Friday, June 27, 2008
Remember that every man is a variation of yourself.
No man's guilt is not yours, nor is any man's innocence a thing apart.
Despise evil and ungodliness, but not men of ungodliness or evil.
Have no shame in being kindly and gentle, but if the time comes in the time of your life to kill, kill and have no regret.
The crow doesn't have red wings.
They're pages of dust.
The woman in the dark room
takes the barrel of a .357 magnum
out of her mouth, reclines
on your bed, a Helena Rubinstein smile.
I'm sorry, you won't know your father
by his darksome old clothes.
He won't be standing by that tree.
I haven't salted the tail
of the sparrow.
Erase its song from this page.
I haven't seen the moon
fall open at the golden edge of our sleep.
I haven't been there
like the tumor in each of us.
There's no death that can
hold us together like twin brothers
coming home to bury their mother.
I never said there's a book inside
every tree. I never said I know how
the legless beggar feels when
the memory of his toes itch.
If I did, drunkenness
was then my god & naked dancer.
I take it back.
I'm not a suicidal mooncalf;
you don't have to take my shoelaces.
If you must quote me, remember
I said that love heals from inside.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
as flat as life is, as dull as the grave.
Excuse me – I'll break off the string of this love song
and smash the guitar. We have nothing to save.
The puppy is puzzled. Our furry small monster
can't decide why we complicate simple things so –
he whines at your door and I let him enter,
when he scratches at my door, you always go.
Dog, sentimental dog, you'll surely go crazy,
running from one to the other like this –
too young to conceive of an ancient idea:
it's ended, done with, over, kaput. Finis.
Get sentimental and we end up by playing
the old melodrama, "Salvation of Love".
"Forgiveness," we whisper, and hope for an echo;
but nothing returns from the silence above.
Better save love at the very beginning,
avoiding all passionate "nevers", "forevers";
we ought to have heard what the train wheels were shouting,
"Do not make promises!" Promises are levers.
We should have made note of the broken branches,
we should have looked up at the smokey sky,
warning the witless pretensions of lovers –
the greater the hope is, the greater the lie.
True kindness in love means staying quite sober,
weighing each link of the chain you must bear.
Don't promise her heaven – suggest half an acre;
not "unto death," but at least to next year.
And don't keep declaring, "I love you, I love you."
That little phrase leads a durable life –
when remembered again in some loveless hereafter,
it can sting like a hornet or stab like a knife.
So – our little dog in all his confusion
turns and returns from door to door.
I won't say "forgive me" because I have left you;
I ask pardon for one thing: I loved you before.
but I just managed to revert it toward east
let this day either not go by
or let it begin anew
joy out of nothing
for no apparent reason
descended upon me owing to a buzzard
that held up its flight above me
carried by the wave of inner music
way beyond your absence
I am so translucent
so open to the flow of lights and shadows
that the sky sees its reflection in me
and suddenly I feel I know
you are so close
as if I found myself on the line of the pupils of your eyes
last night into your dream left ajar
I ran in without knocking
for a moment
I found you in black snow
among pink peacocks
but when I shone toward you through a shadowy triangle
I heard your heart beat
and in sudden commotion the transfixed stars
changed places with each other
today my whole body is lips
which cry your name aloud
under my skin
at my waist
the sun's golden camomile glows with enervated rays
when you come close to me
rain white in lilies but in a rose red
with urgent sound bathes in the veils from all of me
don't let this day go by
I don't want nights without you
everything within me in a voiceless song
lures you and summons
I took off my dress how can I put it on again.
sensation that I love, come back and take hold of me --
when the body's memory revives
and an old longing again passes through the blood,
when lips and skin remember
and hands feel as though they touch again.
Come back often, take hold of me in the night
when lips and skin remember...
under the almost full moon.
Lost for the last two hours.
Finishing a loaf of bread
and worried about the curfew.
I have not spoken for three days
and I am thinking, "Why not just
settle for love? Why not just
settle for love instead?"
