Those first words would disturb her.
More a fragrance than a sentence,
more a lisp, than a hiss. Just slip
into a farcical exoskeleton,
the mere costume of which—
the forked tongue tasting the air
beyond all human needs or noses—
suggests the smell of termite nests
amid the posies, a pose of earth,
as it rises out of its mold to breathe
the altered air, the spring breezes.
Why shouldn’t your every sentence start
with the formality of a birth?
Conjugate. Before they tear it apart.
Those first words would disturb her.
It was only day. It was Ulysses and it was not.
When Penelope bathes, she wades
into the wake of the wave he has left behind.
Her hands still shake remembering that his hands
had grasped nothing, nothing of her mind.
She’d said she must hide so as not to seem
to be bidding him goodbye. Transformation
would be her suitor now, not her guest.
He’d said, if she went swimming in the sea,
her mist would complete a marriage vow,
one made to him and to the approaching sun.
How bright the morning is.
How brisk the wind.
Penelope was on the beach
when the light flashed
and the earth cracked apart.
Ten thousand birds lifted her into the air.
Who or what was out there?
Was it the mist or Penelope’s whisper
he heard throughout the stars?
I will be a different person when
you return, my love.
I will still be your fate,
but I will know you only by your scars.
[i] The World as Mediation.
His style can be a farce, an insect instinct
to bite and bite hard—
as if you were a piece of chop meat—
Her style can be like a dog who wants off its chain
to wage war against diaphanous gowns,
torn silk shirts, a perfume, the rain—
anything with a license for renown.
Imagine, his grace found in an abscess of fear.
Imagine her plan to let all her children disappear
in darkness. How could they know that one is always
alone, that under the earth is a land
where love is lost or stolen every day,
and that their landscape had turned to sand?
A hunting at winter’s dawn,
an owl preforms
a surgery for one:
one muskrat, one squirrel.
Whatever. It prefers
to eat lemmings.
The frogs have all sunk
into the stiff mud,
innocent of such solitude.
This night’s too long
for them to sing through
—and they know it—
so deep is the water
that lies beneath them.
Why visions start when a hummingbird
sips nectar from an early spring flower;
why summer comes, and with it palisades of sorrow
and sickness, silences her children must reword
as thoughts of piety: hands folded round
a twig, as if it were a verb form for
something so real, the present
must be past and over, while the future
lies flat, ready to be reformed by a sacred tongue.
You get it? No one knows why the dogs bark,
only that they did. That freeze
the dog’s nose detects always lies ahead;
We live our lives in faint cages in bright houses;
a dog lives his with each sniff. Here, Bowser!
Despite ‘the casual avalanche
of books’ piled high against the door. Despite
‘a freeze in the nose’, a cold clarity of air
so bright it could make the woods into ‘a flame
alive rather than a frozen dead forest’.
Seems his every poem must resemble
a nightmare. Seems a certain dream that you
and I must be having together…
of ‘faint cages in bright houses’, is his poem.
We pause and stand, freeze and point. A tree,
there is something tangled in its branches.
A nest of clothes, an old wedding dress.
What conscious scoundrels.
They know he’ll have to climb the tree
and pull the dress down. They know
he won’t be able to think it’s something
the wind arranged. Winter pretending
to be an empty dress. Winter
hung high enough up in the tree
to resemble a ghost. One about to deliver
a string of pearls, from branch to branch.
Descending like a frost to earth as it clings
to the barren braches.
As if snow were the cat’s meow.
You step forward.
Like winter can’t be winter with the sun.
You curl towards the fire.
As we growl and whimper.
We’re tired. We retire.
Like two dogs going home.
Like two dogs at home.
The wind, a shudder from the wolf,
its suddenness, sharp as scissors, dumb
as blood. That which had sheltered her had turned
from clay into a papier-mâché fortress, from rock
to blasphemous ribbons. The wolf could be her throat—
history could be a romance better said
than silenced. She knew that.
She knew that the sunset is red or real only
if we can see it and speak to it.
But it was not her voice that saddled up
the horse, for today was a Christian holiday.
A slip of a girl was about to ride
her gallant stallion off the planet
into what could be the moon, but wasn’t.
Of a gasp. Not so much for her beauty,
as for her sojourn. Her temporality. Buttress
and mistress of the night. The Santa Lucia.
AKA St. Lucy, painted a thousand years ago
by an unknown master who never met
his subject. St. Lucy as frozen pigment.
Or so she seems. We find it hard
to imagine her mouth inside another’s mouth,
her love lost in another’s house.
For what would she think of us now
in our conflation of virginity with the light
in her distant yet knowing eyes?
An organ starts to play. Tonight is St. Lucy’s
festival. The wind blows her hair.
The stars burn tonight as candles.
We begin to tremble, as if
unconvinced by her portrait, as she
begins to move back into her unpainted flesh.
Surely we are right to resist another possession,
one we can’t quite believe in: a light ahead,
the tunnel’s end, all souls, no rest.
It is only a dream of the grass blowing
East against the source of the sun…
It’s always east with you, isn’t it? Hand-made,
manmade, meticulous meadows—marshes
all laid-out so the mind can heed them—
A picture of health—east!—perfect for tuition,
even though intuition knows this at once.
Let imaginary light light the body.
Let it lift and heave the meadow up,
a mountain made by minds, all ours.
This morning geese were large upon the grass.
A russet-red rise, like you, my friend—
but they flew off, east into your eyes.
Yesterday, we found food by scratching where
the vines were. Big white sweet potatoes.
Today we explore the salt hay marsh. Why it glows.