Sunday, April 19, 2009
this poem is not for the desperate/the pathetic/the lame/the loser/not for the one who hasn’t gotten laid in awhile/not for the one who says they’re “choosing not to date” for awhile/there is no such thing/this poem is for the people who cannot bring themselves to admit that they would give their right leg for any length of time with the person on their mind.
forgive me/I am not a brave woman/I do not know what lurks in the hearts of humans and I don’t really want to know/if what’s there mirrors memories I show in my face on bad days it holds kisses that are long gone/people who have disappeared/and passions that have faded into the ether of the past/nothing lasts/that is the one lesson this coward can say she is able to teach.
this poem is for all those who wish to say “I’m sorry”/I’m sorry I couldn’t love you/you deserve love/I’m sorry I couldn’t give something to you/you deserve to be given to/I’m sorry that for every person that loves somebody/another person just doesn’t want to/and sometimes we’re the lucky ones/right/we get to feel sweet truth in the night/the bodies we reach out to are miraculously there/but I know the despair that comes when they are not/I know the long nights and the doubt and the fear and that crawling back to a womb that just isn’t there/I know intensity’s address and the letdown that rents there/I’m sorry for it/it takes years off your life and it cannot be avoided.
and some times these little words are crutches for the crush that we feel/so this poem is a pathetic vehicle for me to tell you/each one of you/that I love you/in so many ways/in the same ways that stay up nights and days/dreaming up the perfect way to be there for someone/meals you would cook for them/poems you would write for them and the things you plan to say when they say no/well I love you/and you will never know how in the slight of a magician’s hand we could’ve been lovers and grandly in love/could’ve changed the whole game/written words on the horizon/changed the compromise/but you will know something else instead/bitter as bitter ever gets/more bitter than a rotten peach pit/more bitter than a child’s most terrifying nightmare at night/you will know that I don’t reflect what I see in your eyes/will will share some banal recognition/some cordial understanding but have I mentioned that I love you for not lying/so many people lying all the time/I hate them/so I love you/and you will still go home alone/and that is very hard to do.
for all the humans with love for those who aren’t their lovers/I love you.
and so the poem ends because we know that it will/but before it slips away like everything else/I will attempt the only words I can think of that are a fraction as good as a kiss: when you reach out at night and find not someone/but the cold grey light of day that wakes you up like a slap/like a curse/like an insult/I love you/when you stay at home thinking of those who are long gone or those who are getting kisses from someone that is not you/I love you/for those who want what they probably need and whose bodies are starving not for food/for me and for you and for all the people who never knew or understood what you would do for them/I love you/I love you/I love you.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
She is alone.
She is in that crazed eye.
She imagines the neighborhood friends.
Most the poets I know are fat girls on roller skates.
Few of them are in love,
but many know how to sing
the notes of the uncaptured orchestra.
I think the composer Randy Newman is like that.
I don’t think he loves L.A.
I don’t think he loves.
I don’t think I really have a friend in him.
The friends I know
who are in love
are doing something.
Love is busy magic.
Love must be magic
‘cause when my friends fall in it
I drove with a woman
across the mosquito creeks of Arkansas
to figure out why that was.
Looking at each other like surgeons,
daring the other to go first
I finally asked how long
she thought it would last.
She said she it didn’t matter how long,
it just mattered that it was.
I changed the subject,
told her about the lone roller skater.
I asked if she thought she had ever been kissed.
She didn’t think so.
We held still, then
a sky flush with moon
opened up like a ballroom
and her kiss broke the spine of the night
paralyzing the moment
into our skulls,
are love stories. all making, love making.
