DEDICATIONS, PLEDGES, COMMITMENTS. For the past. For my own path. For surprises. For mistakes that worked so well. For tomorrow if I'm there. For the next real thing. Then for carrying it all through whatever is necessary. For following the little god who speaks only to me. --William Stafford

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Unfinished Business


The universe lies snugly tucked
inside my head.
Only my private time scale
has been altered, somewhat--
I await the final leap of the tiger.
Under the old paint of all biological
possibilities, morning and noontime

have come and gone into the dark void
around the roots that hold shape and size
and color in focus.
The House that Jack Built
becomes a hall of mirrors, a maze
of horrors. Nightmare Alley,
the beginning of learning

is not spectacular
the way sex is spectacular, for instance,
the way the Fourth-of-July is spectacular.
Still, I dance to this dispassionate drummer.
Restless sticks rap out messages
that define the fall of sparrows,
the toil of lilies,
and all degrees of human contact
from sleep to deepest coma,
to death itself.
And still I have not finished
with the Judas drums,
the death-rattle of breath,
with the random motion of stars
or gulls wings beating on waves.


photo: ozproductions
.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Pentecostals, 1948


Week after week
they climbed their six splintered
pentecostal stairs to dance
like wonderful trained
bears, climbing, falling,
singing, their hands that ordinarily
held books or washed babies
or sometimes counted out money
to pay the milkman,
clapping,

clapping joy
as if they held tambourines,
laughing, their eyes lit
with some inner glory like a fire:

Oh holy, holy, they sang
and tossed their heads to a strong
upbeat rhythm. Oh brother, oh sister,
Oh holy, their housekeys jangling
in their pockets, their coins jingling
as the plate was passed.

What would I have dropped
that summer night--absolved--into their plate
as they danced, howling their songs
holy, and more holy, like a circus troupe,
but my ignorance, an offering of
my two dazed eyes,
my pious, stunned tongue,
my baseball,
my cap pistol and a red roll of caps,
a white Life Saver, and
four glass black marbles still warm
from my hand?

Outside
under the glass-black sky and looking in
at their window, it was awesome,
and I wished I knew the words.

This is a Poem that Breathes


Of being alive, of luminous eyes
Of girls and boys, quick threads of blood,
Bodies of lovers moving
With a surfeit of fevers
Or holding their desperate aloneness
Like violets in a bowl.

This is a poem then
For wild beasts lying together,
For trees, for the laughter
Of my sons, for their gradually
Lengthening shadows flying
In new suits, new shoes,
For their quicksilver bodies and
Their breath like snow.

This is a poem of living
By leaps or dying by degrees.
Of rotting under the sun or lifting
Instead into a pulsation of light
Without quarrels borders checkpoints
Generals gunpowder causes flags
Or blood in the streets, a poem
Of morning devouring hunger and the end
Of the slaughter of innocents.

Only children dancing,
Lovers inexhaustibly fused,
Multitudes hallowed as doves.


OCTOPUS

Your see-through faces have
run together like watercolor
on oatmeal pages
all my lovers buried alive

I never said goodbye
never knew how
I stored you up instead
in this cluttered attic

inside my head, in a
brown box rough with dust
and tied with barbed wire
for ribbons

one bound creature
of several shadowed hearts
and many limbs
all your vanished words

your brown eyes or blue eyes
all of you locked
together
like a bunch

of mad or hunchbacked uncles
hidden away
who grind their teeth
in my sleep


I have been to the Mountain. And while all knowledge gained might not be of equal value, the things I learned this week are golden. Plus, it was fun! We are exhausted, from attending classes from 8:30 am until 9:30 pm for the last five days (which meant getting up at 6 and not getting home until 11, but it was worth it! Twenty-two thousand people attended 1,100 different classes offered at BYU's Education Week. The campus was beautiful, all the flowers were in bloom, the mountains were gorgeous, and the weather was nice. The teachers were fantastic and inspired, letting us hunt and peck around their brains and talents and souls in stuff like Music and the Arts, Films, Writing, Communication Skills, Dance (I don't dance. This is the main reason my husband married me. At least this is what he says), History, Government, Law, and Human Relations. (I took several excellent classes on Middle Eastern Perspectives, Islam, etc.--loved them all!) They had classes on Finance (Boring!) and Literature, and Psychology, and Religion (of course, this being BYU!). I had eight classes a day for five wonderful days! Can't wait for next year....

