Not Going to Him by Sharon Olds

Not Going to Him

Minute by minute, I do not get up and just

go to him –

by day, twenty blocks away;

by night, due across the city’s

woods, where night-crowned heron sleep.

It is what I do now: not go, not

see or touch. And after eleven

million six hundred sixty-four thousand

minutes of not, I am a stunned knower

of not. Then I let myself picture him

a moment: the bone that seemed to surface in his

wrist after I had held my father’s

hand in coma; then up, over

his arm, with its fold, from which for a friend

he gave his blood. Then a sense of his presence

returns, his flesh which seemed, to me,

made as if before the Christian

God existed, a north-island baby’s

body become a man’s, with that pent

spirit, its heels dug in, those time-worn

heels, those elegant flat feet;

and then, in a sweep, calf shin knee thigh pelvis

waist, and I run my irises

over his feathered chest, and on his neck,

the scar, dollhouse saucer of tarnish

set in time’s throat, and up to the nape and then

dive again, as the swallows fly

at speed – cliff and barn and bank

and tree – at twilight, just over the surface

of a sloping terrain. He is alive, he breathes

and moves! My body may never learn

not to yearn for that one, or this could be

a first farewell to him, a life-do-us-part.

Sharon Olds

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