By Adrienne Rich
On this earth, in this life, as I read your story, you’re lonely.
Lonely in the bar, on the shore of the coastal river
with your best friend, his wife, and your wife, fishing
lonely in the prairie classrooms with all the students who love
you. You know some ghosts
come everywhere with you yet leave them unaddressed
for years. You spend weeks in a house
with a drunk, you sober, whom you love, feeling lonely.
You grieve in loneliness, and if I understand you fuck in
I wonder if this is a white man’s madness.
I honor your truth and refuse to leave it at that.
What have I learned from stories of the hunt, of lonely men in gangs?
But there were other stories:
one man riding the Mohave Desert
another man walking the Grand Canyon.
I thought those solitary men were happy, as ever they had been.
Indio’s long avenues
of Medjool date-palm and lemon sweep to the Salton Sea
in Yucca Flats of the high desert reaches higher, bleached and spare
At Twentynine Palms I found the grave
of Maria Eleanor Whallon, eighteen years, dead at the watering-hole in 1903, under the now fire-branded palms
Her mother traveled on alone to cook in the mining camps.