Keith Waldrop


I can’t say for sure that I’ll always love you.
I’ve started so many projects and finished so few,
It’s less and less often now I open a book and read it through.
But we’ll see.
I won’t put up any parp about the infinite
Or argue from predestination that we couldn’t ever quit.
It wouldn’t do to swear we’ll never get tired, because I have to admit
It could be.

Knives break, comfortable rocking chairs get so they creak,
The air goes out of air-mattresses and canoes begin to leak.
The Sheik gets too old to do it anymore—even the Son of the Sheik,

So we’ll see,
It could be
That I’ll come to need total rest,
Or walking past a foreign post office find I’ve forgotten your address,
But on the other hand there’s really very little to be said for emptiness,
So, yes,
Let’s just see.

And if you want to know what I think, remember what I told you.
All these doubts are a bill of goods I wouldn’t want to have sold you.
I think that I may die not grabbing for life so much as
Just groaning to hold you
One more season.


Inside her slumber, she is fast awake.
It is the world around her that is deep.
Any step she wishes she is free to take,
But inside her vigil, there is another sleep.

Sleeping, she knows still whatever she has known:
A palace-full of endless echoing halls.
Any view she takes now is completely her own,
This sleeping castle with its high castle walls.

The thorn-bush that chokes shut all the doors
Conceals the form of her good fairy.
Moonlight picks out glimmers of distant wars
Across the dark original prairie.

Looking, with closed eyes, for an unremembered moment,
She has a hundred-year-long night to squander.
She’s her own calendar. Sleep is her catacomb.
The opposite of letting the mind wander
Is letting the mind go home.


It is a landscape without a shadow,
As seen from the sun in midsummer,
And nothing covers the naked grass
But a clear and deafening shimmer.

It is a landscape without a word,
Though mineshafts rumble with thunder,
And nothing disguises the sex of the flowers
Or the twigs that are drying to tinder.

It is a landscape without retreat,
The prospect of the past before me,
With no sound troubling the transparent air
Or winter to turn it into a story.


If, when you’ve gotten past the door that’s always locked,
Down the corridor they say is there, and if the passage isn’t blocked,
And if you find the stockroom where the things we want are stocked,
Wake me then.

Or if you reach a cloudy gate, and if you make it through,
And if you find the treasuries of snow and rain and dew,
And bring back all the colors to replace our few,
Wake me then.

Or if you get across the ocean that’s larger than our own,
And reach the fallen angels howling around their fallen throne,
And can tell me about their darkness, darker than I’ve known,
Wake me then.

Or if you come to a garden where a tree is blazing like ice,
A place in which even the most unique thing happens twice,
And if you’re absolutely certain that it’s free and Paradise,
Wake me then.

Or if, in your adventures, you should stumble on the place
From which all power flows like water pouring from a vase,
And then if, after seeing that, nothing else can ever be the case,
Wake me then.

Or if your plans wreck and go down, but if you keep
Exploring taste by taste the extreme flavors of the deep,
And if you come to rest in some more satisfying spot to sleep,
Wake me then.