Here is the bed they said
to lie in— until,
eventually, you realize
there is a window
or a door, corridors
that isn’t here. Water
or wine? Stay
or leave? Wing or sea
might show the way.
and in the yard, no evidence but dumb mud,
the lid off a daffodil. Someone said bees;
did Hannah see bees? Hannah did. No lion oil.
Improbable versus impossible? That old riddle,
disguised as metaphysic. We sew, we sew—
that is our nature. Did I cite operas are
poetic? I did. We piece the parts together,
cobble a makeshift quilt from things that lie
side by side. It’s hot. I want to sit very still,
but there is no cool overhang of rock, no little
oasis even in this pebbled garden. And sex at noon
taxes. O stone, be not so. We saw the red root
put up to order. When did the moon last rise?
Seven eves ago? I might kiss you again,
when no one’s looking; but you must promise
not to ask too much, you must promise
not to ask me difficult questions with no
answer, like Do geese see God?
(A mostly found poem of palindromes.)
Ablaze with prophecy, flames fed with oil or
petrol: pages devoted to fevered visions
of the end of days that I read with a flashlight,
covertly, after bedtime. How was I to tell
a beast from an angel, a beast from a man?
Lamps and temples, the sky’s invisible seal
yawning open; the terrible thunder of hooves.
Pity and penance too late— And sleep?
Sleep could be the shadow riding shotgun,
emissary of that fourth dark rider.
“…who caught and sang the sun in flight” ~ Dylan Thomas
Redundant rain, then mist, then fog—
and finally I want to pour out what I have left:
grief’s worn beads in my pockets, their weight, their
exaggerated rattle when I walk; their bloat, their
abacus of stain, regret, omission— Hear me say
goodbye, adios, dasvidaniya as the escalator
ascends into the dark nave of the station,
into the transit corridors that let out where
neon signs indifferently flash the name of this stop.
Suffering, said the old masters, painting the horse
tethered to the tree— Suffering is the itch
that stings more exquisitely than the mayfly’s sting,
high on the hind leg of the animal where he cannot reach.
Every time I hear someone use the word “journey,” I
don’t quite know, therefore, whether to laugh or cry—
You and I, so solitary, and yet so similar in our yearning:
it’s unseemly though, you must agree, when this word
names all struggles equal. I shift to one side,
gravity the motor beneath that pulls everything back,
origins married to the same gravitas
from which I want so dearly to lift,
to buoy, inhabit some tenable version of
harbor, hospice, heaven. Is this foolishness?
Evening falls. The air, cooled by rain,
lends columns on the avenue a soft,
intuitive aspect, as if they knew
grief’s coin, surrendered at the stile, eventually
hollows in the large, anonymous collection—
The ticket is returned; the traveler may pass.
Among the ginger lilies and hibiscus,
rough pebbles and patches of grass—
But some kinds of food we could grow:
chayote hanging from curly vines
wound through a makeshift trellis,
clumps of mint that we could tear
and scatter over strips of sizzled
meat; mottled loquat and avocado,
fronds of salad fern. And water—
rationed three times a week: miserly
trickle to try the patience,
going through the rusted pipes.
We filled rows of old juice bottles,
plastic pails; but when it rained,
we gathered at least two extra drums.
Living was clumsy like this, in more
ways than one— mornings and nights,
the cold coming through thin walls
and windows, staunched by musty
piles of woven blankets. The way we
held our breath for as long as we could,
just to watch thin ribbons of vapor
uncoiling like snails as they left
the warm house of our mouths.
“Santa Clarang pinong-pino / Ako po ay bigyan mo / Ng asawang labintatlo / Sa gastos ‘di magreklamo!”
(“Saint Clare, most refined / Upon me please bestow / Spouses thirteen in all / As for the expense, I won’t complain!”)
~ traditional lyric sung in fertility rituals; Obando, Bulacan
The shiver in the skin
of fire tree leaves
The smallest tear
in the egg’s membrane
Hot skies in May
blue enough to drop
Cartwheels in the wombs
of skirted saints
“Tell me, what shall we do with this hour of abundance?” ~ Deryn Rees-Jones
From between the window
and its screens, I lift whole
insect bodies swathed in webs
like spun cotton: funerary
vestments, or the finished
playbill after dress
rehearsal— Dinner first,
then that other hunger,
sex. Who served, who
waited for the visitor
to dally? In that space—
entry and egress—
filaments are threshed
the same as time.
Here are jewels it has left
behind: blue vein of tattered
wing, dark prismed eye.
“C’est payé, balayé, oublié…
(It’s paid for, removed, forgotten…)”
~ Je Ne Regrette Rien
On Sunday, the seventh anniversary of his death, she will walk to the Delaware river, light candles, set a little cup of flowers adrift.
Wasn’t this where they dredged for his body, brought it ashore, pockets empty of identification, cleaned-out car found a week later, many parking lots away?
When I first spoke to her on the phone some years after not knowing where she had gone, I heard Gounod playing in the background.
Rain or sleet rattled on the windows; water knocked discordant symphonies against the ancient plumbing.
The years have brought no balm for me, she says; all work is sublimated grief.
I get postcards from her whenever she travels, which is often; a blanket woven from yak hair in Tibet, where she has gone to start a school for women; inks and polished bone.
Jars of grey-tinted salt from France, sun-dried tomatoes from Italy, a tooled leather folder from a workshop in the city where Dante was born.
Just this morning I was explaining allegory to my daughter: the meaning of the wood, the threshold of the crater lake, the circles upon circles of souls; the way station, the bus stop, the climb out again in search of heaven and the muse…
But always, at this time of year, my friend who has been abroad so much circles back, returns.
There is nothing I really want now for myself from this world, she writes on hotel stationery in Amsterdam, or New York, or overlooking a marbled plaza where pigeons descend to fight for bread that tourists have thrown.
Sometimes I wish to just quietly go away.
In my mind, I listen for the plink of coins in the fountains’ shallow basins: their bronze arc in the air, their weight in impossible wishes softened by a film of green moss covering the stones.
“They were being taught to thank the sun for their lives and the warmth that it brought, the life that it brought to the earth and they were told to do that right before they did their sun salutation exercises…” ~ complaining parent quoted in 09 January 2013 NPR news article “Promoting Hinduism? Parents Demand Removal Of School Yoga Class”
And why should we not thank the sun
for life and warmth it lavishes on all
regardless of caste or class; why not
thank the mountains that sustain and are
far older than the buildings and townhouses
lining the avenues, older than the giant
letters that have spelled Hollywood
in bright white only since 1923, older
than Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
and its forecourt bearing the handprints,
footprints, and signatures of movie stars?
And why should we not give thanks
for the heart expanding, the lungs filling
with our common lien of breath, the ribcage
hinging open as the body is reminded
how it feels to press its length along the ground
then rises like a cobra, like a tree, like an eagle
balancing upon a rock? And what is prayer
but a way to teach— in any tongue, by any
means— the kind of quiet that extends
farther than comprehension; and what
is wonder but what might link us once again
to vastness, leaf outward as gratitude, no matter
circumstance or clime? Just ask the oldest
giant sequoia— so old it must have started
growing in the iron age, rooted first
as seed before reaching for the sun.
I had a friend
who often said
in the cold
and windy city;
or the sounds
made by his own
to the thin
voices of all
kinds of rain,
their naked words,