Anyway. Since I was away I thought I would share another poem for Poetry Thursday, one of mine (not that Walt Whitman's did not fill the bill--hmmmm. What, exactly does that mean:fill the bill?) So here's my POETRY THURSDAY, --Time--pt. 2

MANZANAR REVISITED

Mid-life I discover
the girl is gone-- the house
she lived in
inhabited by strangers.
Is this the crisis
I was led to expect
would unbury itself
from my mother's flesh
and spread like an infection
in an untended orchard?

My father took fruit
from wild trees, cut out the worms,
sugared the remains in honey.
The knobby red pieces drowned
in his sticky bowl like candy.

I used to think those wild pears
and apples bitter, the shriveled
orchard overgrown. This was a place
where men were kept
like yellow dogs in pens.
Like all things
it was transient. The black-haired
bastard boys who stood
at the wire fences,
the slant-eyed women who cried,
unable to embrace this insanity
are faceless and formless now
as the shadows of those skinny trees
they left behind.

The truth is
old orchards must be burnt
with all their worms, and
new trees planted. The strangers
who plant, mid-life,
luckily may find a girl in the ashes,
raise her. At least
she may have her share.
The sleeves of fire
may make her beautiful again.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Ballad for Emily *


When Death comes by my door
And smiles at me within
I'll gather up my Dancing Shoes
And Waltz away with Him --

My feet, tho' never touching Earth
Will Waltz up wind and down,
And I will wear my Wrapping Shroud
As a Wedding Gown.

When Death comes by my door
And brings me to His bed
I'll ask of God no other
Dark Lover in His stead --

But hold Him close, and seal his lips
With bold kisses Forever --
Nor moon nor stars shall skake us
While we abide Together.

When Death comes by my door
And smiles at me within
I'll gather up my Dancing Shoes
And Waltz away with Him.


( ala Emily Dickinson )

painting: Death and the Maiden, by Louis Kahan

Old Man, Get Your Hand Off My Knee


Old Man,
your time is up.
Get your greedy hand off my knee.

I'm not yours
yet.

Woo me
with heroic tales of
your victories,
show me your etchings,
tell me how delicate
are my ankles--
how delicious
my lips and fingertips.

Tell me again
what a friend you are
and how desperately
you want me.

I believe you. I do.

Someday
you will make our bed
and I
will lie in it.

Someday
when other embraces
have all grown cold,
perhaps I will even welcome
your impassioned touch.

Someday, Old Man.

Not yet.


(This, of course, is not about a dirty old man in any literal sense. This Old Man, metaphorically speaking, is death. The poem was written in celebration of passing
intact the five-year point in a battle with cancer.)

A LULLABY FOR BLUE EYES


In "The Mother," Gwendolyn Brooks writes honestly about the pain and anguish of abortion: "Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you all." Lucille Clifton wrote her own "Lost Baby Poem: ...the time I dropped your almost body down to meet the waters under the city and run with the sewage to the sea ... you would have been born into winter in the year of the disconnected gas and no car...." My own "lost baby" poem was written years after the event, but the emotion that inspired it was as fresh as it had been eleven years before I found the words.


Forgive me.
I never knew you,
(male or female?),
never heard your choked cries
there in your laboring bed.

I never dreamed the color
of your eyes,
never felt the wet push
of your head.

I never knew your body
curled in mine,
(female or male?), then
forgive me,
you were dead,
the sudden spreading blood
washed red from the sterile table.

I wonder again and again
what roaring incinerator
tended to ashes the tiny hands
I could not warm?
Did you know pain?

In my heart
I wrap you up against the rain
and ever we rock & lullaby
while Venus rises steady overhead.
I think my love
created you in vain. In my mind
your sleepy eyes
are blue.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Ulla-Lulla *


He is gone, forever,
and ever the dim day breaks
and ever the day miscarries.

Bang your head upon the wall,
kick and shout and rage,
scream, weep tears, and pray,

fly out in fury, revolt,
surrender, withdraw,
lie down like a stone.

It will not go away.
Nothing changes.
Nothing changes,

though the stripped rim of the heart break
and the see-saw prattle and clack
of the barefoot dead

scold, cast blame, accuse --
Oh, my God, it's time for bed again,
my God, it's time for bed.