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
to fuck with love
to love with all the heat and wild of fuck
the fever of your mouth devouring all my secrets and my alibis
leaving me pure burned into oblivion
the sweetness UNENDURABLE
mouth barely touching mouth
nipple to nipple we touched
and were transfixed
by a flow of energy
beyond anything I have ever known
and two days later
my hand embracing your semen-dripping cock
the barrier of noumenon-phenomenon
the circle momentarily complete
lying together, our bodies slipping into love
that never have slipped out
I kiss your shoulder and it reeks of lust
the lust of erotic angels fucking the stars
and shouting their insatiable joy over heaven
the lust of comets colliding in celestial hysteria
the lust of hermaphroditic deities doing
inconceivable things to each other and
SCREAMING DELIGHT over the entire universe
and we lie together, our bodies wet and burning, and
we WEEP we WEEP we WEEP the incredible tears
that saints and holy men shed in the presence
of their own incandescent gods
I have whispered love into every orifice of your body
As you have done
my whole body is turning into a cuntmouth
my toes my hands my belly my breast my shoulder my eyes
you fuck me continually with your tongue you look
with your words with your presence
we are transmuting
we are as soft and warm and trembling
as a new gold butterfly
at night sometimes I see our bodies glow
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose
or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
Or, Can't we discuss this after the ballgame is through?
It isn't, Well that all depends on what you mean by 'love'.
Or even, Come to bed and I'll prove that I do.
The answer isn't, How can I talk about love when
the bacon is burned and the house is an absolute mess and
the children are screaming their heads off and
I'm going to miss my bus?
The answer is yes.
The answer is yes.
The answer is yes.
but you don't feel right. Now everything's
backwards and you're thinking of someone to blame.
And you do, you're lucky,
drinking coffee was easy, the traffic's
moving along, you're like
everyone else just trying to get through the day
and the place you're dreaming of seems possible--
somewhere to get to.
All you really know
is that it hurts here, the way feelings
are bigger than we are, and a woman's face
in a third-story window, her limp hair
and the pots of red geraniums luring you
into her suffering until you're walking on roads
inscribed in your own body. The maps
you never speak of. Intersections, train stations,
roadside benches, the names of places and
people you've known all bearing the weight
of cashing a check or your having to eat something,
of glimpsing the newspaper's ghoulish headlines.
Like everyone else, you think,
the struggle is toward a better time, though
no pressure surrounds the house you were born in.
Cool, quieter, a vast primitive light
where nothing happens but the sound
of your sole self breathing.
And you've decisions to make. Isn't that why
you've come? with a bald-headed man at the bar
and your friends all over the place, anxious,
tired, a little less sturdy than you'd hoped for
and needing someone to kick around, someone to love.
it won't wipe away what has been
nor hold off what is to be,
if you hear me saying
love is a little white bird
and the flight of it so fast
you can't see it
and you know it's there
only by the faint whirr of its wings
and the hush song coming so low to your ears
you fear it might be silence
and you listen keen and you listen long
and you know it's more than silence
for you get the hush song so lovely
it hurts and cuts into your heart
and what you want is to give more than you can get
and you'd like to write it but it can't be written
and you'd like to sing it but you don't dare try
because the little white bird sings it better than you can
so you listen and while you listen you pray
and after you pray you meditate, then pray more
and one day it's as though a great slow wind
had washed you clean and strong inside and out
and another day it's as though you had gone to sleep
in an early afternoon sunfall and your sleeping heart
dumb and cold as a round polished stone,
and the little white bird's hush song
telling you nothing can harm you,
the days to come can weave in and weave out
and spin their fabrics and designs for you
and nothing can harm you-
unless you change yourself into a thing of harm
nothing can harm you.
For the first time you'll see your pores opening
like the gills of fish and you'll hear
the noise of blood in galleries
and feel light gliding on your corneas
like the dragging of a dress across the floor.
For the first time, you'll note gravity's prick
like a thorn in your heel,
and your shoulder blades will hurt from the imperative of wings.
I promise to make you so alive that
the fall of dust on furniture will deafen you,
and you'll feel your eyebrows like two wounds forming
and your memories will seem to begin
with the creation of the world.
In order to hold one
I gradually understand
How poems are made.
