The air was dark before this morning,
running in the stillness my footfalls on the macadam
sounding like puffs in the starless silence.
Motion was almost hidden in the depth of the blackness
by the ocean.
A golden surge of hair stroked like a pendulum
behind her as she ran: Years ago she had cared for it
and then cut it. The clipped locks, caught bright
in a window's cast of sunlight, laid on an unswept floor.
She had come to believe the hues of its blonde length
were indicators like tree rings: at waist level her first
romance, at the cup of her back the college night she had
not returned, her shoulder blades her marriage, from the neck
upward the time when she knew no compelling reason
to be in love. The simple sashay of her hair, but
as if mortality were marking her, stride for stride.
From a gray noon sky a rare snow falls into the ocean
as I run, as if the waves call to the cold atoms above,
blown and pinwheeling, promising here you will find warmth
and cohesion, shelter from the fluxing winds, here
you may sink into silt below unlit depths.
The flakes touch down and disperse in forgetfulness.
I have still a memento of my father's from the war,
a fragment of fuselage from a downed Spitfire. His jeep
had stalled in a soft rain among the green and quiet
Cotswolds, and as he labored on the engine he heard
a wave of Heinkels too far inland, watched a squadron
of the fighters on their rise to meet them. Only one
fell, its stabilizers shot away, the young pilot
either dead or trapped inside the burning plane in its long
plunge through the slickness of gravity, glycol smoke
trailing effortlessly behind until the sudden
soddenness of the earth. Then the planes were gone,
in the quiet the susurrus of the rain almost
separating into the sound of single drops.
Evening approaches, and I go running again, first
through a path in the closeby forest, then past the mission church
and out to the point, where the seawinds are the most cutting.
Near a bench overlooking the bay I slow and stop, like
a phantom the pace still resounding in my cells. The air
is so cold on my face blood rushes to the surface, and I feel
like calling out over the sea as it rolls in, wave after wave
touching the land, tucking under, gone.