Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rhinebeck - Kazim Ali

I followed the sound of OM north from the city through tree-lined streets.

That you could lock a secret or a memory into your stomach or chest and still reach for the end of the universe with the other hand.

Felt haunted sliding through space north from the city upriver.

Coming from Cairo where one city was built on top of another and another and another for a thousand years.

Still, as far as cities go, recent.

The hotel built in the Egyptian style built around a central courtyard with a swimming pool. Whose steam room had become unbeknownst to me a meeting place for gay Cairenes driven from the usual haunt on one of the floating casinos by a police raid which occurred two months before my arrival.

Resulting in the arrest of some fifty men whose trial would stretch out for years and years.

Called the Cairo 52. Half were acquitted and the other half convicted in March 2003.

Before or after the war?

Which half do I wish to love, the acquitted or convicted?

Half I fill my body with breath half I hold it.

Half is for the sun and half for the moon.

Haunted then all the way up the river, sheathed in ghost-energy and the red-gold leaves falling from the trees, Perseids cutting the sky across in sentences like slashing knives.

Spiral the breath and energy of the earth you reach still for what has already gone.

Years gone.

A window at the top of your head.

Sondra bent down and put her hands on my shoulder blades pushing them down from my shoulders.

What did I know about the earth until I came into this orange and red painted room.

What did I know about the body until Sondra cradled my neck in her hands and whispered to me to breathe.

When the earth was water or water was earth. In California seeing the sediment pressed sideways and vertical.

Knowing the valleys were pushed up from the ocean, first one then the other, and it was that soil that was able to produce the grapes for wine.

Every event so long after the other that history itself is hardly a chain but a conflation or a conflagration.

Where have I heard that word before.

Words whispered in the empty room but for breath.

Breath above the streets and the road I walked.

I learned to breathe here as the season turned to fall then fog and then the white fire in the night clinging to all the green edges.

Morning's white amendments, wandering on the shoulder of the road watching autumn drag itself, limping over the stile, shredding itself on the nails, fleeing west.

Coming downstairs to the health food store beneath the apartment to buy peaches, goat's milk yogurt, ginger beer, brazil nuts, seitan, tea.

Go back upstairs to work.

An empty set of sentences or syntax. Being then unable to make sentences.

Having left just prior to the skyline's collapse. I would continue to take the train back to the city to meet friends, to attend readings, to ask or to wonder.

I'm still hardly carrying it down, one thought and then another, trying to relive it.

Echinacea planted in the bed in front of the salon, across the parking lot.

Went to see the Maya Deren documentary at the independent movie house. Surprised by her voice. Wholly human, wholly ordinary, neither dark nor stark, the expected voice of a prophet.

There was an abandoned lot at the heart of town, plastic pennons strung from phone pole to phone pole so I imagined it used to be a used car lot.

I would walk a half mile up Route 9 to the fairgrounds to see the car show, or the antique show or in the summer, the county fair.

At the Laundromat I sit washing clothes, reading A Border Comedy.

If only.

No Horse Tack in the Machines.

That's a new thing: to actually hear what is being said around you.

In Rhinebeck I started to breathe.

Rhinebeck I came to know.

I lay down in the graveyard, hinged there.

Walking down Broadway the other day from Marble Hill to Inwood Park, not to go to the park but to get another key to my apartment which I had locked myself out of.

I saw a man, lying down on a park bench talking to himself, quite conversationally, quite matter-of-fact, "You really don't know yourself so well."

Like me mismatching his pronouns: you could mean I.

Or again downtown, a man saying to a woman as they are walking across the street in a very low and matter-of-fact tone, "I have to tell you the most amazing thing."

Because we are pressed against each other on the train it is more fun to try to see what other people in the train are reading than reading what you have brought yourself.

Especially when what you have brought to read is Geography and Plays by Gertrude Stein which you want to like very much but cannot latch one thing after another so quickly when what follows does not follow.

I walked from the room of white oceans to the room of black ink through the gates of yarn to the chambers of bent iron.

