Finally, at the end of every wreckage, we stand here
in these doomed rooms in the moonlight
and tell ourselves we’ve done what we have wanted.
We say grief
is the worn boats in the harbor,
waiting to carry us to another shore.
If the heart, the dark heart
is the empty page, we say love is the sea itself
with its voices, troubling the margin
as it rises, turning us
like a story we can't fathom.
This is the way, we say, the only way.
And if one day
we should waken
in the wreckage,
if we should turn back to the dark heave
of the harbor
and see nothing but the sea wind, the winters,
what does it matter
if it can't last,
if the journey, the way here, lies in ruins,
if the old life lies in carnage on the dark shore?
The men among the lilies
were our fathers; the hymns
we didn't open were our children; our mothers
were the light we didn't learn.
Listen, the wind sings. Listen.
Then we remember
that the body sings, that the lonely
have always been lonely,
that the troubled world is the rubble
of nothing — and that the singing, the singing
in the rigging, that soft song
in the cargo of our own hearts
is the one hymn, the one hymn
of the living, that luminous music
of departure, which is all we may know of return.
Joseph Fasano is a poet, novelist, and songwriter. His novels include The Swallows of Lunetto (forthcoming from Maudlin House, 2022) and The Dark Heart of Every Wild Thing (Platypus Press, 2020), which was named one of the "20 Best Small Press Books of 2020." His books of poetry include The Crossing (2018), Vincent (2015), Inheritance (2014), and Fugue for Other Hands (2013). His honors include The Cider Press Review Book Award, the Rattle Poetry Prize,, inclusion in the Forward Book of Poetry, and a nomination for the Poets' Prize, "awarded annually for the best book of verse published by a living American poet two years prior to the award year." His writing has been translated into Russian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Spanish, Chinese, Swedish, and other languages. He serves on the Editorial Board of Alice James Books and as the Founder and Curator of the Poem for You Series. He is currently writing a "living poem" for his son and posting it on Twitter at @stars_poem.