There is a place the fear must go.
There is a place the choice must go.
There is a place the loss must go.
The leftover love.
The love that spills out
Of the too full cup
And runs and hides
Its too full self
I gradually comprehend
How poems are made.
To the upbeat flight of memories.
The flagged beats of the running
I understand how poems are made.
They are the tears
That season the smile.
The stiff-neck laughter
That crowds the throat.
The leftover love.
I know how poems are made.
There is a place the loss must go.
There is a place the gain
Not a stupid person, yet with all she knows, she literally talks to God.
She thinks someone listens in heaven.
On earth she's unusually competent.
Brave too, able to face unpleasantness.
We found a caterpillar dying in the dirt, greedy ants crawling over it.
I'm always moved by disaster, always eager to oppose vitality
But timid also, quick to shut my eyes.
Whereas my friend was able to watch, to let events play out
According to nature. For my sake she intervened
Brushing a few ants off the torn thing, and set it down
Across the road.
My friend says I shut my eyes to God, that nothing else explains
My aversion to reality. She says I'm like the child who
Buries her head in the pillow
So as not to see, the child who tells herself
That light causes sadness-
My friend is like the mother. Patient, urging me
To wake up an adult like herself, a courageous person-
In my dreams, my friend reproaches me. We're walking
On the same road, except it's winter now;
She's telling me that when you love the world you hear celestial music:
Look up, she says. When I look up, nothing.
Only clouds, snow, a white business in the trees
Like brides leaping to a great height-
Then I'm afraid for her; I see her
Caught in a net deliberately cast over the earth-
In reality, we sit by the side of the road, watching the sun set;
From time to time, the silence pierced by a birdcall.
It's this moment we're trying to explain, the fact
That we're at ease with death, with solitude.
My friend draws a circle in the dirt; inside, the caterpillar doesn't move.
She's always trying to make something whole, something beautiful, an image
Capable of life apart from her.
We're very quiet. It's peaceful sitting here, not speaking, The composition
Fixed, the road turning suddenly dark, the air
Going cool, here and there the rocks shining and glittering-
It's this stillness we both love.
The love of form is a love of endings.
You and I, tonight!
You must forget the warmth he gave,
I will forget the light.
When you have done pray tell me,
Then I, my thoughts, will dim.
Haste! ‘lest while you’re lagging
I may remember him!
We wander on, shoulder to shoulder
Already the sun is going down
You're moody, and I am your shadow.
Let's step inside a church, hear prayers, masses for the dead
Why are we so different from the rest?
Outside in the graveyard we sit on a frozen branch.
That stick in your hand is tracing
Mansions in the snow in which we will always be together.
fled Freetown, amputating each third hand -
left, right, left - with machetes as they fled,
so when I think of the 6,000 dead
I try to think of someone who can carry
a shovel but cannot bury.
Connecticut will upset Duke tonight,
and Edgar Winter sells us Miller Lite.
Whether we act or not, we intervene.
When you say nothing I know what you mean.
When I had you to write to it
Was different. The quiet, dry Z
Leaped up to the front of the alphabet.
You sit, stilling your spoons
With one hand; you move them with the other.
Radio says, “God is a postmaster.”
You said, Zis is lawflee. And in the heat
Of writing to you I wrote simply. I thought
These are the best things I shall ever write
And have ever written. I thought of nothing but touching you
Thought of seeing you and, in a separate thought, of looking at you.
You were concentrated feeling and thought.
You were like the ocean
In which my poems were the swimming. I brought you
Ear rings. You said, these are lawflee. We went
To some beach, where the sand was dirty. Just going in
To the bathing house with you drove me “out of my mind.”
It is wise to be witty. The shirt collar’s far away.
Men tramp up and down the city on this windy day.
I am feeling a-political as a shell
Brought off some fish. Twenty-one years
Ago I saw you and loved you still.
Still! It wasn’t plenty
Of time. Read Anatole France. Bored, a little. Read
Tolstoy, replaced and overcome. You read Stendhal.
I told you to. Where was replacement
Then? I don’t know. He shushed us back in to ourselves.