Is it so simple as having a code to break or can you lie down and close your eyes.

I lay down in the graveyard, hinged there. Closed my eyes and then.

On the train I looked down into a man's shopping bag. On the top was a pad of paper on which were written at least eleven different statements.

One of them said, "When you can't take life anymore, think about the alternatives and then deal with them instead of running away."

When I read "take life" I thought of the man as someone who had killed other people and was trying to rehabilitate himself.

The inside meets the outside in breath.

Where is God. Closer to you than your inhale and your exhale said the Imam.

But I wrote myself down in notes here, the night's cold I reached for me, reached for me and spoke.

Got one million things and another, a tattoo that was delicately airbrushed away.

You write it in your skin, a zero on one shoulder, an infinity symbol on the other shoulder—are those the ways you could go back there if you could.

To that knot of water, the place the river curls around yourself, where you learned to breathe.

Where you wrote out sentences and made them clean.

A boat on shore. The river cloud. All the secrets you heard and the things you wished.

Sounds from the apartment next to you used to keep you up all night.

So skinny you almost weren't there. But you wanted it.

Wanted to disappear.

A wind or sun of winter, the only son. Opens his mouth and no sound comes out.

Don't tell about the five months you never called home.

It was right after Dad showed you and Farrah pictures of a brother and sister who lived somewhere—Chicago perhaps. He was excited, hopeful some root would take hold, you would seed.

You both walked away from him, unable to speak.

You left home and didn't call.

Mom called you in May and you both pretended nothing had happened. That there hadn't just been five months of silence.

Yet still you manage to write about distance as if you didn't spin it into wheels.

You wanted it.

I sat across from my parents at a restaurant just a month ago, desperate to speak. I went there with them to speak.

And found myself suddenly deciding: too many years have passed. It has all been too long.

In Rhinebeck I lived where the river turns around and heads back to its source. Where the river returns to the ocean.

Breathing in that town, stretching yourself out and pulling yourself in at once.

How could you not understand.

On the stove brown rice, daal, and kale with garlic. Coming back with my roommates from yoga class.

But my body doesn't feel clean or correct, instead buckled up, strained.

To walk for an hour in the morning clears my head.

Walking through the neighborhood.

Everywhere I have lived since Rhinebeck I tried to recreate that place.

A small little town where everything was. Going from place to place and knowing everyone.

Having eaten well and breathed better the strength of those little years.

Forgetting to tell of the dark night I was locked out, or the dizziness I could feel over and over again unsure of where I was.

Still in the graveyard I lay down.

The day of the "leaving-home" I sat down.

In a room full of empty chairs I selected the one next to the only other person in the room. A gardener. Name of Marco.

Did I learn myself then.

Did I learn the way breath moves into and out of a person, and that a body is only a place the soul coalesces.

Or is it the other way around, the body like an antenna. The body the real thing pulling the soul-essence of the universe into its house.

I always think about going back and going in.

All the same.

Or is it.

Later that afternoon, convincing Marco to come back to town with me, take a walk through the streets.

At some point, for a moment, I took his hand.

Those moments against the years as you unsummon, unfold, uncry.

I have to tell you the most amazing thing.

You really don't know yourself so well.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mannerist - Dean Young

It is said a hole knocked in the ceiling
of the flat Caravaggio fled, skipping rent,
explains the light source of those later works.
The problem for the authorities, a lot
of pissed-off swordsmen, was catching him
and we can only guess someone finally did
as his body was never found. Constant
in this world are the problems of landlords
and lighting and the sense of something out
to get you. I tried to solve the death-rattle-
in-the-middle-of-the-night problem by draining
the radiators, the encroaching-shadows-
every-moment-your-last predicament by reaching
way out the window and sawing off the spooky
scratching branch. Because of what I read
about consciousness and death, I did not
intervene but watched the broken bird grind
its eye in the sidewalk then I turned
away, un-mercy killing. I tried to solve
the why-am-I-so-dumb problem by reading books
I couldn’t understand. How about just leaving
it all alone, not getting out of bed,
the problem itself perplexed by a plethora
of variables: tax bracket, traffic pattern,
therapeutic workshop. Exhausting failure,
waste of raw materials, disastrous dis-
proportion like forever adolescence. Just
lying in the innocent-seeming gloxinias,
you can’t go forward and you can’t go back
and staying still ain’t an option. Perhaps
it’s best to embrace a what-the-heck philosophy.
Put some words into the word balloon, hardly
matters what as the cartoon concerns a conversation
between a trashcan and a duck. It’s spring
in another week. You’re not so awfully off
after all. The heart is drawn from its yellow tub
still beating.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Such Singing in the Wild Branches - Mary Oliver

