In her own words...

"The Only Thing"


She went her way in shade, pared her nails, wore a hat;
at times—an old habit—she closed her eyes and saw

again what she no longer wanted, no longer wanting
what once had been, for her, the right and wild thing,

the only thing. Her opaque meanwhiles, working
for what others wanted, were easy to escape from

after ticking unreal hours at the little screen.
Her door-key, as accomplice, opened in to where,

redolent of nothing special, perseverance spread
its mossy carpet and street noise poked the window.

Then, when it came, filtering through the spin and jar
of one evening out of thousands, scraping closer,

swarming in the stairs: a voice, careless of pitch
and pace but sweet to the ear as if it weren't a mighty

spill of lusty sound he made but a threading of song
into the world, she caught at it from her room on third,

the very air a brimming chalice drunk on his words—
if words they were—as she listened, standing between

bed and chair-then, eyes closed and arms lifted, she
swayed to the beat of that fevered noise outside her

door and clearly saw, yet again, what once had been
for her the bright and wild thing, the only thing.


About this work

“The Only Thing” was first published in Salmagundi, Nos. 148-149 (Fall 2005-Winter 2006), 152.  It is also included in Dorothea Tanning's book, Coming to That: Poems, New York: Graywolf Press, 2011, pp. 8-9, and may not be reprinted without the publisher's permission.