Power is an inferiority complex wound up like a clock by an
inability to relax. At the height of my power I have to be taken to
a power source in the woods where I am recharged. This power
source is not actually in the woods: it’s in my mother. It hums
quietly in her heart like an atomic plant and the place to plug in is
Poem (The Day Gets Slowly Started)
–James SchuylerThe day gets slowly started.A rap at the bedroom door,bitter coffee, hot cereal, juicethe color of sun whichisn’t out this morning. Acool shower, a shave, soothingNoxzema for razor burn. A bedis made. The paper doesn’t comeuntil twelve or one. A gray shineout the windows. “No oneleaves the building untilthose scissors are returned.”It’s that kind of a place.Nonetheless, I’ve seen worse.The worried gray is meltinginto sunlight. I wish I’dbrought my book of enlighteningliterary essays. I wish itwere lunch time. I wish I hadan appetite. The day agreeswith me better than it did, or,better, I agree with it. I’llslide down a sunslip yet, thiscrass September morning.
At the End of the Text, a Small Bestial Form
This is the glimpse of the god you were never supposed to get. Like the fox slipping into the thicket. Like the thief in the night outside the window. The cool gray dorsal fin in the distance. Invisible mountain briefly visible through the mist formed of love and guilt.
And the stranger’s face hidden in the family picture. The one
imagining her freedom, like
the butterfly blown against the fence in her best yellow dress by the softest breeze of summer:
To have loved and to have suffered. To have waited for nothing, and for nothing to have come.
And the water like sleek black fur combed back that afternoon:
The young lovers rowed a boat. The boy reeled in a fish. The husband smiled, raising a toast.
While the children grew anxious for dinner. While something struggled under the water bound by ropes. And the warm milk dribbled down the sick man’s chin. And the wife, the mother, the daughter, the hostess, and those few people on earth she would ever wish were dead would be the ones she loved the most
The Common Cold
To me she arrives this morning
dressed in some
man’s homely, soft, cast-off
lover’s shawl, and some
woman’s memory of a third-
who loved her students a little too much.
(Those warm hugs that went
on and on and on.)
She puts her hand to my head and says,
“Laura, you should go back to bed.”
But I have lunches to pack, socks
on the floor, while
the dust settles on
the I’ve got to clean this pigsty up.
(Rain at a bus stop.
Laundry in a closet.)
And tonight, I’m
the Athletic Booster mother
whether I feel like it or not, weakly
taking your dollar
from inside my concession stand:
I offer you your caramel corn. (Birdsong
in a terrarium. Some wavering distant
planet reflected in a puddle.)
And, as your dollar
passes between us, perhaps
you will recall
how, years ago, we
flirted over some impossible
Cub Scout project.
and saws, and seven
small boys tossing
at one another. And now
those sons, taller
and faster than we are, see
how they are poised on a line, ready
to run at the firing of a gun?
But here we are again, you and I, the
two of us tangled up
and biological: I’ve
forgotten your name, and
you never knew mine, but
in the morning
my damp kisses all over your pillows,
my clammy flowers
blooming in your cellar,
my spring grass
dewed with mucus-
and you’ll remember me
and how, tonight, wearing my
Go Dawgs T-shirt, I
stood at the center
of this sweet clinging heat
of a concession stand
with my flushed cheeks, and
how, before we touched, I
coughed into my hand.
here we are together
in bed all day again.
You Know How
Sometimes you hear a whisper
fall over your shoulder,
but then you turn to search
for the source, find nothing
but landscape behind you?
So then you tell yourself
it was just a case of hyperactive
yourself that sentiments
don’t materialize out of thin air.
But the truth, at least as I like
to tell it, is that the voices
who speak to you from inside
your head have taken up
permanent residence there.
Some shout warnings, prodding
you to take cover, flee,
or brandish a weapon.
Others murmur, haunting
you with poetry.
The Métier of Blossoming
Fully occupied with growing—that’s
the amaryllis. Growing especially
at night: it would take
only a bit more patience than I’ve got
to sit keeping watch with it till daylight;
the naked eye could register every hour’s
increase in height. Like a child against a barn door,
proudly topping each year’s achievement,
goes each green stem, smooth, matte,
traces of reddish purple at the base, and almost
imperceptible vertical ridges
running the length of them:
Two robust stems from each bulb,
sometimes with sturdy leaves for company,
elegant sweeps of blade with rounded points.
Aloft, the gravid buds, shiny with fullness.
One morning—and so soon!—the first flower
has opened when you wake. Or you catch it poised
in a single, brief
moment of hesitation.
Next day, another,
shy at first like a foal,
even a third, a fourth,
carried triumphantly at the summit
of those strong columns, and each
a Juno, calm in brilliance,
a maiden giantess in modest splendor.
If humans could be
that intensely whole, undistracted, unhurried,
swift from sheer
unswerving impetus! If we could blossom
out of ourselves, giving
nothing imperfect, withholding nothing!
–Natasha TretheweyI was asleep while you were dying.It’s as if you slipped through some rift, a hollowI make between my slumber and my waking,the Erebus I keep you in, still tryingnot to let go. You’ll be dead again tomorrow,but in dreams you live. So I try takingyou back into morning. Sleep-heavy, turning,my eyes open, I find you do not follow.Again and again, this constant forsaking.*Again and again, this constant forsaking:my eyes open, I find you do not follow.You back into morning, sleep-heavy, turning.But in dreams you live. So I try taking,not to let go. You’ll be dead again tomorrow.The Erebus I keep you in—still, trying—I make between my slumber and my waking.It’s as if you slipped through some rift, a hollow.I was asleep while you were dying.