The Speed of Rust, or, He Marries

Karen Connelly

It rains.

My heart disintegrates for other reasons

while the bald eagle gazes at me

from the lifeguard’s chair.

His head is not white but scuffed, dirty.

He may look like a bird of prey but in fact

he is a fifty-two-year-old man

who has just crawled out of bed

with a hangover and a wife

he never loved well.

Whatever

was clear and powerful

about his life has been given over

to the swamp-sky of March,

rain in April, through June,

and tomorrow is the first of July

though it’s hard to consider

celebrating Canada Day

with anything but a scream.

Which the bald eagle does:

the serrated thrust of his voice

shreds the grey light as he opens

his wings and lifts, lifts,

heaves himself into the heavy air.

There he goes, flapping over our stunned heads

toward the jungle that stalks Vancouver

like a panther, the same jungle

I fought in cold blood this morning,

so much fierce bamboo.

You and I walk the wide sand flats,

slick grey acres of seaweed,

cracked shells, crabs scuttling sideways

like our desire. We are so close

to the barges that we see

a modern galley slave moving

feverishly about on the long deck.

He is silent in labour, I am silent

in sympathy, listening to you tell

how you think maybe you can’t marry her.

I suddenly remember my hedge clippers

lying on the grass in the back garden.

Tools rust if you leave them out

 in this rain. They teach us, every year,

not to do it again.

Why it’s all wrong takes so long to explain

that the tide begins to slide in around our cold feet.

You could save yourself by drowning

but do not: we walk back to the stony shore

littered with condoms and weddings,

one of which will take place in exactly

forty days. You ask, a tear in your eye,

How much longer will it rain?

I reply, You’re lucky enough

to have choices. Old lover,

surprise yourself and make one.

Useless advice, like all advice

must be at this moment. You wring

your heart on the beach while on the far shore

landmines explode, men labour on

prison ships, children drown in wet sand

similar in weight to this wet sand

but lethal, marbled with blood,

impossible to walk away from.

You say you cannot walk away.

I say I know, I know, and think again

of my clippers in the grass,

the speed of rust. I say,  

You are a good man

and she is a good woman.

Kissing you goodbye, I wonder if

that is how bad marriages are made:

the hungry shovel of the heart

wants to break the clean surface of goodness,

get to the rich filth underneath.

I like how mistakes wait in our hands

like the orchids we crave for their beauty

though we don’t know how to grow them.

I like that we want to learn.

I love how we fail.

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