Landscape with Open Spaces
Just as he changes himself, in the end eternity changes him.
On the phonograph, the voice
of a woman already dead for three
decades, singing of a man
who could make her do anything.
On the table, two fragile
glasses of black wine,
a bottle wrapped in its towel.
It is that room, the one
we took in every city, it is
as I remember: the bed, a block
of moonlight and pillows.
My fingernails, pecks of light
on your thighs.
The stink of the fire escape.
The wet butts of cigarettes
you crushed one after another.
How I watched the morning come
as you slept, more my son
than a man ten years older.
How my breasts feel, years
later, the tongues swishing
in my dress, some yours, some
left by other men.
Since then, I have always
wakened first, I have learned
to leave a bed without being
seen and have stood
at the washbasins, wiping oil
and salt from my skin,
staring at the cupped water
in my two hands.
I have kept everything
you whispered to me then.
I can remember it now as I see you
again, how much tenderness we could
wedge between a stairwell
and a police lock, or as it was,
as it still is, in the voice
of a woman singing of a man
who could make her do anything.
God of Suicides
I have been wrong before, god of syntax
and understatement, god of slips in silk
and polyester, god of the laboratory, god of newsprint
and sunscreen, god of gulls, god of the unlocked bakery,
god of twins, god of all the cities of my youngest years,
god of the nurses who walk those wards, god
of sensible shoes and of Wall Street, god of whales
and their depths, god of the kitchen, god
of the blood clot, god of the authoritative sentence,
god of weight and liquor, god of scarves
and of the required fast, god of the green room
and the downbeat, god of lemons,
god of the disappeared and god of their mothers,
god of the highway’s meridian, god
of all 206 bones and the compulsive catalogue,
god of freckles, god of rhinoplasty, god of narcotics, god
of the Five-Year Plan, god of the solemn
and the sudden, god of the stage,
god of runways, god of release on one’s own
recognizance, god of the unrecognized face, god
of divorce and of lip gloss, god of crosswalks
and alphabets, god of M16s
and god of hands without instructions,
god of attention, god of the tucked
chin, god of the article,
god of the attitude, god of direction, god
of the brownstone and its master bedroom,
god of the pinstriped suit, the knuckles,
but in all of these furious declamatory years the question
has never been, god of what, god of the city’s brick,
god of my palm, god of my open mouth.
Our Eunuch Dreams
Our eunuch dreams, all seedless in the light, Of light and love the tempers of the heart, Whack their boys' limbs, And, winding-footed in their shawl and sheet, Groom the dark brides, the widows of the night Fold in their arms. The shades of girls, all flavoured from their shrouds, When sunlight goes are sundered from the worm, The bones of men, the broken in their beds, By midnight pulleys that unhouse the tomb.
In this our age the gunman and his moll Two one-dimensional ghosts, love on a reel, Strange to our solid eye, And speak their midnight nothings as they swell; When cameras shut they hurry to their hole down in the yard of day. They dance between their arclamps and our skull, Impose their shots, showing the nights away; We watch the show of shadows kiss or kill Flavoured of celluloid give love the lie.
Which is the world? Of our two sleepings, which Shall fall awake when cures and their itch Raise up this red-eyed earth? Pack off the shapes of daylight and their starch, The sunny gentlemen, the Welshing rich, Or drive the night-geared forth. The photograph is married to the eye, Grafts on its bride one-sided skins of truth; The dream has sucked the sleeper of his faith That shrouded men might marrow as they fly.
This is the world; the lying likeness of Our strips of stuff that tatter as we move Loving and being loth; The dream that kicks the buried from their sack And lets their trash be honoured as the quick. This is the world. Have faith. For we shall be a shouter like the cock, Blowing the old dead back; our shots shall smack The image from the plates; And we shall be fit fellows for a life, And who remains shall flower as they love, Praise to our faring hearts.
Photo by Kent Pilcher on Unsplash
I woke up, and the day caught me
i woke up and the day caught me
in its mouth like a strand of yarn
i am useful
the motivation for a scarf, maybe
some stitch started to be finished
i will make up someone’s
heat i will be a fire
so intricate it can be worn
i woke up and the day called on me
specifically, threw my name through the sky
the way children are thought up
trials pulled through the stars
i woke up and like anyone who wakes
and asks why i checked my feet,
rubbed the bones for their reality
i keep waking though i’ve asked for rest
cornered the moon in the alley,
pawned the dark to assume its place
and still i return to that burning chin
honour that persistent candle
because who will wake up if not me?
who will the day catch then
if i am not the centre of its tongue?
what of the women who keep waking?
what of my mother, who has asked for rest, too?
and her mother, tucked into an endless slumber
i woke up and the day thanked me
for coming so far. i know rest is a long
walk from the sun, i know we’ve been up
for so long, that sleep doesn’t settle
for my blood. me, daughter of the rooster’s song
but when the day calls i will answer to my name
claim it like a fire rushing toward living things
i will rise because there is someone praying
for me to remain still
Self and Dream Self
Routines of decaying timefade, and your waking lifegets laborious as science.You huddle in, becomingthe deathless younger selfwho will survive your dreamsand vanish in surviving.Dream brings on its storyat the pace of driftin twilight, sunless color,its settings are believed,a library of wood shingles,plain mythic furniturevivid drone of talk,yet few loves return:trysts seem unkeepable.Urgencies from your timejoin with the browner suitswalking those arcades with youbut then you are apart,aghast, beside the numberlessdefiling down steep fenceinto an imminence —as in the ancient burrowyou, with an ever-changing cast,survive deciding episodestill you are dismissedand a restart of tensesummons your waking sizeout through shreds of story.
ear early tuned to hear beneath the call to end
eating flesh, sentient suffering beings (creatures
bred now for slaughter will
then never be bred) less life less life tuned to hearstill the vow solemn and implacable I made as a kid
walking a sidewalk in Bakersfield
never to have a child, condemn a creature
to this hell as the prisoner
chorus in wonder is released into the sun, ear early tuned to hear
beneath the melody the ground-bass less life less life
Song of Social Despair
–Marvin BellEthics without faith, excuse me,is the butter and not the bread.You can’t nourish them all, the deadpile up at the hospital doors.And even they are not so numerousas the mothers come in maternity.The Provider knows his faults—love of architecture and repair—but will not fall into them for long:he can’t afford the adolescent luxury,the fellowship of the futurelooks greedily toward his family.The black keys fit black cylindersin the locks in holes in the night.He had a skeleton key once,a rubber arm and complete confidence.Now, as head of the family, he isinevitably on the wrong side looking out.