I used to understand
The highest excitement. Someone died
And you were distant. I went away
And made you distant. Where are you now? I see the chair
And hang onto it for sustenance. Good God how you kissed me
And I held you. You screamed
And I wasn’t bothered by anything. Was nearest you.
And you were so realistic
Preferring the Soviet Bookstore
To my literary dreams.
“You don’t like war,” you said
After reading a poem
In which I’d simply said I hated war
In a whole list of things. To you
It seemed a position, to me
It was all a flux, especially then.
I was in an
Let’s take a walk
I wrote. And I love you as a sheriff
Searches for a walnut. And And so unless
I’m going to see your face
Bien soon, and you said
You must take me away, and
You like everything
To be pleasant. I was burning
Like an arch
Made out of trees.
I’m not sure we ever actually took a walk
We were so damned nervous. I was heading somewhere. And you had to be
At an appointment, or else be found out! Illicit love!
It’s not a thing to think of. Nor is it when it’s licit!
It is too much! And it wasn’t enough. The achievement
I thought I saw possible when I loved you
Was that really achievement? Were you my
Last chance to feel that I had lost my chance?
I grew faint at your voice on the telephone.
Electricty and all colors were mine, and the tops of hills
And everything that breathes. That was a feeling. Certain
Artistic careers had not even started. And I
Could have surpassed them. I could have I think put the
Whole world under our feet. You were in the restaurant. It
Was Chinese. We have walked three blocks. Or four blocks. It is New York
In nineteen fifty-three. Nothing has as yet happened
That will ever happen and will mean as much to me. You smile, and turn
What rocketing there was in my face and in my head
And bombing everywhere in my body
I loved you I knew suddenly
That nothing had meant anything like you
I must have hoped (crazily) that something would
As if thinking you were the person I had become.
My sleep is beginning to be begun. And the sheets were on the bed.
A clock rang a bird’s song rattled into my typewriter.
I had been thinking about songs which were very abstract.
It was really a table. Now, the telephone. Hello, what?
What is my life like now? Engaged, studying and looking around
The library, teaching—I took it rather easy
A little too easy—we went to the ballet
Then dark becomes the light (blinding) of the next eighty days
Orchestra cup become As beautiful as an orchestra or a cup, and
Locked climbs becomes If we were locked, well not quite, rather
Oh penniless could I really die, and I understood everything
Which before was running this way and that in my head
I saw titles, volumes, and suns I felt the hot
Pressure of your hands in that restaurant
To which, along with glasses, plates, lamps, lusters,
Tablecloths, napkins, and all the other junk
You added my life for it was entirely in your hands then—
My life Yours, My Sister Life of Pasternak’s beautiful title
My life without a life, my life in a life, my life impure
And my life pure, life seen as an entity
One death and a variety of days
And only on life.
I wasn’t ready
Seemingly except my feelings
You were whirling
In your life
I was keeping
Everything in my head
An artist friend’s apartment
Five flights up the
Lower East Side nineteen
Fifty-something I don’t know
What we made love the first time I
Almost died I had never felt
That way it was like being stamped on in Hell
It was roses of Heaven
My friends seemed turned to me to empty shell
On the railroad train’s red velvet back
You put your hand in mine and said
“I told him”
Or was it the time after that?
I said Why did you
Do that you said I thought
It was over. Why Because you were so
Nervous of my being there it was something I thought
I read Tolstoy. You said
I don’t like the way it turns out (Anna
Karenina) I had just liked the strength
Of the feeling you thought
About the end. I wanted
To I don’t know what never leave you
Five flights up the June
Street empties of fans, cups, kites, cops, eats, nights, no
The night was there
And something like air I love you Marina
Four thousand three hundred and sixty-
Two minutes all poetry was changed
For me what did I do in exchange
I am selfish, afraid you are
Overwhelmingly parade, back, sunshine, dreams
Later thousands of dreams
You make me feel nawble (noble). I said
Yes. I said
To nothingness, This is all poems. Another one said (later)
That is so American. You were Russian
You thought of your feelings, one said, not of her,
Not of the real situation. But my feelings were a part,
They were the force of the real situation. Truer to say I thought
Not of the whole situation
For your husband was also a part
And your feelings about your child were a part
And all my other feelings were a part. We
Turned this way and that, up-
Stairs then down
Into the streets.
