After they had not made love
she pulled the sheet up over her eyes
until he was buttoning his shirt:
not shyness for their bodies – those
they had willingly displayed – but a frail
endeavour to apologise.
Later, though, drawn together by
a distaste for such ‘untidy ends’
they agreed to meet again; whereuponthey giggled, reminisced, held hands
as though what they had made was love –
and not that happier outcome, friends.
Aubade as Fuel
Your lip an abstraction of iris always arousing
the question of the bed. Which goodbye lasts?
Only yesterday my hands rich with dirt. I told you
Milkweed is my new salvation addiction. You know
I always need to save something, to control it.
I can make a pollen island, make your collarbone
a spiritual landscape, the air around us orange
and alive. The shape you left in the sheets
a Rorschach I read as a rattlesnake’s skeleton
in the silverware drawer, no, a fire in a cabin,
no, a cabin on fire, the absence it will make.
But look at me now, my heat signature a whole
bouquet of howling, straddling scarves of smoke.
Like the hills under dusk you
fall away from the light:
you deepen: the green
and you are nearly lost:
only so much light as
manifests your face:
the total night in
for the light along your lips.
The Old Land
In the old land,
People perished not from hunger
But from gorging on lust and liver.
Birds flew backward, thoughts swarmed
Against foreheads. Grass vined up stakes,
Sprouted out of the eyes of the impaled.
In the old land,
The mountains were seasonally flattened,
Carved and rolled up like woven prayer mats.
The sky was shallow and piebald in the fall,
Striped and shiny when it rained or snowed,
So splendorous we’d go blind, lose our minds.
In the old land,
Homes were made of honeycomb and straw,
Cars ran on blood, melted pennies, bones.
Streets zigzagged like startled antelopes.
Life and death were simple and whole,
No need for explanation, let alone hope.
In the old land,
Love was meant for strangers and their dogs,
Yowling, licking wounds, sore lymph nodes.
We were living our long lives at home,
Until we sank and resurfaced in this void,
Different skins, goggled eyes, nowhere to go.
Just to be as we were, we had to destroy
All the wrong distant lands, the many
Scared elsewheres, banging at our doors.
unforgettable though then hardly noticed green
just up to my right in the glistening shower stall, slightly above my open
eyes, square window in it, & slender citrine
lip onto which I place, gently, this first handful of hair—always I see it—the window-
pane up there letting anything in and out that
wishes to pass
thru—so freely—drops from the steam of the shower
on it, the slipping of forever & for-
ever all down the
pane, where, beyond the still-wet clump, all seems to shine and
murmur it’s just day, just this day, another day, filled with the only
of this minute, this split minute, in which if I
reach now I can feel
the years, the fissure in them,
these fractions here inside the
instant—oh mine—how mine—moving now so
differently, as if entering a room with frozen fingers and they say
no you cannot warm them here
at the fire,
there is no fire, there is no
room, actually there is nothing, though you can
start carving the nothing, you can test your strength
against the nothing, the subject is
loss, the dark is inside your
open mouth not knowing what else there is again to
say, a kind of howling without
sorrow, no amazement, no
wisdom, just the roomlessness of this your suddenly—
suddenly everything, suddenly there is no more of what there
was, suddenly you do not die of fear you just fear, suddenly
there is no such thing as right or wrong yr hand is
a claw full of hair there is no
purification anywhere as the shower keeps streaming looking for
hollows, more hollows, this thread of the only
water cycle dragged down
into here to
run all over you, to rake yr
skinny neck & down inside of you where you
look up, open yr
mouth—to scream to sing to say the one
right word—as now the next
comes, it is such a surprise, as you raise up yr
hand, high, full, to the ledge, to pile it on there—& what
will you do
now, shooting your gaze into those filaments, your years of having & not
knowing, still wet, in clumps, through which the daylight now is pouring itself,
though it is not pouring anything at all or into
anything at all because it’s just the planet
turning again and again into and out of the
dark which is not itself actually dark
All This and More
–Mary KarrThe Devil’s tour of hell did not includea factory line where molten leadspilled into mouths held wide,no electric drill spiraling screwsinto hands and feet, nor giant pliersto lower you into simmering vats.Instead, a circle of lightopened on your stuffed armchair,whose chintz orchids did not boil and change,and the Devil adjustedyour new spiked antennaealmost delicately, with claws curledand lacquered black, before he spreadhis leather wings to leapinto the acid-green sky.So your head became a tv hull,a gargoyle mirror. Your doppelgangersloppy at the mouthand swollen at the jointsenacted your days in sinuousslow motion, your lines deliveredwith a mocking sneer. Sometimesthe frame froze, reversed, beganagain: the red eyes of a friendyou cursed, your girl child coweredbehind the drapes, parents alive againand puzzled by this new form. That’s whyyou clawed your way back to this life.
–Kenneth RexrothIt is the dark of the moon.Late at night, the end of summer,The autumn constellationsGlow in the arid heaven.The air smells of cattle, hay,And dust. In the old orchardThe pears are ripe. The treesHave sprouted from old rootstocksAnd the fruit is inedible.As I pass them I hear somethingRustling and grunting and turnMy light into the branches.Two raccoons with acrid pearJuice and saliva droolingFrom their mouths stare back at me,Their eyes deep sponges of light.They know me and do not runAway. Coming up the roadThrough the black oak shadows, ISee ahead of me, glintingEverywhere from the dustyGravel, tiny points of coldBlue light, like the sparkle ofIron snow. I suspect what it is,And kneel to see. Under eachPebble and oak leaf is aSpider, her eyes shining atMe with my reflected lightAcross immeasurable distance.
Fish bones walked the waves off Hatteras. And there were other signs That Death wooed us, by water, wooed us By land: among the pines An uncurled cottonmouth that rolled on moss Reared in the polluted air. Birth, not death, is the hard loss. I know. I also left a skin there.