In Retrograde
Megan Alpert
I finally ask the question
and the affair ends. Earlier
he waited at the station, looking
at Venus travel and vanish. The bare
sky a glass he puts thoughts in. A land
he’s come to through difficulty.

It wasn’t only difficulty
that made him ask the question
that loved him to the land.
A gesture knew him to me early,
then he showed how he bears
through sandstone, kingfishers, looking

at the white-cheeked duck, looking
up the Southern Cross, the difficulty
of giving shape to clay or form to bare
sound – of making sadness a question
you answer. I wanted to land
next to him in the circle he made, too early

hot and close – when days earlier
I shrank from his delighted look.
One of the nights, after sex, I landed
with Virginia’s sky opening inside me. Difficult
to tell him that sky too soon, the question
in the silence after. By morning: If you like my bare

skin, you should see my wolfskin, and my bare
laughter rose from the bed so early
there was no light and nothing to question.
That night, he closed the no around him. Looked
at me clear, then into his own difficulty,
traveling toward him, landward.

I wanted a person to marry me to the land.
Turned instead to the floating I bear,
ignorant of how to settle, the difficult
fracture into three cities. Venus comes early
but I can’t remember where, or look
without the intervening question.

A question of years: if the view stales early,
if I grow tired of looking – I want to bear
it, to land. To house myself in the difficulty.

Megan Alpert is the author of The Animal at Your Side, which won the Airlie Prize and will be published in 2020. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Harvard Review, Contrary, Poet Lore, and others. She has reported for Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, The Guardian, and Smithsonian and has received a fellowship from the International Women's Media Foundation.