Did I die because I didn’t stay with you?
Or what did I lose of my life? I lose
You. I put you
In everything I wrote.
I used that precious material I put it in forms
Also I wanted to break down the forms
Poetry was a real occupation
To hell with the norms, with what is already written
Twenty-nine in love finds pure expression
Twenty-nine years you my whole life’s digression
Not taken and Oh Kenneth
Everything afterwards seemed nowhere near
What I could do then in several minutes—
“I want to look at you all day long
Because you are mine.”
I am twenty-nine, pocket flap folded
And I am smiling I am looking out at a world that
I significantly re-created from inside
Out of contradictory actions and emotions. I look like a silly child that
Photograph that year—big glasses, unthought-of clothes,
A suit, slight mess in general, cropped hair. And someone liked me,
Loved me a lot, I think. And someone else had, you had too. I was
Undrenched by the tears I’d shed later about this whole thing when
I’d telephone you I’d be all nerves, though in fact
All life was a factor and all my nerves were in my head. I feel
Peculiar. Or I feel nothing. I am thinking about this poem. I am thinking
about your raincoat,
I am worried about the tactfulness,
About the truth of what I say.
I am thinking about my standards for my actions
About what they were
You raised my standards for harmony and for happiness so much
And, too, the sense of a center
Which did amazing things for my taste
But my taste for action? For honesty, for directness in behavior?
I believe I simply never felt that anything could go wrong
This was abject stupidity
I also was careless in how I drove then and in what I ate
And drank it was easier to feel that nothing could go wrong
I had those feelings. I
Did not those things. I was involved in such and such
A situation, artistically and socially. We never spent a night
Together it is the New York of
Aquamarine sunshine and the Loew’s Theater’s blazing swing of light
In the middle of the day
Let’s take a walk
Into the world
Where if our shoes get white
With snow, is it snow, Marina,
Is it snow or light?
Let’s take a walk
Every detail is everything in its place (Aristotle). Literature is a cup
And we are the malted. The time is a glass. A June bug comes
And a carpenter spits on a plane, the flowers ruffle ear rings.
I am so dumb-looking. And you are so beautiful.
Sitting in the Hudson Tube
Walking up the fusky street
Always waiting to see you
You the original creation of all my You, you the you
In every poem the hidden one whom I am talking to
Worked at Bamberger’s once I went with you to Cerutti’s
Bar—on Madison Avenue? I held your hand and you said
Kenneth you are playing with fire. I said
Something witty in reply.
It was the time of the McCarthy trial
Hot sunlight on lunches. You squirted
Red wine into my mouth.
My feelings were like a fire my words became very clear
My psyche or whatever it is that puts together motions and emotions
Was unprepared. There was a good part
And an alarmingly bad part which didn’t correspond—
No letters! No seeming connection! Your slim pale hand
It actually was, your blondness and your turning-around-to-me look
No, Marina, don’t go
And what had been before would come after
Not to be mysterious we’d be together make love again
It was the wildest thing I’ve done
I can hardly remember it
It has gotten by now
So mixed up with losing you
The two almost seemed in some way the same. You
Wore something soft—angora? Cashmere?
I remember that it was black, You turned around
And on such a spring day which went on and on and on
I actually think I felt that I could keep
The strongest of all feelings contained inside me
Producing endless emotional designs.
With the incomparable feeling of rising and of being like a banner
Twenty seconds worth twenty-five years
With feeling noble extremely mobile and very free
With Taking a Walk With You, West Wind, In Love With You, and
With pleasure I felt my leg muscles and my brain couldn’t hold
With the Empire State Building the restaurant your wrist bones with
In nineteen fifty-one with heat humidity a dog pissing with neon
With the feeling that at last
My body had something to do and so did my mind
At the window. You call
Me, across Paris,
And fall. Do you
Know you have
Missed some of them?
