What We Lost
by Michael Ondaatje
The interior love poem
the deeper levels of the self
landscapes of daily life
dates when the abandonment
of certain principles occurred.
The rule of courtesy — how to enter
a temple or forest, how to touch
a master’s feet before lesson or performance.
The art of the drum. The art of eye-painting.
How to cut an arrow. Gestures between lovers.
The pattern of her teeth marks on his skin
drawn by a monk from memory.
The limits of betrayal. The five ways
a lover could mock an ex-lover.
Nine finger and eye gestures
to signal key emotions.
The small boats of solitude.
Lyrics that rose
back into the air
naked with guile
Our works and days.
We knew how monsoons
would govern behaviour
and when to discover
the knowledge of the dead
hidden in clouds,
in rivers, in unbroken rock.
All this we burned or traded for power and wealth –
from the eight compass points of vengeance
from the two levels of envy