94 First, I gave the old place a foundation. High over the ferns and salal, up on cribbing and jacks, the whole bulk of the rooms swaying among the branches of cedars, I lay waiting for you, breathless, afraid everything would fall. I was terrified to move my feet against the sheets, to turn my head and see through the window the moon parting the clouds. Below me, fresh concrete hardened in forms with nothing between the cement and the floors beneath me but air. But you and I had already fallen. I did not know how to say goodbye. That word was a lie. What I wanted to remember was the dancing, how I used to come back from the river, drenched from wading among salmon, the clouds of their undoing, their destiny death. How I would strip myself bare and dance just for you, the you in my mind. I swirled past the old fireplace built with stones brought down from Round Mountain in 1934. And now, even though you are dying, I still dance to the old music under the rain on new skylights. I swirl past the fireplace shored up by a shambling boy. In a kind of desperation, I hired him to save the old rocks and during the process he made a den in the depths of the garage where he smoked grass and drank vodka. Like magic the circle from the living room pulls my feet out through the kitchen and back. I wind around it as if I were Isadora afloat among scarves. I dream any minute you will arrive. It was mid-summer when I rose from our love and flew away to Russia. I remember my sadness as you fell from me although you were not really there. The longing of our sighs was like the cedars brushing the windows. In Russia the seed of the dacha was planted. There among the pines of Komorovo, Akhmatova’s dacha huddled small and green and full of grief as faint as the waves on the Sea on Finland. But Pasternak’s dacha near Moscow was large and white with verandahs, a spacious lawn, a room where his wife’s piano stood near tall windows. Here was the study where he imagined Lara at the well, her kerchief flying off into the wind, Zhivago’s surprise at finding her. Down a path through trees was a spring where gossip or legend said he met his own love on summer days. Together they dipped their hands into the pool and drank the cold clear water from each other’s mouths. I felt the chill of it sliding down their throats and that recognition. There was under trees near my dacha on the other side of the world a well like that one and once an old pail for drinking. One June day I drove into the driveway, the car full of parcels of cheese and wine, steak and baguettes,
CIRQUE coffee and bagels for breakfast in front of the shored-up fireplace. Rain had fallen all May and the place would be chill, although in my waiting for you there was always a kind of warmth. What I saw was a cabin that resembled an old wooden boat, maybe an ark. There it floated, adrift among buttercups, tall purple ajuga, grasses grown so wild they swayed like ocean waves. It was riding a pastoral sea. Where would we sail to when you arrived? You would have made a long journey through the forest to this place I created, one you had never seen, the place that would bring you back to me. I threw open the blinds so not to miss the first glimpse of the wildflowers swaying as you strode toward me. The dying can do that, you know. The dying can come to you through long vistas of lost geography. Soon we lay down again on the grass that concealed us in the meadow it had become and we ceased to exist outside ourselves. The dogwood tree opened its creamy cups over our heads as we rolled and giggled and clutched one another, as we sipped from each other’s mouths before you could go away again, before I had to brush the purple and yellow petals from your shirt, pick the rye grass from your sweater and let you go. I never think of the high bright buildings, the blue water outside your hospital window, that room there where I can only go on dreaming. I don’t think of the oxygen tank, the heart monitor, the IV’s vigilant dripping. Although you don’t know the way to my dacha, you’re driving the old truck you used for fishing trips. I’m waiting near the high window that looks out on Whitehorse glacier. I’m waiting and waiting. There was a time I wished I was a salmon for you to desire. And then it happened. You desired me. This was so brief. Like life.