it’s easy to pretend that we don’t love the world

In French, “aubade” means “dawn serenade” and the word has also come to mean songs or poems for lovers parting in the morning. If a poet has an aubade in his or her collection, I often for some reason find myself gravitating towards it, as I was to this poem by Patrick Phillips (1970-) from his newest collection, Elegy for a Broken Machine. As I make my way through this book, I’m appreciating his meditations on the elegant and cruel mechanics of life, the broken machines that surround us and comprise us as human beings.

phillips

“Aubade”

It’s easy to pretend
that we don’t love

the world.
But then there is

your freckled skin. Then:
your back’s faint

lattice-work of bones.
I’m not saying this

makes up for suffering,
or trying to pretend

that each day’s little ladder
of sunlight, creeping

across the bed at dawn,
somehow redeems it

for the thousand ways
in which we’ll be forsaken.

Maybe, sweet sleeper,
breathing next to me

as I scratch and scrawl
these endless notes,

I’m not saying anything
but what the sparrows out

our window sing,
high in their rotten oak.

and we were no longer alone in the world

This poem by Maria Hummel–a wonderful writer and my first creative writing professor in college–is more beautiful each time I read it. I’m not sure any sort of introduction I could give this late at night would do it justice, so I’ll let you see for yourself. You can also listen to Maria reading it here.

“Aubade”

I have grown used to your second departures,
after the car is already thrumming in the driveway,
but the checkbook, the wallet perches on the back

of the couch, and you must charge in for it again,
the cold reaching through the open door, the intensity
of geese just as they sweep the earth, your arrival,

my second chance at good-bye. I used to resent it,
young enough to think we should remember all
our necessities before we left, my pockets stuffed

with lists, my handbag swinging like a heart
on a string. What is it, I would say, impatient
at your return, until I learned to find for you the item

you left behind, usually your money. That was
before the door became another kind of window,
held fast, crossed by storms like the rest of them,

whistled in the high wind. Before the house ached
around us like stretched skin, and the possibility
of children, and we were no longer alone in the world,

two people beneath a bird-shattered sky, but
accountable to hold each other, like roots and riverbank,
air and branches. Although every year we grow less

divisible, as clay and tree-knot gleaming with a steep,
worn loveliness, as leaf hush and the quiet of sky
unfolding into rain, I still can’t forget things. I always

take them when I leave, and much as I long for a second
departure, to find you standing there, handing me the one
lost glove, the mashed hat, I already know one of us

must go first, entering the singing canopy of streets,
and one of us will wait, hope for the sound of a door
opening, that love is the last remembered thing.