Depression in Saint-Méloir-des-Ondes
James Davis May

The donkey my daughter loves
cannot reach the flowers that grow
in the film of soil the ocean breeze
has lifted to the roof of the barn.
We don’t know what they’re called
and speak too little of the language
to ask the farmhand their name,
though we can tell they’re delicious
by the way the donkey cocks its head
to two o’clock toward the roof
and strains its prehensile lips
to almost reach them, an effort
that looks like remembering
a word you can almost remember
how it nearly touches the voice—
“It’s on the tip of my tongue,” we say.
And I don’t know what to say
to myself, or the man I become,
inside those days and nights of hurt
I cannot argue my way out of.
I know it won’t be enough to say,
“Remember the orchard over there,
its plums and cherries, and apples
just forming from the blooms.”
Not enough to remember the tides
we hear beyond the meadows, how
they leave the beach cracked
like ancient porcelain. Not enough
to repeat the Auden lines I muttered
to myself last night at the restaurant
when I felt the depression coming on,
eerie as a suspicion of being watched.
“The lights must never go out,”
I said, “the music must always play.”
And it almost worked: the intoxication
of asking for and receiving the tray
of oysters gleaming like an ornate dock,
then the bouquet of mussels,
and the baked sea bream symmetrical
as a well-wrapped Christmas gift.
But I’ve learned that you can love
pleasure and still want to die
while absolutely not wanting to die,
a situation that requires, if nothing else,
some patience, the precise gentleness
the donkey grants my daughter’s hand
as she offers the wanted flowers
to the mouth that destroys and loves them.


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