The way you say dicey and delectable and octogenarian
in the same sentence— that really turns me on.
The way you describe the oranges in your backyard
using anarchistic and intimate in the same breath.
I would follow the legato and staccato of your tongue
wrapping around your diction
until listening become more like dreaming
and dreaming became more like kissing you.
I want to jump off the cliff of your voice
into the suicide of your stream of consciousness.
I want to visit the place in your heart where the wrong words die.
I want to map it out with a dictionary and points
of brilliant light until it looks more like a star chart
than a strategy for communication.
I want to see where your words are born.
I want to find a pattern in the astrology.
I want to memorize the scripts of your seductions.
I want to live in the long-winded epics of your disappointments,
in the haiku of your epiphanies.
I want to know all the names you’ve given your desires.
I want to find my name among them,
‘cause there is nothing more wrecking sexy than the right word.
I want to thank whoever told you
there was no such thing as a synonym.
I want to throw a party for the heartbreak
that turned you into a poet.
And if it is true that a man is only as good as his word
then, sweet jesus, let me be there
the first time you are speechless,
and all your explosive wisdom becomes
a burning ball of sun in your throat,
and all you can bring yourself to utter is, oh god, oh god.
I am not a saint or a cripple,
I am not a wound; now I will see
whether I am a coward.
I dispose of my good manners,
you don’t have to kiss my wrists.
This is a journey, not a war,
there is no outcome,
I renounce predictions
and aspirins, I resign the future
as I would resign an expired passport:
picture and signature are gone
along with holidays and safe returns.
We’re stuck here
on this side of the border
in this country of thumbed streets and stale buildings
where there is nothing spectacular
to see and the weather is ordinary
where love occurs in its pure form only
on the cheaper of the souvenirs
where we must walk slowly,
where we may not get anywhere
or anything, where we keep going,
fighting our ways, our way
not out but through.
She’s taken to sleeping late.
Only recently have I come to stare
on her as phenomenon.
Solid, almost vaporous in sheer morning light.
I’m obsessed, after thirty years,
how her mind keeps things,
how her body stores, how the runnels and rills
operate, how they order.
Simon was pulled from her. A birth like theft.
A numb seam opposite her spine,
a bright ridge that reddens
when she sinks into the bath. Her reminder.
A mark more violent
than the navel. This is how you no longer live.
Naked. Unbelievably naked.
Each morning she sublimates into fluidity
but for hours I just watch.
A severe meandering. I see her life and then can’t
say it. Painstaking and then lost.
Serene then helpless.
And when my mind is unable to focus
I get up and look from the other side of the room.
Her heart could house a cathedral.
She told me her dreams
are water and bone, grief, ash and mold.
She is fifty-four.
Gray strands tangle in the white bedding.
How do you collect the details of her,
the creases that lay by the eye?
Painters could spend months on the curve
of her arm when it’s stretched
over her head, hand on the pillow,
A thousand sketches before color is contemplated.
I think of her as a fugue,
as relief in metal, as a chamber
as a monument people touch in winter.
If I could press my thumb to the arch of her foot
and convince her,
if I could trace the line of her calf, thigh,
hard rise of her hip,
to show her that the living are not monsters,
that we act out of necessity, I would,
but to her,
the guilty live and the dead become sovereign,
exalted, protected from change.
She is in the act of forgetting
why the light was made to overtake their bodies.
If it had been a heart attack, the newspaper
might have used the word massive,
as if a mountain range had opened
inside her, but instead
it used the word suddenly, a light coming on
in an empty room. The telephone
fell from my shoulder, a black parrot repeating
something happened, something awful
a sunday, dusky. If it had been
terminal, we could have cradled her
as she grew smaller, wiped her mouth,
said good-bye. But it was sudden,
how overnight we could be orphaned
& the world became a bell we’d crawl inside
& the ringing all we’d eat.
Then he died.
And they said: Another soul free.
Which was the wrong way to see it, I thought,
having been there,
having lain down beside him until
his body became rigid with what I believe
was not the stiffening of death
but of surprise, the initial
unbelief of the suddenly ex-slave hearing
Rest; let it fall now, this burden.
