What to Say

As we drove that road cut
into the Payette canyon,
tracing diagonal stresses in granite
walls stretched above and below,
the wandering line of river
hidden under pine,
I stayed perfectly silent.

A late June morning, the sky clear
without much wind
or dust. Sunday, no logging
trucks running. I had nothing
to say about lichen
covered walls we threaded through.

Oh, now and then a ridge
above us still
held snow, but not enough
to mention.

Yet I mention these things
to you now
as a way of explaining
why sometimes I turn in sadness,
without explanation, try to crush you
in my hands, but it does no good.

If I knew the word, and I don’t,
though I do know many,
I would surely speak it.

And if, when I watched the little flakes of mica
catching light in the river shallows
or watched you combing your hair
at the dressing table,
if I knew what to say
at a moment like that,
believe me, I would.

Hear it:


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