones against the door of any room where I slept.

I sit still in the car until the sunset carefully hands the river
to the night, raises the roof on that yellow house,
and I was right about the muscle,

but wrong about its aim,
a missed bullseye.
There is no more struggle in this moon.

Wordless and shining, you walk through those lit rooms,
arms at your sides, holding nothing down,
and from my mouth moves a language I thought I’d forgotten.


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