You wait until we're alone in the house;
unsettling, destabilizing, contra-indicating,
as if all should be calm here, not said
nor implied, the hum of the heating,
thermostat quavering, as if to prelude,
forewarn, distort a family photo.
This relationship is threadbare,
hanging on by a thread at best.
Upset is not random, carefully planned
strategy, tactics are honed.
Council, community, mutual
understanding. Between us, a pact.
I move, we move, they move, only
where you want us to. Expectation,
tenterhooks, the book crashes to the floor—
you're on the other side of the table.
A seismograph registers, recording
at interstices of the body.
Investigate, don't run at first
provocation, imagine chance and external
occurrences, imagine distress
coming to a head: time-loss, faith
diminishing. A bird flew into the house
and dashed itself against the windows.
The light sharp outside, though frost
on the ground. I let it out. And still
books fell. And fall. We listen.
Energy is data, first lesson we learn.
It has its own propaganda. Sexfeed,
screaming matches, making up...
things not bargained for. It's like
a package holiday. Like a shift
in the television schedule: she
searches hard beyond the image,
in there, amongst circuitry.
Small things falling, moving, almost
acceptable. But faucets all on or the carpets
changing color anger me.
The threat of exorcism is tense in the house.
The worse it gets the less I mention
these goings-on. Just store it up,
verging on critical. The radio comes on.
Leaving a situation is both hard
and comforting. You know someone
as much as you ever will if it's
that far gone. And you can't take
them with you, you go out alone.
As scripts and formula are written
and spoken, I turn the wine to water.
I send cracks through plaster.
I turn stomachs. We are gone.
John Kinsella 's most recent books of poetry are Visitants and The Hierarchy of Sheep. He teaches at Kenyon College and is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge University.
Originally published in the April/May 2002 issue of Boston Review