Kevin Hart teaches at Notre Dame. Born in London, he lived in Australia and taught at Monash University in Melbourne. His book Flame Tree: Selected Poems was recently released in the U.S.
There is a life I've barely lived at all
And, summer afternoons, I feel it brush
Against me, heading somewhere far away,
Up in the north perhaps where rain comes down
As if just thrown in vengeance for some wrong
No one remembers now, though people talk,
And in that life I stroll through open doors
And take the darkness offered every night
And am bewildered still by clocks and eyes.
It touches me, that breath, say once a year,
When rain hits thick and hard against the door,
When I have let my darkness have its way,
And then I almost know that other world,
And live in small hard words from years ago
And cannot be at peace in any life.
There is a silence words can't touch.
And there's a name inside my name
Though one my mother never said out loud
She never said it, never once, although
She knew there was another name
That sleeps inside my name
Sleep now, old name,
For no one wants to know of you
My mother, she is dead these dozen years
And she is grown so small
She sleeps inside my name when it is said
I think she sleeps
Within that other name as well, more deeply, far
More quietly, turning only once or twice
Inside that paradise
Sleep now, old love,
It is too late to say a word to you
I wake up in the night, and I am poor.
Someone has taken everything I am,
Someone has slowly lifted off my skin,
Someone has put the knife right in, oh yes,
And twisted half my world away from me.
Someone has broken in while I was down
And scraped away the fat of all I love:
Someone has said out loud, "I claim him now,"
While I've been lounging in another world.
Someone has come from very far away
Though I have never looked outside my house.
My girls are deep and rich inside their dreams,
My wife is sleeping just a touch away;
The night is dark, and every star's a lie,
Yet there's a road that calls to me by name.
But I am poor, I have been claimed tonight,
I have no clothes, not even paper bags,
No shoes to wear, although it is so far,
No legs on which to stand, no eyes, no arms.
Someone has taken all of that, and more.
Someone has taken everything I am.
I could stay here all day inside my house
Or go to Finland.
"There is a hotel in the north"
A friend told me, "that's made of ice."
"You're never cold at night
Because they heap thick reindeer skins all over you."
I warm to the idea
But part of me likes it right here
Where I have always lived, not looking out too far.
And so the years go by
And my life changes, once just every year or so,
Now almost month by month -
Like when you're on that new fast train
That glides up north
And Finland becomes Lapland between lunch and tea.
There are new vowels to hear,
Long lists of things that you must do without
And that is why I want to go
And why I will not go:
I know those lean old towns where no one walks
And I can do without
Those streets made endless by the sun or lack of sun.
I have those lists at home:
And I can do without.