The proof was most commonly put forth for the soul
as a thing that exists and weighs
something is that
the body weighs something less, after death—
a clean fact.
In The Miraculous Translation of the Body
of Saint Catherine of Alexandria to Sinai,
the number of angels required to bear the body
all that way through the air
comes to four,
which tells us nothing
about weight, or the lack of it, since
the angels depicted
are clearly those for whom
the only business is hard labor,
the work angels,
you can tell:
the resigned way they wear clothes.
Beyond them in rank,
in the actual presence of God,
the seraphim stand naked, ever-burning,
six-winged: two to fly with,
in back; two at the face to withstand
the impossible winds that
and a third pair—for modesty,
for the covering
noise is said to always
less the humming of wings than
the grinding you’d expect
from the hitching of what is hot,
and all devotion
to the highest, brightest star.
Lying here, everything in me
brittle and pushing you away
This is not something I
wanted, I tell you
silently, not admitting
the truth of where
I am, so far
up, the sky incredible and dark
blue, each breath
a gift in the steep air
How hard even the boulders
find it to grow here
and I don’t know how to accept
your freedom, I don’t know
what to do with this
precipice, this joy
What do you see, I ask / my voice
absorbed by stone and outer
space / you are asleep, you see
what there is. Beside you
I bend and enter
this moon, this dish of fruit which
has never seen its own earth. Or had rain
fall on it all one night and the next. And has grown,
in consequence, a fine, crazed skin of porcelain.
He is watching the music with his eyes closed.
Hearing the piano like a man moving
through the woods thinking by feeling.
The orchestra up in the trees, the heart below,
step by step. The music hurrying sometimes,
but always returning to quiet, like the man
remembering and hoping. It is a thing in us,
mostly unnoticed. There is somehow a pleasure
in the loss. In the yearning. The pain
going this way and that. Never again.
Never bodied again. Again the never.
Slowly. No undergrowth. Almost leaving.
A humming beauty in the silence.
The having been. Having had. And the man
knowing all of him would come to an end.
The last time I gave my body up,
to you, I was minded
briefly what it is made of,
what yours is, that
I’d forgotten, the flesh
I hold in plenty no
little sorrow for because — oh, do
but think on its predicament,
We cleave most entirely
to what most we fear
losing. We fear loss
because we understand
the fact of it, its largeness, its
utter indifference to whether
we do, or don’t,
ignore it. By then, you
were upon me, and then
in me, soon the tokens
I almost never can let go of, I’d
again begin to, and would not
miss them: the swan
upward less on trust than
because, simply, that’s
what it does; and the leaves,
leaving; a single arrow held
back in the merciless
patience which, in taking
aim, is everything; and last,
as from a grove in
flame toward any air
more clear, the stag, but
this time its bent
head a chandelier, rushing
for me, like some
distraction. I looked back,
and instead of you, saw
that you’d become. I tensed
one animal at attack,
the other — the other one
suffering, and love would
out all suffering —
He is here, come down to look for you.
It is the song that calls you back,
a song of joy and suffering
equally: a promise:
that things will be different up there
than they were last time.
You would rather have gone on feeling nothing,
emptiness and silence; the stagnant peace
of the deepest sea, which is easier
than the noise and flesh of the surface.
You are used to these blanched dim corridors,
you are used to the king
who passes you without speaking.
The other one is different
and you almost remember him.
He says he is singing to you
because he loves you,
not as you are now,
so chilled and minimal: moving and still
both, like a white curtain blowing
in the draft from a half-opened window
beside a chair on which nobody sits.
He wants you to be what he calls real.
He wants you to stop light.
He wants to feel himself thickening
like a treetrunk or a haunch
and see blood on his eyelids
when he closes them, and the sun beating.
This love of his is not something
he can do if you aren’t there,
but what you knew suddenly as you left your body
cooling and whitening on the lawn
was that you love him anywhere,
even in this land of no memory,
even in this domain of hunger.
You hold love in your hand, a red seed
you had forgotten you were holding.
He has come almost too far.
He cannot believe without seeing,
and it’s dark here.
Go back, you whisper,
but he wants to be fed again
by you. O handful of gauze, little
bandage, handful of cold
air, it is not through him
you will get your freedom.