I didn't make this rule. but it binds me
all the same. I wish there were a law
against condescending against love. against
the economy of fear that says your joy
means less joy for me as if love
were pie, or money, or fossil fuel
dug or pumped from the earth, gone
when it's gone. it's just not true. the heart
with its gift for magnificent expansion
is not coal. not fruit set to spoil or the dollar
cringing in its wallet. when you say darling,
the world lights up at its edges. when mouths
find mouths and minds follow or minds find
minds and mouths, hands, hips, toes, follow –
how about you call that sacred. how about you raise
your veined right hand and swear on the blood
that branches there, yes. I take this crush
to be my lawful infatuation. I will bend toward joy
until the bending's its own pleasure. I will memorize
photographs and street maps, I will acquiesce
to the maudlin urgency of pop songs and dance,
and dance – there's a perfection only the impossible kiss
possesses. there are notes you can only hear naked
in the dark of a room to which you will never
return. anything that moves the world toward light
is a blessing. why not take it with both hands,
lift it to your lips like a broth of stars. this
is the substance that holds our little atoms together
into bodies. this sweet paste of longing
is all that binds us to the earth.
and all we know of the gods.
are small and even. I don't get headaches.
Since 1971 or before, I have hunted a bench
where I could eat my pimento cheese in peace.
If this were
I'd meet you in
have a big time. Danger, shoulder soft.
Do not lie or lean on me. I'm still trying to find a job
for which a simple machine isn't better suited.
I've seen people die of money. Look at Admiral Benbow. I wish
like certain fishes, we came equipped with light organs.
Which reminds me of a little known fact:
if we were going the speed of light, this dome
would be shrinking while we were gaining weight.
Isn't the road crooked and steep.
In this humidity, I make repairs by night. I'm not one
among millions who saw
in the moon. I go blank looking at that face.
If I could afford it I'd live in hotels. I won awards
in spelling and the Australian crawl. Long long ago.
Grandmother married a man named Ivan. The men called him
Eve. Stranger, to tell the truth, in dog years I am up there.
Monday, April 6, 2009
is of that day we washed each other's hair,
standing in the waterfall
of the shower, that moment sweet
succulent as fruit, complete as
a circle, the prowl of knowledge beneath
it bitter and delicate as the powder
on a butterfly wing, powerful
as a secret.
We kissed and drew in water.
Do you remember what I had
said to you, a year before? How could
I not love you? How could I
not? We had just met. You had
a birthmark the shape of Africa
on your chest; my heart had a
void in its vocabulary just the size
of your name. Love is so small. It
could fit into the hole in a bead, the eye
of a needle, and still not seal it.
It's this world that is so huge.
Now our lives feel reduced
I count the days it will be before
I can see you, you count
the days it's been since I left.
This is a city of rain.
And chaos – I smile to myself,
navigating its corridor-like
streets filled with schoolchildren
hitching yellow autorickshaws, drizzle
flecking their eyelashes, the morning
still not arrived in their eyes.
I lick moisture from my lips
and am sure
I taste salt, a kiss of tears.
Pain only appears in
the presence of love. This much
I can say I have learnt
by heart. Here in this place of
chaos so profound it silences
I wrap my secrets in skin and
hug them close,
imagine drawing out parabolas
of steel and silk from the centre
of my palm to the
centre of yours, like bridges,
as the webbing
on a bat's wing,
and wait for you to reach
across the distance and pick
the pieces up, so precise
I could almost taste those
slippery as our love. Almost
forget how imprecise to desire bringing
shape to a love like water –
profound, perfect, universal.
Nothing else will save us now.
but not so witty. In the movie version of your version
of heaven you fight God to come back to me.
It is a box office hit because you are an unbelievable character.
Nothing is real except the well-timed traffic accident
which costs 226 thousand dollars.
In real life, I am on a small bridge over a small creek.
Then it isn't a bridge but a stadium. Then a low table.
A sense of knowing the future.
There is no clear location of fear.
I want you to say you will abandon your dissertation.
I want you to ask the man in the green scrubs if I was pregnant.
Put on the preservers! they announce. They are under your seats!
Time to tell your wife a few last things. People are puking
in the rows around us. The jacket's sweaty and too big.
We are, in this version, an image of hope.
The broadcasters are just now sniffing us out.
I am pregnant but don't know it and can't know
the fetus would have been, in any event, not viable.
No one survives. No one comes down with cancer.
The fade-out leaves a black screen over the sound of water.
The review says it is a film noir. The letter to the editor
says the reviewer should go back to college. The reviewer
is in graduate school writing a thesis about movies
that were never made. If they are made he will not get tenure.
