If I can’t love you, then I want to live on some blind sea,
Wherever the freighters squint along the horizon,
Wherever it is your look arrives from, that is, wherever
The branches dream of rain, wherever your goodbye
Grasps the stems of stars, someplace where the day
Learns to live leaf by leaf, where night quivers on the lake,
A place, this place, where I arrive even before my dreams,
Before my shadow that hobbles along still tied to the earth.
But if I can’t love you, not even wherever it is your words
Arrive from, words that kiss the dust into clouds, words
That scratch the back door, that travel a road no one knows
Except for the night stopping here and there to cover an old wound,
If I can’t love you then, I can no longer apologize for the world,
For the volcanic heart of the man reaching for his pistol,
For the screams held in broken glass along the highway,
For the mouths of the dead still asking for water.
If I can’t love you, then I want each breath to track you
To wherever it is your look arrives from, through some fog
Muzzling the streets, over some scorpion burrowing the desert,
Beyond the canyon that refuses my echo, beyond the sky
That splinters on the horizon, wherever it is your letters
Never return from, where the eyes in the windows are all shut,
Because the assassins are alive in the stones, because
The wars are gathering their orchestras of arrogance and hate. .
If I can’t love you, then no smile can have a face of its own,
The fire of yesterday’s sun has already been swept into space,
Into wherever it is your look arrives from, the way the lizard
Disappears into the rocks, the way the past is emptied from my shoes,
Because wherever it is your look arrives from, these words approach
Like miners chipping through granite, heavy with apology
And love, with a fragrant guilt that embarrasses the flowers,
Approaching a place, wherever it is, where I will deserve you.
— Richard Jackson, If I Can’t Love You