It was spring
and finally I heard him
among the first leaves -
then I saw him clutching the limb
in an island of shade
with his red-brown feathers
all trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still
and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness -
and that's when it happened,
when I seemed to float,
to be, myself, a wing or a tree -
and I began to understand
what the bird was saying,
and the sands in the glass
for a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward
like rain, rising,
and in fact
it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing -
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed
not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in the perfectly blue sky - all, all of them
were singing.
And, of course, yes, so it seemed,
so was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn't last
for more than a few moments.
It's one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,
is that, once you've been there,
you're there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?
Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then - open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Selected poems - Osip Mandelstam

After midnight the heart picks the locked silence
right out of your hands. Then it may remain
quiet, or it may raise the roof.
Like it or not, it's the only one of its kind.

Like it or not, you may know it but you'll never catch it,
so why shiver, now, like a thrown-out child?
After midnight the heart has its banquet,
gnawing on a silvery mouse.
Moscow. March 1931

My eyelashes are pins. In my chest one tear is boiling.
I'm not frightened to know that the storm will go on and on.
Some ghoul tries to hurry me, make me forget,
but even when I can't breathe I want to live till I die.

Hearing something, sitting up on the boards,
I look around wildly, still half asleep.
It's a prisoner intoning a rough song, at the hour
when dawn draws the first thread, outside the jail.
Moscow. March 1931

Monday, April 12, 2010

a woman is talking to death - Judy Grahn

Testimony in trials that never got heard

my lovers teeth are white geese flying above me
my lovers muscles are rope ladders under my hands

we were driving home slow
my lover and I, across the long Bay Bridge,
one February midnight, when midway
over in the far left lane, I saw a strange scene:

one small young man standing by the rail,
and in the lane itself, parked straight across
as if it could stop anything, a large young
man upon a stalled motorcycle, perfectly
relaxed as if he’d stopped at a hamburger stand;
he was wearing a peacoat and levis, and
he had his head back, roaring, you
could almost hear the laugh, it
was so real.

“Look at that fool,” I said, “in the
middle of the bridge like that,” a very
womanly remark.

Then we heard the meaning of the noise
of metal on a concrete bridge at 50
miles an hour, and the far left lane
filled up with a big car that had a
motorcycle jammed on its front bumper, like
the whole thing would explode, the friction
sparks shot up bright orange for many feet
into the air, and the racket still sets
my teeth on edge.

When the car stopped we stopped parallel
and Wendy headed for the callbox while I
ducked across those 6 lanes like a mouse
in the bowling alley. “Are you hurt?” I said,
the middle-aged driver had the greyest black face,
“I couldn’t stop, I couldn’t stop, what happened?”

Then I remembered. “Somebody,” I said, “was on
the motorcycle.” I ran back,
one block? two blocks? the space for walking
on the bridge is maybe 18 inches, whoever
engineered this arrogance. in the dark
stiff wind it seemed I would
be pushed over the rail, would fall down
screaming onto the hard surface of
the bay, but I did not, I found the tall young man
who thought he owned the bridge, now lying on
his stomach, head cradled in his broken arm.

He had glasses on, but somewhere he has lost
most of his levis, where were they?
and his shoes. Two short cuts on his buttocks,
that was the only mark except his thin white
seminal tubes were all strung out behind; no
child left in him; and he looked asleep.

