I was as blank today as you can imagine, lost the way to circle back to the beginning or even last summer. I remember those days we wore matching lemon flower dresses. I remember the morbid anatomy of lemons and suburban front yards. We posed for photographs in our lemon dresses. We were little girls on film, locked in a disposable camera— they couldn’t shake us out—our 90s faces came into view, pale as a circle of dead peonies floating in ice water. Today I’ve positioned myself against starting but against stopping too. Days and days repeat in superfluous museums of routine. September slowly becomes the sun behind dusty squares of autumn glass. The wind carries rarities with scissors and thin and remote streets hold adjacent together like masked sisters, existing for no reason other than remembering minerals and footsteps and how light once was on my face. A story I’ve heard before—when my mother was little, she lived in a house of women on a lane of cherry trees. She was a lemon and held one in her open palm. They were poor, the lemons were expensive. Devoured in secret, she was punished for eating it but loved the bitter wave across her mouth, a dusty lemon. This morning, fall bloomed and summer died all at once like a person shedding blonde hair faster than anyone predicted, but as blank as you could imagine. Roses crumbled to the sky and I remembered we lived in a cottage of roses once— there were wrong ways to hold a rose so I learned by pain to be correct. Lemons were luxury, and it was wartime everywhere and elsewhere, but I lived in a deathless garden of flowers and infinite spring. Rare to feel something other than autumn, a nonspecific blankness. Can you imagine? I carry lemon acid with me, scrape a serrated knife across the back of my hand, squeeze lemon over it. Still remembering those thorns on which I ripped my child skin, I rip & rip again.
one-twelfth of our lives is wasted
standing in a line.
The sacred path of that.
Ahead of me, a man in black, his broad back.
Behind me, a woman like me
unwinding her white veils.
And beyond us all, the ticket-taker, or the old
lady with our change, or
the officials with our food, our stamps, our unsigned papers, our
gas masks, our inoculations.
It hasn’t happened yet.
It hasn’t begun or ended.
It hasn’t granted us its bliss
or exploded in our faces.
The baby watches the ceiling from its cradle.
The cat stares at the crack in the foundation.
The grandfather flies the sick child’s kite higher
and higher. I set
my husband’s silverware on the table.
I place a napkin beside
my son’s plate.
but not tonight.
Ahead of us, that man’s black back.
Behind us, her white veils.
Ahead of us, the nakedness, the gate.
Behind us, the serene errand-boy, the cigarette, the wink-and-nod, the waiting.
Beyond that, too late.
Drowning Another Peasant Inquisition
Jealousy runs only skin deep.
Underneath lies the joy of not possessing.
Thus spoke the sage caressing
his one and only claim to love
as all were seated, thinking.
Between friends silence is your best bet,
O oneness of bodies firmly planted breasts
and proudly set cocks
as on the streets, the rest
are pulled along by long streaks of bad luck
of which we know the reason.
The many windows framed in yellow light
are pulled together making
mind structures, more mind chains
around the masses, falling through the season.
One day to see
One day you will be free
That day you come and see me
That day you see me, hear
Sonnet on Fidelity
Above all, to my love I’ll be attentive
First and always, with care and so much
That even when facing the greatest enchantment
By love be more enchanted my thoughts.I want to live it through in each vain moment
And in its honor I’ll spread my song
And laugh my laughter and cry my tears
When you are sad or when you are content.And thus, when later comes looking for me
Who knows, the death, anxiety of the living,
Who knows, the loneliness, end of all lovers
I’ll be able to say to myself of the love (I had):
Be not immortal, since it is flame
But be infinite while it lasts.
Sonêto de fidelidade
De tudo, ao meu amor serei atento
Antes, e com tal zelo, e sempre, e tanto
Que mesmo em face do maior encanto
Dele se encante mais meu pensamento.
Quero vivê-lo em cada vão momento
E em louvor hei de espalhar meu canto
E rir meu riso e derramar meu pranto
Ao seu pesar ou seu contentamento.
E assim, quando mais tarde me procure
Quem sabe a morte, angústia de quem vive
Quem sabe a solidão, fim de quem ama
Eu possa me dizer do amor (que tive):
Que não seja imortal, posto que é chama
Mas que seja infinito enquanto dure.
A Song for Many Movements
Nobody wants to die on the way
and caught between ghosts of whiteness
and the real water
none of us wanted to leave
on the way to salvation
three planets to the left
a century of light years ago
our spices are separate and particular
but our skins sing in complementary keys
at a quarter to eight mean time
we were telling the same stories
over and over and over.
Broken down gods survive
in the crevasses and mudpots
of every beleaguered city
where it is obvious
there are too many bodies
to cart to the ovens
and our uses have become
more important than our silence
after the fall
too many empty cases
of blood to bury or burn
there will be no body left
and our labor
has become more important
than our silence
Our labor has become
than our silence.
I Don’t Miss It
But sometimes I forget where I am,Imagine myself inside that life again.Recalcitrant mornings. Sun perhaps,Or more likely colorless lightFiltering its way through shapeless cloud.And when I begin to believe I haven’t left,The rest comes back. Our couch. My smokeClimbing the walls while the hours fall.Straining against the noise of traffic, music,Anything alive, to catch your key in the door.And that scamper of feeling in my chest,As if the day, the night, wherever it isI am by then, has been only a whirOf something other than waiting.We hear so much about what love feels like.Right now, today, with the rain outside,And leaves that want as much as I do to believeIn May, in seasons that come when called,It’s impossible not to wantTo walk into the next room and let youRun your hands down the sides of my legs,Knowing perfectly well what they know.
Story of My Death
I dreamed of death and it was quite simple:
a silk thread enwrapped me,
and each kiss of yours
with a turn unraveled me.
And each of your kisses
was a day;
and the time between two kisses,
a night. Death is quite simple.
And little by little the fatal thread
unwrapped itself. I no longer controlled it
but for a single bit between my fingers . . .
Then, suddenly, you became cold,
and no longer kissed me . . .
I let the thread go, and my life vanished.
Historia de mi muerte
Soñé la muerte y era muy sencillo;
una hebra de seda me envolvía,
y a cada beso tuyo,
con una vuelta menos me ceñía
y cada beso tuyo
era un día;
y el tiempo que mediaba entre dos besos
una noche. La muerte era muy sencilla.
Y poco a poco fue desenvolviéndose
la hebra fatal. Ya no la retenía
sino por solo un cabo entre los dedos…
Cuando de pronto te pusiste fría
y ya no me besaste…
y solté el cabo, y se me fue la vida.
O thou bright jewel in my aim I striveTo comprehend thee. Thine own words declareWisdom is higher than a fool can reach.I cease to wonder, and no more attemptThine height t’explore, or fathom thy profound.But, O my soul, sink not into despair,Virtue is near thee, and with gentle handWould now embrace thee, hovers o’er thine head.Fain would the heaven-born soul with her converse,Then seek, then court her for her promised bliss.Auspicious queen, thine heavenly pinions spread,And lead celestial Chastity along;Lo! now her sacred retinue descends,Arrayed in glory from the orbs above.Attend me, Virtue, thro’ my youthful years!O leave me not to the false joys of time!But guide my steps to endless life and bliss.Greatness, or Goodness, say what I shall call thee,To give an higher appellation still,Teach me a better strain, a nobler lay,O Thou, enthroned with Cherubs in the realms of day!
The Attempted Rescue
–Alan DuganI came out on the wrong
side of time and saw
the rescue party leave.
“How long must we wait?”
I said. “Forever. You
are too far gone to save,
too dangerous to carry off
the precipice, and frozen stiff
besides. So long. You
can have our brandy. That’s life.”