The Remedy Ahead of the Pain

 

Somebody's always standing in a doorway,

smoking. Somebody's always throwing a cat

into the forest, expecting to hear laughter.

Somebody does not see it clearly yet

 

but the river is rising. The levy, swollen,

fat like a thigh, will yield. There will be water,

making no shape, obliterating all shapes, a mouth

sounding all sounds. Even the sky will be

 

water. I made my bed, I don't lie

in it anymore. The long holy arrival of water

announcing itself as damp, not thunder--

In penance, I peel bark from the branch:

 

the wound glistens. I am ready, I say,

I am ready to be temporarily useful.

 

 
 

 

Woman Walking Across a Bridge

(An imagined painting by a famous artist)

 

I.

There

she is.

 

II.

The hot sun, nothing

more than

something

that makes a shape.

 

III.

The woman, too,

reflects light

going forever

across a bridge.

 

IV.

She is leaving,

has already

gone, her hands

are empty.

 

V.

The bridge holds her

up: above gravity

she will become

color, the color

of legs walking.

 

VI.

This is how

light enters dark:

as desire.

 

VII.

She is forever

arriving in the light

of her body.

 

Coal Season

 

Every year, around October

he came—the man who brought coals

to our street, he shoveled them

from the back of his truck

into heaps before the doors.

Payment was always in cash

and beforehand; we knew

who had money and warmth

that year by the size of their coal stack.

The same people who’d wait

until noon to bring their coal

inside, downstairs, into the cellar,

next to the potatoes—another staple

that would have to last—they had time

to outwait our desire for theft,

to taunt our wanting.  What did it matter

if a few pieces went missing

from the pile, there was so much

and winter would be so long

and so white—

 

 
   

Seven Lovers

 

My first lover lives

on the street.  He wears

a white shirt and a silk scarf.

He eats trout with his violin bow.

 

My second lover opens

the window to let April

in:  noisy larks ascend—

how beautiful he must be.

 

My third lover is covered

in diamonds up to his shoulders.

He gifts me dawn

just as he pleases.

 

My fourth lover limps.

I turned as we left

the punished city: my glance

grazed his leg.

 

My fifth lover fell

into my glass while we kissed—

his watch ticks in my lap, ticks

because time is about to disappear.

 

My sixth lover is like the seventh:

weeping because they are doubled,

a child with two heads.  I kiss

his chest and look the other way.

 

 

Credo

 

I.

 

I believe in blood

sacrifice

as does Anna,

the woman

who

on January 12th, 1996

climbs through a glass

window, unto a ledge

overlooking the city

            of Modesto, CA

where

she hesitates a bit

before inching away

from the wall, clutching

a handwritten cardboard sign I believe

in blood sacrifice.

 

II.

 

Her death is no great import

to the nation or to me, personally,

but there she is--falling, rushing

towards death, her whole existence

dragging

behind her (smoke

contrails) . . . I gather

her within me

as if in the ground.  Stay, I say,

stay, drink, pray.

 

III.

 

My hand, bent arthritic but adorned

with the finest finery

hovers over the bill

allowing for mercy—then the quill

touches down.  Anna, how close

you are!

 

IV.

 

The future has arrived

for Anna: her death

predicted by light pulses

accelerated to 300 times

their normal velocity

of 186,000 miles per second.

 

V.

 

The crows and starlings

that live in 1996

are still alive today.

Minus a few

[degrees of freedom].

 

VI.

 

Strange, to hear the news

of my death.

But even so—

I blush and burn

fragrant oils,

bathe in yesterday’s

hyacinth and remain

a wide-hipped woman

believing in

the letting of blood.

 

 
 

 

Estimated Departures

 

I’m sitting in an airport

(in Dallas)

(in Memphis) (in Chicago)

(any airport will do)

and wait

for the usual planes

to come and leave. 

They are not

on time.

 

There is nothing

at all

birdlike about airplanes,

nothing phallus-like,

for what penis

is as hard

and unyielding

as the body

 

of a 747.

No, a plane

resembles nothing

but a plane, straining

against gravity—

built ca. 1976

the captain says,

best thing in the sky,

two million dollar

 

engines—we’re grounded

because of weather, snow

accumulates on metal.

There are no shadows

here to break

the perfection

of the line, the true

function of the thing.

Not broken

 

but useless

like the face

of a women

so deformed I pointed

her out to you

because I couldn’t bear

the sight alone.

We have settled

into chairs and corners,

 

deployed our possessions

around our feet

and are waiting.

Snow is falling,

the promise

of distance

is kept.

 

The Road is Stories, is Dreams

It is not revolutionary to say that there is a sexual component to car crashes.
                               
J. G. Ballard

I always end up in places like this,

like this, meaning: smoking, furiously

angry at no one in particular--well,

maybe at that all-too-happy-happy

couple and her dangly earrings shooting

moonrays into my eyes.   I hit the deer

with complete geometrical precision,

at a 90 degree angle, at the prescribed speed

of 70 miles per hour, at dusk. The thing skidded

up my hood, towards the window, and I saw

its eyes, well--eye, really--as its neck twisted

into a difficult position, a dancer's pose,

almost, and then slumped forward

past the wipers, past the mirror

and into the ditch.  The girl lolitas

the straw, the phallic  stand-in,

with all the enthusiasm of a new lover,

coke ripples down her throat,

her red nails draw circles, circles

on the sweating glass.  I light

another cigarette.  I am in love

with that girl.  She leaves

with that guy, leaves the glass,

a small tip, and me

sitting under a buzzing neon sign.

 

 
 

 

 

State Of Emergency

 

We are experiencing a serious word shortage,

please don't needlessly use words

to flit across the country

in a red convertible

with the top down, no less.

Avoid word usage during peak hours

when nobody's listening anyway

[that goes for poets too]

and remember to recycle and reuse

this woman or that

orange when you come back

through this sentence.

Even a small effort

would be appreciated, a small gesture

of faith: hold out your hand,

carry a few words

to safety.   Tuck a few

in the back of your throat.

Don't cough.

 

 

Clouds Come Down

 

       He is one who wears my hair.

                --Paul Celan

 

I want to be buried

at dusk near a large body

of water, just as night slips

into morning: engines start, lights

 

flicker off--just as

a man climbs out of bed,

bumping his toe on the frame

or reaching for his wife

 

because she was there

yesterday.  I want the water

to carry my skin and blood

and atoms and quarks and gluons.

 

I want my eyelashes blink away

snow in Katmandu and have Bombay Rum

seep through my kidneys

in Montevideo.

 

I want my eye to fracture

the images of the shore

and the horizon.  I will signal

with sand and light

 

blue water that it's time

for you to go home,

to kiss your absent wife,

to forget the tide.

 

 

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