Depression in Saint-Méloir-des-Ondes
The donkey my daughter lovescannot reach the flowers that growin the film of soil the ocean breezehas lifted to the roof of the barn.We don't know what they're calledand speak too little of the languageto ask the farmhand their name,though we can tell they're deliciousby the way the donkey cocks its headto two o'clock toward the roofand strains its prehensile lipsto almost reach them, an effortthat looks like rememberinga word you can almost rememberhow it nearly touches the voice—"It's on the tip of my tongue," we say.And I don't know what to sayto myself, or the man I become,inside those days and nights of hurtI cannot argue my way out of.I know it won't be enough to say,"Remember the orchard over there,its plums and cherries, and applesjust forming from the blooms."Not enough to remember the tideswe hear beyond the meadows, howthey leave the beach crackedlike ancient porcelain. Not enoughto repeat the Auden lines I mutteredto myself last night at the restaurantwhen I felt the depression coming on,eerie as a suspicion of being watched."The lights must never go out,"I said, "the music must always play."And it almost worked: the intoxicationof asking for and receiving the trayof oysters gleaming like an ornate dock,then the bouquet of mussels,and the baked sea bream symmetricalas a well-wrapped Christmas gift.But I've learned that you can lovepleasure and still want to diewhile absolutely not wanting to die,a situation that requires, if nothing else,some patience, the precise gentlenessthe donkey grants my daughter's handas she offers the wanted flowersto the mouth that destroys and loves them.
Copyright © 2022 by James Davis May.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
James Davis May is the author of the poetry collection Unquiet Things and a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Creative Writing. Originally from Pittsburgh, he now lives in Macon, Georgia, where he directs the creative writing program at Mercer University. His second poetry collection, Unusually Grand Ideas, will be published in February 2023 by Louisiana State University Press.
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