* lullaby



(From: In Willy's House -- For: the children of the bombing at Qana,2006)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Directional Artifacts


South, at Tenochitlan is blue
As water, indigo or azure as chalchihuites
Thrown into the temple mortar,
Is the season of rain, and life,
And wet sky.

East is the red son of the flowery wars,
The moon-sister of Huitzilopochtli, slain
And dismembered on the hill of Coatepec,
And her thin, red-nailed hands.

North is black as the volcanic disks
Of his stone eyes, black as the abyss
Of the executioner's block.

The west is white as the sickness
Of her death, white as the bones
Of her children, fishbones,
The bones of frogs and the skulls
Of feathered serpents.

Their colors shine with an
Extraordinary luster,
The holiness of direction
Excavated two meters below
Street level at the corner of Guatemala
And Argentina.


(From: A Book of Fours)

Friday, June 16, 2006

THOR AND THE JOTUN UTGARDSLOKI: ALLEGORY 1


See, once there was this fellow
called Thor, bigger than Mr. Jaws himself
and as good at butchering goats
as Father Abraham
skinning them without so much
as breaking a bone.
Well, it happened that he was also good
at eating
and fast, too
but not as fast as Loki, who ate so
it seemed the meal was consumed
by fire,
ate the bones and trough as well,
so it was plain who won that contest
heads down. Kept poor Thor
so weak he couldn't lift a cat.
Found himself outwitted
by somebody's grandma as well,
crooked old crone that she was.
Hoodwinked by Old Age herself, indeed
consumed by that self-same Wildfire
he chose to better.
Never had a chance,
knowing too late the cards
were stacked from the beginning
and the games were fixed.


Loki (nomadsunited.com)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

NERIAD TO NEPTUNE:


Our footsteps cross the shifting wind
where sandipers dance down the shore.
You buy bananas-on-a-stick
that taste of salt, or tears, before
we lie upon that glimmering bed
below the cliffs where tides have left
shells like wet, white bones, and sleep
christcrossed, where sky and earth are cleft
by sea and froth.

Your lips taste salt, like creatures born
of green sea-water. If you bleed,
pale drops the color of the sea
will fall into the ebbing sand.
We please ourselves deliciously,
we're satisfied, and glad of life.
The world will end this way, won't it?
It will, without a doubt, and at
the speed of light.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

AUGUST AFTERNOON: WAITING FOR THE BUS


Waiting at Main Street
and 50 South
for the bus that
never comes
and all the people
coming and going
past Continental Bank
and the FOR LEASE sign
CALL HENRY 359-8776
and the hunchback at the
pay telephone
and the woman weeping
outside the Delmar Lounge
as if it matters

Sometime I wrote:
'There is a black hole in me
that swallows light.
I am only afraid at night.'
This is not true.
At my left
another woman walks her dogs
two black poodles.
She carries a red bag
and walks slowly while
her dogs sniff at corners
and squat in the gutter.
Behind her
a window is broken.
The glass is shaped
like a W
or perhaps more like
a vampire's fangs.
Someone has shut up the hole
with paper and tape
as if holes
could be so cleverly
contained.

I see more clearly
things I cannot write
for all their clarity
before the world slips.
A thousand afternoons
the sky weeps drops
like small teeth.
If I had a throat
I would swallow them.
I have no mouth
only this pencil
and granite fingers.
The tears of the woman weeping
outside the Delmar Lounge
are fevers.
There is no hunchback
and no phone booth.
Henry is no one.
If I call up the numbers
no one will answer.

Great Salt Lake, 1984


In our moonboots
we sway against the wind,
step carefully across
the picked clean bodies
of two gulls
drowned in the floods,
feathers worn away,
washed out.
Even the sand flies
are gone.
Our little boys
kick at the wet rocks,
skip small stones far out
from the jetty.
The lake, as high
as an ocean
is the color of mercury.
It swallows rocks,
saltgrass, asphalt,
train tracks.
This morning
the moon hangs bone-white
in a blue sky,
horns upward
like the milk-glass skull
of a dead buffalo.
There is no signature
across these horns telling
who passed by, or when.