I plucked wildly at his wrist, then put it
down; there were two long haired women
holding back the traffic just behind me
with their bare hands, the machines came
down like mad bulls, I was scared, much
more than usual, I felt easily squished
like the earthworms crawling on a busy
sidewalk after the rain; I wanted to
leave. And met the driver, walking back.

“The guy is dead.” I gripped his hand,
the wind was going to blow us off the bridge.

“Oh my God,” he said, “haven’t I had enough
trouble in my life?” He raised his head,
and for a second was enraged and yelling,
at the top of the bridge--“I was just driving
home!” His head fell down. “My God, and
now I’ve killed somebody.”

I looked down at my own peacoat and levis,
then over at the dead man’s friend, who
was bawling and blubbering, what they would
call hysteria in a woman. “It isn’t possible”
he wailed, but it was possible, it was
indeed, accomplished and unfeeling, snoring
in its peacoat, and without its levis on.

He died laughing: that’s a fact.

I had a woman waiting for me,
in her car and in the middle of the bridge,
I’m frightened, I said.
I’m afraid, he said, stay with me,
please don’t go, stay with me, be
my witness--“No,” I said, “I’ll be your
witness--later,” and I took his name
and number, “but I can’t stay with you,
I’m too frightened of the bridge, besides
I have a woman waiting
and no license--
and no tail lights--“
So I left--
As I have left so many of my lovers.

we drove home
shaking, Wendy’s face greyer
than any white person’s I have ever seen.
maybe he beat his wife, maybe he once
drove taxi, and raped a lover
of mine--how to know these things?
we do each other in, that’s a fact.

who will be my witness?
death wastes our time with drunkenness
and depression
death, who keeps us from our
he had a woman waiting for him,
I found out when I called the number
days later

“Where is he” she said, “he’s disappeared.”
“He’ll be all right” I said, “we could
have hit the guy as easy as anybody, it
wasn’t anybody’s fault, they’ll know that,”
women so often say dumb things like that,
they teach us to be sweet and reassuring,
and say ignorant things, because we dont invent
the crime, the punishment, the bridges

that same week I looked into the mirror
and nobody was there to testify;
how clear, an unemployed queer woman
makes no witness at all,
nobody at all was there for
those two questions: what does
she do, and who is she married to?

I am the woman who stopped on the bridge
and this is the man who was there
our lovers teeth are white geese flying
above us, but we ourselves are
easily squished.

keep the women small and weak
and off the street, and off the
bridges, that’s the way, brother
one day I will leave you there,
as I have left you there before,
working for death.

we found out later
what we left him to.
Six big policemen answered the call,
all white, and no child in them.
they put the driver up against his car
and beat the hell out of him.
What did you kill that poor kid for?
you mutherfucking nigger.
that’s a fact.

Death only uses violence
when there is any kind of resistance,
the rest of the time a slow
weardown will do.

They took him to 4 different hospitals
til they got a drunk test report to fit their
case, and held him five days in jail
without a phone call.
how many lovers have we left.

there are as many contradictions to the game,
as there are players.
a woman is talking to death,
though talk is cheap, and life takes a long time
to make
right. He got a cheesy lawyer
who had him cop a plea, 15 to 20
instead of life
Did I say life?

the arrogant young man who thought he
owned the bridge, and fell asleep on it
he died laughing: that’s a fact.
the driver sits out his time
off the street somewhere,
does he have the most vacant of
eyes, will he die laughing?

They don’t have to lynch the women anymore

death sits on my doorstep
cleaning his revolver

death cripples my feet and sends me out
to wait for the bus alone,
then comes by driving a taxi.

the woman on our block with 6 young children
has the most vacant of eyes
death sits in her bedroom, loading
his revolver

they don’t have to lynch the women
very often anymore, although
they used to--the lord and his men
went through the villages at night, beating &
killing every woman caught
the European witch trials took away
the independent people; two different villages
--after the trials were through that year--
had left in them, each--
one living woman:

What were those women up to? had they
run over someone? stopped on the wrong bridge?
did they have teeth like
any kind of geese, or children
in them?