Almost all. I am
Waiting and I
Am fading I
Am fainting I’m
In a degrading state
Of inactivity. A ball
Rolls in the gutter. I have
Two hands to
Stop it. I am
A flower I pick
The vendor his
Clothes getting up
Too early and
What is it makes this rose
Into what is more fragrant than what is not?
I am stunned I am feeling tortured
By “A man of words and not a man of deeds”
I was waiting in a taxicab
It was white letters in white paints it was you
Spring comes, summer, then fall
And winter. We really have missed
All of that, whatever else there was
In those years so sanded by our absence.
I never saw you for as long as half a day
You were crying outside the bus station
And I was crying—
I knew that this really was my life—
I kept thinking of how we were crying
Later, when I was speaking, driving, walking,
Looking at doorways and colors, mysterious entrances
Sometimes I’d be pierced as by a needle
Sometimes be feverish as from a word
Books closed and I’d think
I can’t read this book, I threw away my life
These held on to their lives. I was
Excited by praise from anyone, startled by criticism, always hating it
Traveling around Europe and being excited
It was all in reference to you
And feeling I was not gradually forgetting
What your temples and cheekbones looked like
And always with this secret
Later I thought that what I had done was reasonable
It may have been reasonable
I also thought that I saw what had appealed to me
So much about you, the way you responded
To everything your excitement about
Me, I had never seen that. And the fact
That you were Russian, very mysterious, all that I didn’t know
About you—and you didn’t know
Me, for I was as strange to you as you were to me.
You were like my first trip to France you had
Made no assumptions. I could be
Clearly and Passionately and
Nobly (as you’d said) who I was—at the outer limits of my life
Of my life as my life could be
Ideally. But what about the dark part all this lifted
Me out of? Would my bad moods, my uncertainties, my
Distrust of people I was close to, the
Twisty parts of my ambition, my
Envy, all have gone away? And if
They hadn’t gone, what? For didn’t I need
All the strength you made me feel I had, to deal
With the difficulties of really having you?
Where could we have been? But I saw so many new possibilities
That it made me rather hate reality
Or I think perhaps I already did
I didn’t care about the consequences
Because they weren’t “poetic” weren’t “ideal”
And oh well you said we walk along
Your white dress your blue dress your green
Blouse with sleeves then one without
Sleeves and we are speaking
Of things but not of very much because underneath it
I am raving I am boiling I am afraid
You ask me Kenneth what are you thinking
If I could say
It all then I thought if I could say
Exactly everything and have it still be as beautiful
Billowing over, riding over both our doubts
Some kind of perfection and what did I actually
Say? Marina it’s late. Marina
It’s early. I love you. Or else, What’s this street?
You were the perfection of my life
And I couldn’t have you. That is, I didn’t.
I couldn’t think. I wrote, instead. I would have had
To think hard, to figure everything out
About how I could be with you,
Really, which I couldn’t do
In those moments of permanence we had
As we walked along.
We walk through the park in the sun. It is the end.
You phone me. I send you a telegram. It
Is the end. I keep
Thinking about you, grieving about you. It is the end. I write
Poems about you, to you. They
Are no longer simple. No longer
Are you there to see every day or
Every other or every third or fourth warm day
And now it has been twenty-five years
But those feelings kept orchestrating I mean rehearsing
Rehearsing in my and tuning up
While I was doing a thousand other things, the band
Is ready, I am over fifty years old and there’s no you—
And no me, either, not as I was then,
When it was the Renaissance
Filtered through my nerves and weakness
Of nineteen fifty-four or fifty-three,
When I had you to write to, when I could see you
And it could change.
You are beautiful, inexactly.
You let a weed grow by the mulberry
And a mulberry grow by the house.
So close, in the personal quiet
Of a windy night, it brushes the wall
And sweeps away the day till we sleep.
A child said it, and it seemed true:
"Things that are lost are all equal."
But it isn't true. If I lost you,
The air wouldn't move, nor the tree grow.
Someone would pull the weed, my flower.