(image: Passport Journal, Lewis C. Prince)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

daddy's hard earned dimes


by chiminetty
my daddy grows lean
waiting at the scrubbed table
waiting at the scrubbed table
he reads the comic section
of the new york american
where der gink mit der viskers
is pursued by dose two liddle sissages
dose smarties
it iss vunderful

early evening
and he rests at last
in the twilight
of someone else's labor
all hard muscles
his sweat warm and random
in the loose weave of his shirt
waiting for the oven to bloom
with biscuits

my mother
superimposed on the edge
of his evening's rest
watches the bright horns
of the moon prick the horizon
and one by one the stars
write what they have seen
one by one they drop their
wide circles into her apron pocket
like daddy's hard earned dimes
spit-shined
turning the night silver

the biscuits are hot
the butter unwrinkles its
gold tongues down their brown skins
he reads
if I didn't belief it
I couldn't see it
let's go out for a row on der lake
liebchen

chass
und let us go qvickly

it iss vunderful

THE CATS OF CORONA DEL MAR


There are cats in those sandstone cliffs,
tiger-striped, black, calico, white as sea-spume,
all wild, and common, with eyes
like split yellow marbles. Beautiful:
the beach, rocky and shell-covered, the palms,
sailboats on the water, surfers, the salt wind
cool in the tangled, beached seaweed.

The cats stalk gulls, but do not catch them--
this time. Our footprints are soon washed
back into seawater, the patterned trail
we walked along the water's edge covered
with the incoming tide. We carry shells
in Pepsi cups, whorled sundials,
fanned cockles, speckled scallops
and rainbowed periwinkles, snails, abalone.

One long line of almost imperceptable horizon
separates water and sky. The cats
disappear into their caves, the sun
into irregular ancestral waves, the gulls
into the wide and graying sky.
There is no moon. And far away,
the low, receding voice of buoys vibrates
the vast and salty darkness.

And it is as if the frail sandcliffs
purr to the beach, and the palms,
and the heavy sea: Blessed, blessed.
Beautiful, the thin and marble-eyed cats,
the wild and honest cats
that dance and make striped and calico music
and comprehend a disinterested and flea-worn
nobility.

Friday, May 19, 2006

EARLY FROST


From a jet's cabin
in strong sunlight
at thirty thousand feet,
I cannot see where mule deer
nubs of antlers-in the velvet
doeskin, buckskin, fawnskin
stroll across fallen barbed wire fences,
smelling the cow's saltlick
in the greensward.

But they are there:
rumps, undersides and neck patches white,
tails white beneath, blacktipped,
browsing undisturbed.

I cannot hear their muted footfalls
in the grass,
but they are there,
like dim, ancient pictographs
scratched on citrine canyon walls
in rude attempt
to hold motion still.

The Fasten Your Seatbelt sign
is off. I am free.
Ascending in some transfigured
fourth-dimension,
leaving behind a white contrail
like a slip-knot lariat,
I think of those deer
leaving hoof prints
in an early frost,
foraging unfenced orchards,
fat with ruddy windfall apples.

Razzle


Dazzle
All these male
Bodies grown out of
My own female
However
It is done
One running in a field
Throwing a football
One whose brain
Is his joystick
Transcribing Bach
Into Atari
Another blows music
Into his grandfather's sax
Two are half-grown
Still bone of my bone
All of them too big
For their Adidas
All of them
Strange as baboons
Sometimes I touch
Their grace
Their weight and fists
Their unwashed hair
Their faces in their
Loud savage joy
And I claim
Their sprouting bodies
As my own
This moving rush
Of feet and hands
Doing all my undone
Cartwheels

BIRD WATCHER


Sextant and chronometer
under her fibrillating wings,
the ruby-throated hummingbird thrashes
the air over the Gulf of Mexico,
pectoral muscles anchored
on the keel of her breastbone.

The saltwater underneath heaves up
its blowing waves
toward an overcast sky, but the bird
is drawn by magnetic cues, by inner sun,
by occult moon, by pulling
shearwater tides.

The stars plead,
You remember us, don't you,
and our mysterious markers:

Polestar to the north where
the Little Bear roves in the tight arc
of the Big Bear.
The Crab and Bull, Waterbearer,
Dragon and whitehorned Goat
roll on all night, luminous
circles inside circles.

Her vision is acute. She continues.
She comes.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

MY SON, 1966


Because you hold the circle of earth
in your hands, a world within a world
where it is always safe
with its wreaths of pansies blooming,
a line of red-roofed houses
is preserved under orderly clouds
like ropes of pearls.
You keep them safe. By day
you light the sun,
and you know there are rabbits hiding
in those round hills, small beasts
with silken fur and great dark eyes, like yours,
and snails curled in grass. By night
you call the moon up over the rooftops
and count your folded sheep among the stars.
You do not dare to breathe
lest breath burst the bubble of existence,
the lights explode and darken,
and all the rabbits die in their warrens,
the fierce faces of the pansies
burn and blow away, and you yourself
grow old, and older yet grow blind,
and forget which of those window-lit red-roofed houses
was your own.