This woman is a lesbian be careful

In the military hospital where I worked
as a nurse’s aide, the walls of the halls
were lined with howling women
waiting to deliver
or to have some parts removed.
One of the big private rooms contained
the general’s wife, who needed
a wart taken off her nose.
we were instructed to give her special attention
not because of her wart on her nose
but because of her husband, the general.

as many women as men die, and that’s a fact.

At work there was one friendly patient, already
claimed, a young woman burnt apart with X-ray,
she had long white tubes instead of openings;
rectum, bladder, vagina--I combed her hair, it
was my job, but she took care of me as if
nobody’s touch could spoil her.

Ho ho death, ho death
have you seen the twinkle in the dead woman’s eye?

when you are a nurse’s aide
someone suddenly notices you
and yells about the patient’s bed,
and tears the sheets apart so you
can do it over, and over
while the patient waits
doubled over in her pain
for you to make the bed again
and no one ever looks at you,
only at was you do not do.

Here, general, hold this soldier’s bed pan
for a moment, hold it for a year--
then we’ll promote you to making his bed.
we believe you wouldn’t make such messes

if you had to clean up after them.

that’s a fantasy.
this woman is a lesbian, be careful.

When I was arrested and being thrown out
of the military, the order went out: don’t anybody
speak to this woman, and for those three
long months, almost nobody did; the dayroom, when
I entered it, fell silent til I had gone: they
were afraid, they knew the wind would blow
them over the rail, the cops would come,
the water would run into their lungs.
Everything I touched
was spoiled. They were my lovers, those
women, but nobody taught us to swim.
I drowned, I took 3 or 4 others down
when I signed the confession of what we
had done together.

No one will ever speak to me again.

I read this somewhere; I wasn’t there:
in WWII the US army had invented some floating
amphibian tanks, and took them over to
the coast of Europe to unload them,
the landing ships all drawn up in a fleet,
and everybody watching. Each tank had a
crew of 6 and there were 25 tanks.
The first went down the landing planks
and sank, the second, the third, the
fourth, the fifth, the sixth went down
and sank. They weren’t supposed
to sink, the engineers had
made a mistake. The crews looked around
wildly for the order to quit,
but none came, and in the sight of
thousands of men, each 6 crewmen
saluted his officers, battened down
his hatch in turn and drove into the
sea, and drowned, until all 25 tanks
were gone. did they have vacant
eyes, die laughing, or what? What
did they talk about, those men,
as the water came in?

was the general their lover?

A Mock Interrogation

Have you ever held hands with a woman?

Yes, many times--women about to deliver, women about to have
breasts removed, wombs removed, miscarriages, women having
epileptic fits, having asthma, cancer, women having breast
bone marrow sucked out of them by nervous or indifferent
interns, women with heart condition, who were vomiting, over-
dosed, depressed, drunk, lonely to the point of extinction:
women who have been run over, beaten up. deserted. starved.
women who had been bitten by rats; and women who were
happy, who were celebrating, who were dancing with me in
large circles or alone, women who were climbing mountains
or up and down walls, or trucks or roofs and needed a boost
up, or I did; women who simply wanted to hold my hand because
they liked me, some women wanted to hold my hand because
they liked me better than anyone.

These were many women?

Yes. many.

What about kissing? Have you kissed any women?

I have kissed many women.

When was the first woman you kissed with serious feeling?

The first woman I kissed was Josie, who I had loved
at such a distance for months. Josie was not only beautiful,
she was tough and handsome too. Josie had black hair and
white teeth and strong brown muscles. Then she dropped out
of school unexplained. When she came back she came back for
one day only, to finish the term, and there was a child in her.
She was all shame, pain, and defiance. Her eyes were dark
as the water under a bridge and no one would talk to her,
they laughed and threw things at her. In the afternoon I
walked across the front of the class and looked deep into
Josie’s eyes and I picked up her chin with my hand, because
I loved her, because nothing like her trouble would ever
happen to me, because I hated it that she was pregnant
and unhappy, and an outcast. We were thirteen.

