By Mark Doty
A month at least before the bloom
and already five bare-limbed cherries
by the highway ringed in a haze
of incipient fire
—middle of the afternoon,
a faint pink-bronze glow. Some things
wear their becoming:
the night we walked,
nearly strangers, from a fevered party
to the corner where you’d left your motorcycle,
afraid some rough wind might knock it to the curb,
you stood on the other side
of the upright machine, other side
of what would be us, and tilted your head
toward me over the wet leather seat
while you strapped your helmet on,
engineer boots firm on the black pavement.
Did we guess we’d taken the party’s fire with us,
somewhere behind us that dim apartment
cooling around its core like a stone?
Can you know, when you’re not even a bud
but a possibility poised at some brink?
Of course we couldn’t see ourselves,
though love’s the template and rehearsal
of all being, something coming to happen
where nothing was…
But just now
I thought of a troubled corona of new color,
visible echo, and wondered if anyone
driving in the departing gust and spatter
on Seventh Avenue might have seen
the cloud breathed out around us
as if we were a pair
of—could it be?—soon-to-flower trees.
About This Poem
“Often we don’t seem to know when something new—maybe something major—is beginning. ‘Falling in love’ is, in truth, a recognition of something that’s already happened; when you know you’re in love, you’ve already arrived there. But can you ever tell when you’re just on the brink of something exhilarating, disruptive, lovely?”
I think Doty hits the nail on the head. You never know when you are on the brink of something, whether it is exhilarating, disruptive, or lovely. Sometimes it takes time to realize where a relationship is going; sometimes you might know from the beginning; and other times the journey can be incredibly confusing.
About Mark Doty
Author of several volumes of poetry and two major memoirs, Mark Doty, winner of the National Book Award for poetry, is one of the most celebrated American poets to emerge from the 1980s and 1990s. Doty helped bring the AIDS narrative and the experiences of gay men to a wider audience through emotionally resonant stories, a richly stylized poetic voice, and poems characterized by brilliant language and a polished surface. His work universalizes themes of loss, mortality, and renewal.
Doty writes poems of sumptuous detail and imagery while at the same time embracing emotionally raw subjects such as mortality and loss. His poems also explore art, beauty, and beauty's surface, as well as the flaw, the wound, and the limit.
Doty is among the most prominent gay poets of his generation, and he has earned distinction as an AIDS memoirist. He has also managed to transcend the category "gay poet" and to find a wide audience and commercial success. As Robert Martin suggests, if Doty's work endures, it will be in part "because he has understood the need both to record the suffering of AIDS and the desire for human gestures to transcend all loss and to write in a form at once delicate and powerful."