If we die he has a small chance at success. A young woman
writes in: it should, more properly, have been called an embryo.
it's a moment made for us
I think of it as I think of you
though I can't see or touch or
breathe you right now
and sometimes when you hold me
I forget that there was ever a time
that I wanted to end my life
and sometimes when you kiss me
I could collapse from vulnerability
the universe reeling
as you change everything
long midnights, brief afternoons
I know these moments were made for us
I'll treasure them as I treasure you
knowing that my world is so strong
but that I have made him cry
and sometimes when I'm shaking
you try to hold me still
making it better in any way you can
and sometimes when I'm far away
you seem to be the only real thing
with everything else the dream
glowing blue stars above the open sunroof
we don't have to imagine this moment
it was made for us as I was made for you
I'll erase all your shadows
be your hero, be your girl, be the one
and sometimes in a crowd
(this moment was made for us)
you look steadily only at me
(these moments were made for us)
and sometimes in that gaze
(these moments are just ours)
I see everything, all the moments
(the moments that are for you and me)
I called my house from a pay phone
down the street before I went home.
I needed to check on the empty situation.
It was daylight,
My shadow looked large and unschooled.
The sidewalk was yellow in the sun.
I was thinking that I wasn’t anyone
and that my future would be a trajectory
leading further away.
The lilacs were out. They looked like a detail
from a bucolic story or tableau
where people are naked, eating picnics,
grapes, kissing, and drinking wine
while playing musical instruments. It seems made-up,
but it’s not. It must be based on a world
something like the one that’s here while I’m walking.
Many houses are abutted by hedges.
I don’t like this, but I wouldn’t take them away.
The hedges are often surrounded by beds of wood chips.
The sight of them is a silent story about the dead.
I was filled with yearning
to sit against the side of a house
between two hedges.
I don’t know how to pray but I would try.
I felt somber and excited, about to go into my house.
They’re very dressed up.
I can see them from my bedroom window.
My house is quiet,
as though it isn’t mine
but was given to me
by something other than myself.
The dressed up people cross the street
and walk under the lilac trees.
They look very nice and awful. The young woman
wears a peach dress with cream-colored heels.
She’s with a young man wearing a dark blue suit
and a turquoise shirt. How unfortunate
that they have to go out in daylight
and see themselves
out among trees, streets, and open sounds.
Walking through my house, I love the doors
best. Waking up the other day, I went downstairs
and banged my face into the door frame
of a closet. It hurt. It was only an accident,
but I ended up in tears.
Now with this bump on my forehead,
I wash the dishes, clean the bathroom, vacuum.
Over the course of several days
I feel satisfied that my apologies have run themselves out.
I don’t know when it’s time to stop
but eventually I do, and I do other things.
one more friend
waking with a tumor, one more maniac
with a perfect reason, often a sweetness
and changed nothing in the world
except the way I stumbled through it,
for a while lost
in the ignorance of loving
someone or something, the world shrunk
hand-size, and never seeming small.
I acknowledge there is no sweetness
that doesn't leave a stain,
no sweetness that's ever sufficiently sweet...
Tonight a friend called to say his lover
was killed in a car
he was driving. His voice was low
and guttural, he repeated what he needed
to repeat, and I repeated
the one or two words we have for such grief
until we were speaking only in tones.
Often a sweetness comes
as if on loan, stays just long enough
to make sense of what it means to be alive,
then returns to its dark
source. As for me, I don't care
where it's been, or what bitter road
to come so far, to taste so good.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
when someone you'd hurt wore sunglasses
in an airport at night
and told the woman at the counter
that everything was fine. Fine.
We are populated by each other
and this is a disease of animals.
Whose means include syllables. Jean Cocteau
would have loved this evening,
it's 1930 in Paris somewhere—this is a disease
we airplanes have, chasing bells
hooked into the ribs of the wind-licked causeway.
This is the shirt you wore, right?
which burned in water
like a map soaped in gasoline
calling to matches. These are the sunglasses
upon which such scars of streetlights.