The quiet wouldn't be yours. If I lost you,
I'd have to ask the grass to let me sleep.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
as a collective to repair
the damage done by love, and half the night
we'd exchange stories, share a common pain
that's always different, but never less
in how the ruin's total, like a house
slipped off a cliff edge to the sea
or like a turtle that has lost its shell
but keeps on going, making tracks on sand
to find a refuge up beyond the surf.
We're all suddenly disinherited
from little ways, familiar dialogue,
security of someone there to share
bad news, rejection, a red letter day,
a downmood's tumble of blue dice,
or someone there to celebrate a quiet
in which the meaning is in being two
without a need to speak. But out of love
we seem to be falling down stairs
that never terminate. He left or she
took off with someone else, it's like the blow
will never stop arriving in the heart
as an impacted fist. We'd call the place
Heartbreak Hotel, and hope to patch the scars
of unrequited love and leave
a little less in tatters, disrepair.
I'll find the place one day, and book a room
and talk amongst the losers of a face
I can't forget, and of a special hurt
bleeding like footprints scattered over snow.
Doubt that the sun doth move
Doubt that truth be a liar
But never doubt that I love.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.
Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.
This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.
I'm sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
I don't like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird
I didn't know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn't worked the earth love it
I've never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love
and here I've loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can't wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you'll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before
and will be said after me
I didn't know I loved the sky
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard
the guards are beating someone again
I didn't know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish
"the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves. . .
they call me The Knife. . .
lover like a young tree. . .
I blow stately mansions sky-high"
in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief
to a pine bough for luck
I never knew I loved roads
even the asphalt kind
Vera's behind the wheel we're driving from Moscow to the Crimea
formerly "Goktepili" in Turkish
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and mute
I was never so close to anyone in my life
bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Gered(&
when I was eighteen
apart from my life I didn't have anything in the wagon they could take
and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
I've written this somewhere before
wading through a dark muddy street I'm going to the shadow play
a paper lantern leading the way
maybe nothing like this ever happened
maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
going to the shadow play
Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather's hand
his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
with a sable collar over his robe
and there's a lantern in the servant's hand
and I can't contain myself for joy
flowers come to mind for some reason
poppies cactuses jonquils
in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika
fresh almonds on her breath
I was seventeen
my heart on a swing touched the sky
I didn't know I loved flowers
friends sent me three red carnations in prison
I just remembered the stars
I love them too
whether I'm floored watching them from below
or whether I'm flying at their side
I have some questions for the cosmonauts
were the stars much bigger
did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
or apricots on orange
did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don't
be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract
well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to
say they were terribly figurative and concrete
my heart was in my mouth looking at them
they are our endless desire to grasp things
seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad
I never knew I loved the cosmos
snow flashes in front of my eyes
both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind
I didn't know I liked snow
I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors
but you aren't about to paint it that way
I didn't know I loved the sea
except the Sea of Azov
or how much
I didn't know I loved clouds
whether I'm under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts
moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois
I like it
I didn't know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my
heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop
and takes off for uncharted countries I didn't know I loved
rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting
by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette
one alone could kill me
is it because I'm half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue
the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn't know I loved sparks
I didn't know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty
to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return
as dry roots love rain.
I could hold you
as branches in the wind
Forgive me for speaking so soon.
Let your heart look
on white sea spray
and be lonely.
Love is a fool star.
You and a ring of stars
may mention my name
and then forget me.
Love is a fool star.
begins to grin and jump about
in my heart, in my brain, in my muscles,
I am shown the path I had lost
in the mountainy mist.
I'm writing of you.
When the pain that will kill me
is about to be unbearable,
a cool hand
puts a tablet on my tongue and the pain
dwindles away and vanishes.
I'm writing of you.
There are fires to be suffered,
the blaze of cruelty, the smoulder
of inextinguishable longing, even
the gentle candleflame of peace
that burns too.
I suffer them. I survive.
I'm writing of you.
to her wealthy parents' summer home,
Bruce's college girlfriend asked him
to improve his expertise at oral sex,
and offered him some technical advice:
Use nothing but his tonguetip
to flick the light switch in his room
on and off a hundred times a day
until he grew fluent at the nuances
of force and latitude.
