“We must have faith in our blindness.” ~ Dina Ben-Lev, from “Driving”

Whale Watching in Kaikoura, New Zealand (Wikimedia Commons)

                   

Part of this poem appeared on my tumblr dash, and I loved it, so I went in search of the entire poem. Here it is:

Driving

1

The summer our marriage failed
we picked sage to sweeten our hot dark car.

We sat in the yard with heavy glasses of iced tea,
talking about which seeds to sow

when the soil was cool. Praising our large, smooth spinach
leaves, free this year of Fusarium wilt,

downy mildew, blue mold. And then we spoke of flowers,
and there was a joke, you said, about old florists

who were forced to make other arrangements.
Delphiniums flared along the back fence.

All summer it hurt to look at you.

2

I heard a woman on the bus say, “He and I were going
in different directions.” As if it had something to do

with a latitude or a pole. Trying to write down
how love empties itself from a house, how a view

changes, how the sign for infinity turns into a noose
for a couple. Trying to say that weather weighed

down all the streets we traveled on, that if gravel sinks,
it keeps sinking. How can I blame you who kneeled day

after day in wet soil, pulling slugs from the seedlings?
You who built a ten-foot arch for the beans, who hated

a bird feeder left unfilled. You who gave
carrots to a gang of girls on bicycles.

3

On our last trip we drove through rain
to a town lit with vacancies.

We’d come to watch whales. At the dock we met
five other couples—all of us fluorescent,

waterproof, ready for the pitch and frequency
of the motor that would lure these great mammals

near. The boat chugged forward—trailing a long,
creamy wake. The captain spoke from a loudspeaker:

In winter gray whales love Laguna Guerrero; it’s warm
and calm, no killer whales gulp down their calves.

Today we’ll see them on their way to Alaska. If we
get close enough, observe their eyes—they’re bigger

than baseballs, but can only look down. Whales can
communicate at a distance of 300 miles—but it’s

my guess they’re all saying, Can you hear me?
His laughter crackled. When he told us Pink Floyd is slang

for a whale’s two-foot penis, I stopped listening.
The boat rocked, and for two hours our eyes

were lost in the waves—but no whales surfaced, blowing
or breaching or expelling water through baleen plates.

Again and again you patiently wiped the spray
from your glasses. We smiled to each other, good

troopers used to disappointment. On the way back
you pointed at cormorants riding the waves—

you knew them by name: the Brants, the Pelagic,
the double-breasted. I only said, I’m sure

whales were swimming under us by the dozens.

4

Trying to write that I loved the work of an argument,
the exhaustion of forgiving, the next morning,

washing our handprints off the wineglasses. How I loved
sitting with our friends under the plum trees,

in the white wire chairs, at the glass table. How you
stood by the grill, delicately broiling the fish. How

the dill grew tall by the window. Trying to explain
how camellias spoil and bloom at the same time,

how their perfume makes lovers ache. Trying
to describe the ways sex darkens

and dies, how two bodies can lie
together, entwined, out of habit.

Finding themselves later, tired, by a fire,
on an old couch that no longer reassures.

The night we eloped we drove to the rainforest
and found ourselves in fog so thick

our lights were useless. There’s no choice,
you said, we must have faith in our blindness.

How I believed you. Trying to imagine
the road beneath us, we inched forward,

honking, gently, again and again.

~ Dina Ben-Lev