I’ll meet if you really want to meet,
I’ll even meet in some small café or some
park across the way, but I won’t meet for long,
and not for a minute will I look at you in your isolation,
your human isolation. Looking at yours makes me look at mine—
transparencies of each other are they, yours and mine—
and I don’t have time for mine, so how could I have time for yours?
When I knew you, I had time for mine.
When I knew you, imagining my skeletal streaming
solitary oceanic swimming enlarged my dignities.
Not anymore. No time for the nostalgias, infinite, infinitesimal,
and the ones in between. No time to pretend I can sustain anyone or
even understand how they feel—to show, by the grave,
downward turn of the face, the haunted eyes,
the image of an impossible inward stricken empathy.
The contradictions are unsupportable,
and I don’t have time to not support mine,
so how could I not support yours, too?
I don’t even have time to write this text.
See how uninflected it is, without rhetoric,
expatiation, form, concreteness, geography, weather, flora, fauna,
plain and bare (which shows you that I’m sincere)—
no Denali, no Great Rift, no seven-year trillium,
and not one phoebe in the woods getting ready to sing.
Vijay Seshadri, the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and more, is the author of a number of poetry collections, including That Was Now, This Is Then (forthcoming October 2020).
Image: Figuren zittend in een interieur, mogelijk van een café, Reijer Stolk. From the Rijksmuseum.