You didn’t kiss her?

How does it feel to be thirteen and having a baby?

You didn’t actually kiss her?

Not in fact.

You have kissed other women?

Yes, many, some of the finest women I know, I have kissed.
women who were lonely, women I didn’t know and didn’t want
to, but kissed because that was a way to say yes we are
still alive and loveable, though separate, women who recog-
nized a loneliness in me, women who were hurt, I confess
to kissing the top of a 55 year old woman’s head in the snow
in boston, who was hurt more deeply than I have ever been
hurt, and I wanted her as a very few people have wanted me--
I wanted her and me to own and control and run the city we
lived in, to staff the hospital I knew would mistreat her,
to drive the transportation system that had betrayed her, to
patrol the streets controlling the men who would murder or
disfigure or disrupt us, not accidentally with machines, but
on purpose, because we are not allowed out on the street
Have you ever committed any indecent acts with women?

Yes, many. I am guilty of allowing suicidal women to die
before my eyes or in my ears or under my hands because I
thought I could do nothing, I am guilty of leaving a pros-
titute who held a knife to my friend’s throat to keep us from
leaving, because we would not sleep with her, we thought
she was old and fat and ugly; I am guilty of not loving
her who needed me; I regret all the women I have not slept
with or comforted, who pulled themselves away from me for
lack of something I had not the courage to fight for, for us,
our life, our planet, our city, our meat and potatoes, our
love. These are indecent acts, lacking courage, lacking
a certain fire behind the eyes, which is the symbol, the
raised fist, the sharing of resources, the resistance that
tells death he will starve for lack of the fat of us, our
extra. Yes I have committed acts of indecency with women
and most of them were acts of omission. I regret them

Bless this day oh cat our house

“I was allowed to go
3 places, growing up,” she said--
“3 places, no more.
there was a straight line from my house
to school, a straight line from my house
to church, a straight line from my house
to the corner store.”
her parents thought something might happen to her.
but nothing ever did.

my lovers teeth are white geese flying above me
my lovers muscles are rope ladders under my hands
we are the river of life and the fat of the land
death, do you tell me I cannot touch this women?
if we use each other up
on each other
that’s a little bit less for you
a little bit less for you, ho
death, ho ho death.

Bless this day oh cat our house
help me be not such a mouse
death tells the woman to stay home
and then breaks in the window.

I read this somewhere, I wasn’t there:
in feudal Europe, if a woman committed adultery
her husband would sometimes tie her
down, catch a mouse and trap it
under a cup on her bare belly, until
it gnawed itself out, now are you
afraid of mice?

Dressed as I am, a young man once called
me names in Spanish

a woman who talks to death
is a dirty traitor

inside a hamburger joint and
dressed as I am, a young man once called me
names in Spanish
then he called me queer and slugged me.
first I thought the ceiling had fallen down
but there was the counterman making a ham
sandwich, and there was I spread out on his

For God’s sake I said when
I could talk, this guy is beating me up
can’t you call the police or something,
can’t you stop him? he looked up from
working on his sandwich, which was my
sandwich, I had ordered it. He liked
the way I looked. “There’s a pay phone
right across the street” he said.
I couldn’t listen to the Spanish language
for weeks afterward, without feeling the
most murderous of urges, the simple
association of one thing to another,
so damned simple.

The next day I went to the police station
to become an outraged citizen
Six big policemen stood in the hall,
all white and dressed as they do
they were well pleased with my story, pleased
at what had gotten beat out of me, so
I left them laughing, went home fast
and locked my door.
For several nights I fantasized the scene
again, this time grabbing a chair
and smashing it over the bastard’s head,
killing him. I called him a spic, and
killed him. my face healed. his didn’t/
no child in me.

now when I remember I think:
maybe he was Josie’s baby.
all the chickens come home to roost,
all of them.