Imagine him at practice every evening,
more inspired than he ever was at algebra,
beads of sweat sprouting on his brow,
thinking, thirty-seven, thirty-eight,
seeing, in the tunnel vision of his mind's eye,
the quadratic equation of her climax
yield to the logic
of his simple math.
Maybe he unscrewed
the bulb from his apartment ceiling
so that passersby would not believe
a giant firefly was pulsing
its electric abdomen in 13 B.
Maybe, as he stood
two inches from the wall,
in darkness, fogging the old plaster
with his breath, he visualized the future
as a mansion standing on the shore
that he was rowing to
with his tongue's exhausted oar.
Of course, the girlfriend dumped him:
met someone, apres-ski, who,
using nothing but his nose
could identify the vintage of a Cabernet.
Sometimes we are asked
to get good at something we have
no talent for,
or we excel at something we will never
have the opportunity to prove.
Often we ask ourselves
to make absolute sense
out of what just happens,
and in this way, what we are practicing
which everybody practices,
but strangely few of us
grow graceful in.
The climaxes of suffering are complex,
costly, beautiful, but secret.
Bruce never played the light switch again.
So the avenues we walk down,
full of bodies wearing faces,
are full of hidden talent:
enough to make pianos moan,
streetlights deliriously flicker.
in my absence. About the sound
of things breathing that are supposed to be
silent. About the way I can almost catch
a chair filling with air, a wooden spoon
left near an open window, opening its small mouth.
Mouth the secret of these still things who
breathe in, out,
spoon the air from window ledges,
sound like tambourines or flames crackling.
Catch something breathing.
Be still. The clock advances like a
mouth speaking strict lines.
Catch the sound of tense lips that cannot open to
breathe (even the
sound of death can soothe. The chair. The
spoon.) Certain among us are beyond this fear, and simply
spoon air into invisible lungs.
Be still, and know that I am
sound. That you are
Catch the same breath leaving.
Catch god taking his air with a
spoon. What gods eat we cannot even
breathe, let alone
be. And still my
mouth waters, thinking of the
sound of spatulas, the
sound of saucepans when they
catch a ray of air, open a small
mouth to it,
spoon it in. When I enter, they will of course
be silent. But they will still
In my kitchen, it is the things who breathe. Though I cannot catch
them at it, I think I would like the sound. Just now, a spoon
shifted in a drawer. Trying to be quiet, opening its mouth.
You are not friends,
And friendship has passed.
And whole days are lost and among them
A fountain empties itself.
And sometimes it happens that you are loved and then
You are not loved,
And love is past.
And whole days are lost and among them
A fountain empties itself into the grass.
And sometimes you want to speak to her and then
You do not want to speak,
Then the opportunity has passed.
Your dreams flare up, they suddenly vanish.
And also it happens that there is nowhere to go and then
There is somewhere to go,
Then you have bypassed.
And the years flare up and are gone,
Quicker than a minute.
So you have nothing.
You wonder if these things matter and then
As soon you begin to wonder if these things matter
They cease to matter,
And caring is past.
And a fountain empties itself into the grass.
Is it already too late for me to embrace your literal, living and breathing
and to kiss that mouth which is the birthplace of that voice which is so dear
I've dreamed of you so much that my arms--which have become accustomed to
lying crossed upon my own chest after attempting to encircle your
shadow--might not be able to unfold again to embrace the contours of your
literal form, perhaps
So that coming face-to-face with the actual incarnation of what has haunted me
and ruled me and dominated my life for so many days and years
Might very well turn me into a shadow.
Oh equilibriums of the emotional scales!
I've dreamed of you so much that it might be too late for me to ever wake up
I sleep on my feet, body confronting all the usual phenomena of life and love
when it comes to you--you, the only being on the planet who matters to me
I can no more touch your face and lips than I can those of the next random
I've dreamed of you so much, have walked and talked and slept so much with
phantom presence that perhaps the only thing left for me to do now
Is to become a phantom among phantoms, a shadow a hundred times more shadowy
than that shifting shape which moves and which will go on moving,
stepping lightly and happily across the sundial of your life.