(painting by Ivan Rabuzin)

BEAR SONGS


The hunter's moon
rolls like an orange marble
around the vast ringer
of sky,
clipping stars,
gathering light as it goes,
shedding a red October gloss
on the leafless aspens.

Down below
in the dark leaf pile
the black bear rambles,
his black silk belly full,
his throat prickly
with bear songs
magnified within the flat plate
of his skull,
his delicate nostrils
wetly curled
to catch the first delirious scent
of warning.

Wire Walkers


The mountain leans
toward equinox.

The pond is silver-rich.
The water sparkles
with spindlelegged wirewalkers.

The fisher spider
wades out
without breaking the polished surface.
Inch by inch she skims,
carrying her eggs gently
in a silken sac,
waiting for her spiderlings
to emerge.

Soon she will be
a thousand times richer.


(Photo by Steve Warrick, Single Moments Photography)

The Dreamers


The Great Bear slumbers
In a cave of stars,
The Little Bear, Aries the Ram.

The wind is a still sea.
The horned owl hangs
In chill air, feathers scarcely stirring.
He floats like a swimmer
Above the white bones of jackrabbits,
Over the winter burrows of field mice.

The mountains breathe
In the dark, a sleeping breath
Of hawk and fox,
Of wildcat and beaver.
The pond is bleak, the shallows are ice.

Under the hill,
In a cave of granite and quartz-crystal
The black bear sleeps,
Keeps sleeping,
Patiently entombed in his deep
Burial vault.

Let him sleep. Let them all sleep.
Let them savor the brown earth-smell
Of their dreams.
Let them cling to the dim runes
Of dreams.
Let them range far, light-years distant.
Let them dream of spring,
Of moving water, of light,
Of the beautiful sons and daughters
Of air-splitters and tree-dwellers
And cave-slumberers.
Let them dream.

ALL QUIET ON BOSPHORUS


Things are different this April day
in 1909, when Albanian soldiers
at Yildiz Kiosk refuse
to surrender, when the last burials
of the men who fell for Schefket Pasha
took place eighty years ago; this day
a boy can drown in a swill barrel
with no help near,

and while the walls of Yildiz Palace
are being razed, burnt, blown to bits,
on the other side of the world
firemen in a junk-shop blaze
are attacked by rats, hundreds of rats,
rats used to the comfortable disorder
and piling rot of old gingham, old wallpaper, old oxfords,

all of them bargains before the blaze,
and the rats.
And fearing she is losing her mind,
the young wife of the manager
of the Rock Island Hotel
throws herself under the wheels
of a passenger train
bound for Denver and points west,

falling with the grace of the six hundred
Albanian soldiers also falling
in Constantinople, with the terrible grace
of the child falling in a swill barrel,
and no one near.

What difference does it make
now, that theirs are only a few more
lovely faces incised with pain,
and that the next morning
the city under seige will be quiet?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

MALLEUS MALEFICARUM


I wear breath in a bag
around my neck
like Russian garlic cloves
to ward off the Black Goat:
a perennial charm to keep
lungs pink and budding,
the diffuse root hairs of alveoli
and taproot of the heart,
the Witch's Hammer,
anchored against erosion.
The secret of eternal life: breathe
or the medicine wears off.

But breath has portents
of the poison in it,
like dust upon the lips.
Whoever gave takes back,
and the charm returns home
to its mother, the lily.


photo: Enthroned Black Goat
Ritual Live In Thy Flesh)

'BY GIS AND BY SAINT CHARITY"


In this book
there was a picture
of fair mad Ophelia,
floating face up, trailing daisies:
on another page
The Rape of Lucretia,
startled hand to throat,
round breasts fallen over her bodice
like white May pears.
Somewhere, dark Othello
and that poor Jew Shylock
protested in blacker pentametered despair.

The pictures drew me.
The words were only partly
understood, underscored by my
splayed young fingers across the page.

Now I trail ink-stained daisies
of my own, sing mad songs,
demand my pound of flesh,
stare blindly across the spaces
between years, and wait
for whirling obsidian waters
to have me,
to carry this ash-black body
coughing blood
and cut it into stars.