Death and disfiguration

One Christmas eve my lovers and I
we left the bar, driving home slow
there was a woman lying in the snow
by the side of the road. She was wearing
a bathrobe and no shoes, where were
her shoes? she had turned the snow
pink, under her feet. she was an Asian
woman, didn't speak much English, but
she said her taxi driver beat her up
and raped her, throwing her out of his
what on earth was she doing there
on a street she helped to pay for
but doesn’t own?
doesn’t she know to stay home?

I am a pervert, therefore I’ve learned
to keep my hands to myself in public
but I was so drunk that night,
I actually did something loving
I took her in my arms, this woman,
until she could breathe right, and
my friends who are perverts too
they touched her too
we all touched her.
“You’re going to be all right”
we lied. She started to cry
“I’m 55 years old” she said
and that said everything.

Six big policemen answered the call
no child in them.
they seemed afraid to touch her,
then grabbed her like a corpse and heaved her
on their metal stretcher into the van,
crashing and clumsy.
She was more frightened then before.
they were cold and bored.
‘don’t leave me’ she said.
‘she’ll be all right’ they said.
we left, as we have left all of our lovers
as all lovers leave all lovers
much too soon to get the real loving done.

A mock interrogation

Why did you get into the cab with him, dressed as you are?

I wanted to go somewhere.

Did you know what they cab driver might do
if you got into the cab with him?

I just wanted to go somewhere.

How many times did you
get into the cab with him?

I don’t remember.

If you don’t remember, how do you know it happened to you?

Hey you death

ho and ho poor death
our lovers teeth are white geese flying above us
our lovers muscles are rope ladders under our hands
even though no women yet go down to the sea in ships
except in their dreams.

only the arrogant invent a quick and meaningful end
for themselves, of their own choosing.
everyone else knows how very slow it happens
how the woman’s existence bleeds out her years,
how the child shoots up at ten and is arrested and old
how the man carries a murderous shell within him
and passes it on.

we are the fat of the land, and
we all have our list of casualties

to my lovers I bequeath
the rest of my life

I want nothing left of me for you, ho death
except some fertilizer
for the next batch of us
who do not hold hands with you
who do not embrace you
who try not to work for you
or sacrifice themselves or trust
or believe you, ho ignorant
death, how do you know
we happened to you?

wherever our meat hangs on our own bones
for our own use
your pot is so empty
death, ho death
you shall be poor.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

After Years - Ted Kooser

Today, from a distance, I saw you
walking away, and without a sound
the glittering face of a glacier
slid into the sea. An ancient oak
fell in the Cumberlands, holding only
a handful of leaves, and an old woman
scattering corn to her chickens looked up
for an instant. At the other side
of the galaxy, a star thirty-five times
the size of our own sun exploded
and vanished, leaving a small green spot
on the astronomer's retina
as he stood on the great open dome
of my heart with no one to tell.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Warming Her Pearls - Carol Ann Duffy

Next to my own skin, her pearls. My mistress
bids me wear them, warm then, until evening
when I'll brush her hair. At six, I place them
round her cool, white throat. All day I think of her,

resting in the Yellow Room, contemplating silk
or taffeta, which gown tonight? She fans herself
whilst I work willingly, my slow heat entering
each pearl. Slack on my neck, her rope.

She's beautiful. I dream about her
in my attic bed; picture her dancing
with tall men, puzzled by my faint, persistent scent
beneath her French perfume, her milky stones.

I dust her shoulders with a rabbit's foot,
watch the soft blush seep through her skin
like an indolent sigh. In her looking-glass
my red lips part as though I want to speak.

Full moon. Her carriage brings her home. I see
her every movement in my head...Undressing,
taking off her jewels, her slim hand reaching
for the case, slipping naked into bed, the way

she always does...And I lie here awake,
knowing the pearls are cooling even now
in the room where my mistress sleeps. All night
I feel their absence and I burn.