Snow melting when I left you, and I took
This fragile bone we’d found in melting snow
Before I left, exposed beside a brook
Where raccoons washed their hands. And this, I know,
Is that raccoon we’d watched for every day.
Though at the time her wild human hand
Had gestured inexplicably, I say
Her meaning now is more than I can stand.
We’ve reasons, we have reasons, so we say,
For giving love, and for withholding it.
I who would love must marvel at the way
I know aloneness when I’m holding it,
Know near and far as words for live and die,
Know distance, as I’m trying to draw near,
Growing immense, and know, but don’t know why,
Things seen up close enlarge, then disappear.
Tonight this small room seems too huge to cross.
And my life is that looming kind of place.
Here, left with this alone, and at a loss
I hold an alien and vacant face
Which shrinks away, and yet is magnified—
More so than I seem able to explain.
Tonight the giant galaxies outside
Are tiny, tiny on my windowpane.
Gjertrude Schnackenberg (b. 1953) is a North American poet. She has received numerous awards for her poetry. She has often drawn on epic, myth and legend.