Painting: Echo of Ophelia by Im Elbenwald

A Human Presence


"Even so
I kept right on going on
a sort of human statement..."
--Anne Sexton


What presence here
as in utero dictates?
Decide, it says, to be something!
But I am a fish
in terrible waters,
blind in the dark,
milky eyes like white oysters.
Water breaks over forceps
grasping at my crowning head
where the skin bursts
bruise-red and wrinkled.
I would decide, I say,
if I could see a light somewhere.
Here, where I am
there is never enough.
I would forgive my eyes,
for one ray
bright as a furnace.
Come, my blind sister, my other birth.
In our black hunger
we eat hope
drink expectations
like sacraments. In our mouth
they become something
unmistakably human.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

backache


backache
flattens me

gin in the veins
might help

tonight I fly on brittle bones
out of this skin

this old pain
disconnects

my top and bottom
halves

sleep waivers like mirages
in a white fossil sea of aspirin

that dulls the saw
between deeper jacknifed vertebrae

this great grey sleep of bone
sucks me dry

Monday, May 15, 2006

NAQUAMUYSEE'S LULLABY


Soft summer thunder
drums distant and brings
a wild velvet rush
to the red hawk's wings,
and the black pony Night
rides a dark warm wind
where the new moon skates
at the shadow's end.

Sleep warm, sleep dry
in a buffalo skin
on the Black Pony's back,
on a dark warm wind,
and the corn stalks ripple
and the squash blooms fold,
and sleep runs easy
like a swift dark colt,

and sleep runs easy
like a swift dark colt.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

THE NIGHT THE ARCADE BURNED


The night the Arcade burned the air turned red
as blood, a midnight mummy-shroud of smoke
wound up the sky, an ash and cherry cloak
that so lit up the glass, the house, the shed
containing all the Gypsy's magic strings
that moved her wooden hands, her ruby rings.
Oh, fire! Fire! forever in my head!
She should have known, that lady in the box,
and played a lucky card to break the locks.
She should have felt the lick of doom, have known
the itch of ghostly flame that was her own
undoing. I watched for a penny card,
some remnant of the cindered holocaust
that showed the Gypsy's fingerprint, unmarred
and pointing where the Exit sign was lost.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A COMMUNION OF STARS


1. UNEXPECTED GUEST

There were nights on the Mojave
so bright we could watch the evolution of stars
above Five Fingers rising from the desert floor:
Bootes, Cassiopiae, Orion's Belt
with such an outpouring of energy and magnitude
that they will consume themselves
in only twenty million years
measured not by photocell upon a telescope
but by the naked eye

We used to sit and watch the sky
for signs and wonders
and now we know these happen
with predictable regularity
high above chaparrel and sage
watched by hawk and packrat

Papa burned brush in the woodstove
and the fire shot showers of sparks
like stars
Papa fixed his eyes on Polaris
poked the spitting fire and believed
in miracles

Before the moon
before the stars
before the earth even
was Papa with a pocket full of sweets
nothing's sweeter than an outcropping
of good silver-sulfide ore
the music of the gloryhole
harp enough for him
a pennysworth of carbide
lit in a tin hat like a star

I am an unexpected guest
at this festival of lights
a stranger out of time
grown large unwieldy unrecognized

Once as a child I tried to fly
upward from the valley floor
arms outstretched
a thousand tiny filiments of wings
flew about my sun-haloed hair

I didn't know then
words
would be my wings


2. COMMUNION

Not that it has a meaning
outside of this odd smile I find
a certain peace of mind

a rat came every day to eat from Papa's hand
lunch shared from a tin pail
a ham sandwich apples chocolate a thermos jug of milk
the dry rock they sat on hot
where the sun beat

under the earth is the sound of water running
see there where the wall is wet
water rises to meet cracks in the rocks
it does not freeze in winter
nor evaporate in summer but remains
sweet and cool without disguise

Face to face with the rat
eyes blinking from a mask of fine white dust
this gentle man and the rat
without greed without avarice
found this rare circle of breath
wide enough and room enough for two

In the purity of noon
nothing was wasted
ants found the chocolate crumbs


3. MEXICALI ROSE

Papa played the saxophone. Of all
his music he played Mexicali Rose best.
I'll come back to you
some sunny day....

