Here you will find the Long Poem Affair With Various Endings of poet Kate Northrop
I. Kempton, Pennsylvania Perhaps the last of the light lifting this evening from the field of wheat means something. Perhaps the view includes us, and we are not errors in the landscape or meant to be erased. The painter, it's true, prefers not to preserve our figures in the brush of hills layered into green. Perhaps he too is careless with the truth. What lies have you had to tell to land you here outside Kempton, with the creek rising behind us? How did the story sound? If I say your hand on my thigh, the truck still idles beneath us, tracks in the frozen road that months from now will thaw & heave. If I say your mouth and the deer begin drifting across the field, who's to say we didn't call them out—their figures shadowy, their eyes gem-like and glittering? II. Undine It was all too urgent being human. You ordered drinks, gestured with your hands, told stories and the more I knew the more I was frightened. Those evenings the air came unpinned, got lost in autumn & dusk, in the leaves at the edge of the field. And weren't the edges themselves vanishing? When you walked to the barn where the cats had gone in, taken to rafters. I heard your footsteps moving the gravel, the ice in your glass of vodka. I listened like that for the ends of things: the last of the cars, the headlights crossing our bedroom. I listened to your breathing. but rooms kept turning in places I could not ignore. I left because I loved you without reserve. Because I would not be allowed to keep you with me in the world. III. "Kings River Canyon" Because when you read it your voice shakes, breaks over the last words, Because in the Pennsylvania Hospital at 8th and Spruce, surgeons have split open your chest and with instruments are cutting your heart, and because I wanted to hurt them, because they never get older, but return each year refreshed, blond— I read the poem, Rexroth walking back through the canyon where twenty years before he had slept with his new wife at the beginning of autumn. It was her birthday and they lay there on the hard earth, the stream running beside and the walls soaring up to hold them there. Maybe he made love to her, the air chilling the skin or maybe that was the disease beginning even then, gathering itself deep inside her body, considering the distance between itself and the surface. There was no path. They'd cut their way into the canyon where eighteen years later, a highway's been blasted through. Eighteen years he writes ground to pieces. I am more alone that I ever imagined. You are dead. And in the mechanical cool of the classroom I felt it grip me: how it will be without you when I'll be fifty-five, sixty, in the beginning of winter, in the first waves of snow. I'll watch the slow drag of the Schulykill or I'll go the garden where we met, the leaves spinning down into the empty fountain, where I will never see you, not again, not your hands, your face, or hear aloud the way you said my name. I'll turn and turn again, but you'll be gone, nothing filling up your place.