is my heart. A stranger
berry there never was,
Gone sour in the sun,
in the sunroom or moonroof,
No poetry. Plain. No
fresh, special recipe
All I’ve ever made
with these hands
and life, less
substance, more rind.
Mostly rim and trim,
but making much smoke
in the old smokehouse,
Fatted from the day,
overripe and even
toxic at eve. Nonetheless,
in the end, if you must
know, if I must bend,
to that excruciation.
No marvel, no harvest
left me speechless,
yet I find myself
somehow with heart,
fighting fire with fire,
That loud hub of us,
meat stub of us, beating us
Spectacular in its way,
its way of not seeing,
but in everydayness.
In that hopeful haunting
way of saying
in darkness) there is
for the pressing question.
Heart, what art you?
War, star, part? Or less:
playing a part, staying apart
from the one who loves,
Waking up in the same skin isn’t enough.
You need more and more evidence
of who it is that
wakes up in the same skin.
But what evidence?
Reality is unreliable: a whirlwind
of dust that appears
and disappears every day.
Your thirst stretches out its white dunes.
Every day in the dust
not islands but their darkness
heaped on the polished mirror of a sea.
Not doors but their shadows
slammed in the house of wind.
Not lighthouses but their half-second SOS
in red, green and yellow.
Not language but languages.
Not a hand closing a curtain
but a hand.
And the day is over,
not wiser than the night in which
you waited for someone
who came and wasn’t what you waited for.
When we don’t have the fatherland that we have
Lost by silence and by resignation
Even the voice of the sea renders itself exile
And the light that surrounds us is like a lattice
Quando a pátria que temos não a temos
Perdida por silêncio e por renúncia
Até a voz do mar se torna exílio
E a luz que nos rodeia é como grades
Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth
it’s no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners
the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn’t need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water
I wouldn’t want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days
A better patriotism…
War is no longer declared,
only continued. The monstrous
has become everyday. The hero
stays away from battle. The weak
have gone to the front.
The uniform of the day is patience,
its medal the pitiful star of hope above the heart.
The medal is awarded
when nothing more happens,
when the artillery falls silent,
when the enemy has grown invisible
and the shadow of eternal armament
covers the sky.
It is awarded
for desertion of the flag,
for bravery in the face of friends,
for the betrayal of unworthy secrets
and the disregard
of every command.
Why are the woods so alluring? A forest appears
to a young girl one morning as she combs
the dreams out of her hair. The trees rustle
and whisper, shimmer and hiss. The forest
opens and closes, a door loose on its hinges,
banging in a strong wind. Everything in the dim
kitchen: the basin, the jug, the skillet, the churn,
snickers scornfully. In this way a maiden
is driven toward the dangers of a forest,
but the forest is our subject, not this young girl.
She’s glad to lie down with trees towering all around.
A certain euphoria sets in. She feels molecular,
bedeviled, senses someone gently pulling her hair,
tingles with kisses she won’t receive for years.
Three felled trees, a sort of chorus, narrate
her thoughts, or rather channel theirs through her,
or rather subject her to their peculiar verbal
restlessness … our deepening need for non-being intones
the largest and most decayed tree, mid-sentence.
I’m not one of you squeaks the shattered sapling,
blackened by lightning. Their words become metallic
spangles shivering the air. Will I forget the way home?
the third blurts. Why do I feel like I’m hiding in a giant’s nostril?
the oldest prone pine wants to know. Are we being freed
from matter? the sapling asks. Insects are well-intentioned,
offers the third tree, by way of consolation. Will it grow
impossible to think a thought through to its end? gasps the sapling,
adding in a panicky voice, I’m becoming spongy! The girl
feels her hands attach to some distant body. She rises
to leave, relieved these trees are not talking about her.
from Songs from Below
It’s easy to talk, and writing words on the page
doesn’t involve much risk as a general rule:
You might as well be knitting late at night
in a warm room, in a soft, treacherous light.
The words are all written in the same ink,
‘flower’ and ‘fear’ are nearly the same for example,
and I could scrawl ‘blood’ the length of the page
without splashing the paper or hurting
myself at all.
After a while it gets you down, this game,
you no longer know what it was you set out to achieve
instead of exposing yourself to life
and doing something useful with your hands.
That’s when you can’t escape,
when pain is a figure tearing the fog
that shrouds you, striking away
the obstacles one by one, covering
the swiftly decreasing distance, now
so close you can make out nothing
but his mug wider than the sky.
To speak is to lie, or worse: a craven
insult to grief or a waste
of the little time and energy at our disposal.
Might there be things which lend themselves
more readily to words, and live with them
-those glad moments gladly found in poems,
light that releases words
as if erasing them; while other things
resist them, change them, destroy them even –
as if language resisted death,
or rather, as if death consumed
even the words?
I don’t trust people who overuse the word extraordinary.
Nor those who tell you how much they adore everything,
as in, “I adore Susan Sarandon” or, “this apple pie” or, “the way you wear your hair.”
I get lost inside of the exaggerations.
The tree will topple under all those promises.
The branch will break from all that heavy fruit.
Why pretend? Not all human beings are beautiful.
People killed by bombs are not automatic heroes.
One Tuesday night’s unhappiness
does not make the world a terrible place.
The four-star general on television says,
“Bombing that city was a serious mistake,
but it taught me a lot about myself.”
Perhaps he should give a medal to his therapist.
When I hear how certain people speak,
I think of those mansions built along the north New Jersey shore,
that completely block ordinary people from a view of the ocean.
I think of the people who call that investment real estate.
My heroes are the ones who don’t say much.
They don’t hug people they just met.
They use plain language even when they listen.
They stand back and let you see it for yourself.
Wisdom doesn’t come to every Californian.
Chances are I too
will die with difficulty in the dark.
If you want to see a lost civilization,
why not just look in the mirror?
If you want to talk about love, why not begin
with those marigolds you forgot to water?