The desert wind blows from the west
In the wind I sometimes hear a slurred voice:
Stop crying....
I think of all I did not do
and did not wish to do
and wish to do now

The last notes are departed
the reed split the keys stuck
the saxophone lies on a shelf in the dark
of the closet behind a box
of almost forgotten dolls
Some night
splitting the universe in two
in a cave of stars
the flooding Pleiades all white about his knees
his pockets filled with little bits of sweetning silver
he'll take it up again
and every earthly thing will change
their dreams aroused to his slow music
a long lost voice

Mexicali Rose stop crying
I'll come back to you
some sunny day....

BEWARE THE BODY


It never rains in sunny California
and it never rained where I come from
winter and summer it was the same,
our flat forced grass was coaxed
out of the sand with promises of sun
sun and more sun.
Reality was chapped knees, chapped lips,
too-small oxfords with the toes scuffed out,
Roy Rogers and The Sons of the Pioneers
singing "Happy Trails...."

During the war they shot cats
that ran wild and thrashed in the bamboo stand.
There were sunny California Januaries when wind
rattled layers of loose wallpaper
on bedroom walls, and worn checkered oilcloth
covered the kitched table.

Night was an alien thing.
Snakes climbed dark folds in my windowcurtains
while voices murmured from lit rooms
on the other side of the door: Deuces wild,
they said. Here's another chip
to sweeten the pot.

Grandma Josie, dead from diabetes
at thirty-four stood quietly in the dark
on my side of the door, whispering
with urgent intent.
I could hear the voice but not the words.

Now, no dreaming here
I hear the words unravelling clear
and unmistakable:

Beware the body that betrays.
Beware the body...
Beware....

Diaries


I keep diaries in my head
At night I write on sealed pages
In dream codes--a sort
Of dot-dot-dash Morse himself
Couldn't read
Keeps them private

Old loves recur
taller than they were
dressed in dimestore suits and ties
I never saw them wear
And my father
Who never heard of Neruda

Gu Cheng or the Cultural Revolution
Rocks calmly on the porch
And speaks to me of bread and milk
I'm sick he says
And wants to say goodbye
As if he were not already dead

This is a book
My grandchildren will never read
From pages carelessly left open
The key is not in my hand
Not even in my pocket
Never will my children say

Mama tell us of Olden Times
And turn these pages that open upon
Old houses
Old rooms that suck me in
Like Alice through the glass
This world is mine alone

Where the voices and the windows
The old mingling of bodies
And the landscapes are buried
What's here
Is one raw nerve exposed
And aching to go

Where I never can
To grasp the fleeting things
That would disappear

Saturday, May 06, 2006

I Have


Plodding Taurus I am truly
the horned
bull-necked round lover
of things round
rocks apples earth
I would be fire
water or air
would burn or fly
or be mutable
but for that bovine genetic code
or that particular
irreversible alignment

of planets
All mouth and skin I am
alimentary canal and reproductive
system wanting most
to stuff things in to feel
to fill every void
loving plow and furrow
consumables things
that never last
but must be had fresh
and often

Plodding Taurus I am stable
stubborn sensuous slow
tied to the trough
while the zodiac wheels overhead
envious of the archer's arrow
the lion's midnight arrogance
and the virgins crown of stars
yet satisfied that earth
is full of seeds and precious
stones

About Me

My photo
1. In dreams I am often young and thin with long blond hair. 2. In real life I am no longer young, or thin, or blonde. 3. My back hurts. 4. I hate to sleep alone. (Fortunately I don't have to!) 5. My great grandfather had 2 wives at once. 6. I wish I had more self-discipline. (I was once fired from a teaching position in a private school because they said I was "too unstructured and undisciplined." --Who, me??? Naaaahhh....) 7. I do not blame my parents for this. Once, at a parent-teacher conference, the teacher told me my little boy was "spacey." We ALL are, I told her. The whole fan damily is spacey. She thought I was kidding. I wasn't. 8. I used to travel with a theater reperatory company. My parents weren't happy about this. 9. My mother was afraid that I would run off and paint flowers on my cheeks and live in a commune, and grow vegetables. I once smoked pot. ONE TIME. 10. I don't drink or smoke. (Or swear, much. Well, I drink milk, and water, and orange juice, and stuff. Cocoa. I love Pepsi.) 11. Most of my friends are invisible. 12. I am a poet and a writer. All of my writing on these pages is copyrighted. Borrowing (without acknowledgment) is a sin.