We are each alone. You play a fiddle or a violin,
you make the garrote wire bend resonant
and pretty over a box of shadow.
You get the hot fries from the vending machine
like it's nothing. There is a mouth
on either side of you
but only one leopards your neck.
Take / your make-up / off.
We are in this together. Kind of.
This is a city where you lived.
A girl sits cross-legged with her guitar
beside the last window you will have to yourself,
all is well, all is well then the calm snaps.
A boulder sighs down the stairs.
None of the lights are right
but someone mercurial turns a grin out of the ruckus
and it is enough. Before before
you let your foot push hard against the floor,
the silver-slivered night shivering above you
so you nearly thought it would be beautiful enough
to be enough. This is not hell, the night
laced with neon, neon another version of blood,
this is not the same shirt.
If I started saying Sorry or I love you now
I would never stop.
To ponder how much happier you’d be today
Had you been able to glimpse your many futures.
It must be painful for him to watch you on Friday evenings
Driving home from the office, content with your week—
Three fine houses sold to deserving families—
Knowing as he does exactly what would have happened
Had you gone to your second choice for college,
Knowing the roommate you’d have been allotted
Whose ardent opinions on painting and music
Would have kindled in you a lifelong passion.
A life thirty points above the life you’re living
On any scale of satisfaction. And every point
A thorn in the side of the god who loves you.
You don’t want that, a large-souled man like you
Who tries to withhold from your wife the day’s disappointments
So she can save her empathy for the children.
And would you want this god to compare your wife
With the woman you were destined to meet on the other campus?
It hurts you to think of him ranking the conversation
You’d have enjoyed over there higher in insight
Than the conversation you’re used to.
And think how this loving god would feel
Knowing that the man next in line for your wife
Would have pleased her more than you ever will
Even on your best days, when you really try.
Can you sleep at night believing a god like that
Is pacing his cloudy bedroom, harassed by alternatives
You’re spared by ignorance? The difference between what is
And what could have been will remain alive for him
Even after you cease existing, after you catch a chill
Running out in the snow for the morning paper,
Losing eleven years that the god who loves you
Will feel compelled to imagine scene by scene
Unless you come to the rescue by imagining him
No wiser than you are, no god at all, only a friend
No closer than the actual friend you made at college,
The one you haven’t written in months. Sit down tonight
And write him about the life you can talk about
With a claim to authority, the life you’ve witnessed,
Which for all you know is the life you’ve chosen.
Locate someone other than yourself.
Make sure they have lips.
Find out if the person you've located is agreeable to kissing.
You can do this any way you want, except for asking.
Make sure you have your lips with you.
Nothing is more embarrassing than moving to kiss someone
and realizing you've left your lips at home or in the car.
Unless you happen to be in the car,
where you can slyly move to adjust the radio,
slapping on your lips during the confusion.
Tell the person their eyes make you want to do gymnastics,
or at least be present where gymnastics are being done.
Touch the hand.
Not your own hand.
Lean your head forward at a slight angle (such as fifteen degrees)
so your foreheads will connect first
as if you're attempting a Vulcan mind meld.
If your minds actually begin to meld MILK IT.
Slowly re-angle your head so your lips become parallel with his or hers.
Practice this ahead of time using a protractor.
Allow your lips to make contact with the other lips
BUT DON'T MOVE THEM.
Remain completely still for twenty-eight minutes
or until you hear an electronic beeping
indicating it is time to move to step nine.
This time may vary depending on political climate
and lip gloss.
Repeat steps five through eight.
Clear your head
so the only thing you can focus on
is a PBS special on the clitoris.
Begin moving your lips in a slow up and down fashion,
varying with left and right motions every fifteen seconds.
Force your tongue through your subject's lips and teeth.
Fight past their tongue.
Charge forward until you reach the uvula.
Kissing is just an intimate game of Capture the Uvula.
Abandon all tenderness
with reckless nibbling
of anything fleshy you encounter.
You are now kissing.
Imagine life as a Frenchman.
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains' enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.
these guys are: I’m bored.
It’s been raining like hell all day long
and there’s nothing to do.