Three years ago, I stumbled upon this brilliant poem. Written by a relative unknown, it’s breathtaking imagery lingered long enough that it became the inspiration for “For Loss of Words (Sit Beside Me Still).”
Light Years and Love Lost in the Oleanders
By Alane Rollings
Does my voice reach you? You are
as silent as a star and as incompanionable.
And I have done my research on these things.
I have spent many hours with the delicate turquoise amphibians
who live under sundials. They outnumbered me.
I was barely in touch with the sky, then.
I spent my days waiting for that one bit of good news
that would turn my life around.
You. Your charms, your hesitations. No one needs to tell me
how well everyone remembers you.
But have I told you about my arms, my half-healed embraces?
The disarray of my life is no longer too personal to share,
though I still can’t remember much of what I did before,
who I went out with, how much I missed.
I’m told I spent the days reading the exotica painted on cigar boxes,
and the nights over small distress messages on computer printouts.
Anyway, I’m sorry if you got the idea that I was in control.
Wasn’t I running out of the room to cry or be sick or something
when I saw you? I remember a light unwinding over my head,
and other kindnesses I’d never have done for myself.
I noticed the distance in your voice, your eyes.
You gave me gin and ginger for my stomach,
and if there was nothing to celebrate, we were
deliberate about it, like those accustomed to their own fragility.
Your astonishing stories floated in like graceful fleets,
and I did believe you had beautiful ancestors with beautiful titles.
Don’t ever tell anyone how you do it.
I think now that I understand
the things some women make their happiness of—
the water that waits in seashells, questions that silence themselves—
I no longer tell people about you
hoping to make them think more of me.
And I will not come to you anymore for sedatives,
you from whom I borrowed my life.
I will offer you green silence and solitude
and a belief in everything.
I remember a little more now. I was a long way off.
I had nightmares in dead languages and sailboats in my backyard
that ran off to sea night after night
looking for stars that had fallen light years and light years ago.
So you see why I can’t let you pass through my life.
I suppose that you, too, have escaped in every direction,
have heard the swish of nickel and iron beneath you,
and you are no more flattered by my attraction than the center of the earth is.
But I am looking for the glare that lives
in gardens deeper than mirrors. I am hoping
that you will complete my past. Give me silent embraces,
the quiet transitions that love will put us through,
and I will only wish I’d also known you
when you were young and waiting under the lime trees
for one sweet word to fall.
I’d have been the kind of girl
you’d have bothered with.