Getting It Right

I think about the corrupting influence of memory
-Eavan Boland, February 6, 1996

Say you take Thailand, the year you turned forty, all night on that train
from Songkhla to Chiang Mai, stutter and swoon of metal, monks dozing
on wooden benches. Now, it might seem a kind of benediction,
bracelets of wilting petals, even the stale beer, a lover angry
and silent, no words for this in English, his back turned to you in the bunk.

But you don't get it right. The color's too gaudy, the yearning lost.
No one is prepared for this work. Try the day you first gave birth
skin, blood, milk, her closed eyes, joy when she finds your nipple.

Narrow the focus to a single moment when you were very young,
the feather falling from a scrub jay's wing, feather that rested in grass,
brilliant there, a misplaced scrap of sky. See how blue spines
curve away from a hollow shaft. The slightest wind lifts it.

You can attempt an entire decade, the sixties maybe, whittle it down
to a metaphor: one highway, the thicket of hand painted signsAin't gonna
study war no more
an actual country, your adolescent body its map.

Whatever you choose will be unrecoverable, a fish story, the silvery form
sinking into shadow so deep we don't have a name for it.


Poems by Sharon Fain:

Snowy Owl
Getting It Right
A Birth
Waiting for the Bear
Screen Saver
Losing the Drought
Isla Mujeres: Weeks Before the Breakdown
On Hearing Jack Gilbert Talk About Death
One Month at Casa Sotovento
Out on the Deck at Sirens
Waiting to Hear About the Biopsy
Elvis at Chiang Mai
High Desert
Letters From Sarajevo
On Seeing the Place Where I First Made Love

TIMES TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets