Tue, Apr. 22nd, 2008, 03:25 pm
You Don't Know What Love Is
but you know how to raise it in me
like a dead girl winched up from a river. How to
wash off the sludge, the stench of our past.
How to start clean. This love even sits up
and blinks; amazed, she takes a few shaky steps.
Any day now she'll try to eat solid food. She'll want
to get into a fast car, one low to the ground, and drive
to some cinderblock shithole in the desert
where she can drink and get sick and then
dance in nothing but her underwear. You know
where she's headed, you know she'll wake up
with an ache she can't locate and no money
and a terrible thirst. So to hell
with your warm hands sliding inside my shirt
and your tongue down my throat
like an oxygen tube. Cover me
in black plastic. Let the mourners through.
Sun, Apr. 20th, 2008, 11:09 am
M. Degas Teaches Art And Science At Durfee Intermediate School--Detroit 1942
He made a line on the blackboard,
one bold stroke from right to left
diagonally downward and stood back
to ask, looking as always at no one
in particular, "What have I done?"
From the back of the room Freddie
shouted, "You've broken a piece
of chalk." M. Degas did not smile.
"What have I done?" he repeated.
The most intellectual students
looked down to study their desks
except for Gertrude Bimmler, who raised
her hand before she spoke. "M. Degas,
you have created the hypotenuse
of an isosceles triangle." Degas mused.
Everyone knew that Gertrude could not
be incorrect. "It is possible,"
Louis Warshowsky added precisely,
"that you have begun to represent
the roof of a barn." I remember
that it was exactly twenty minutes
past eleven, and I thought at worst
this would go on another forty
minutes. It was early April,
the snow had all but melted on
the playgrounds, the elms and maples
bordering the cracked walks shivered
in the new winds, and I believed
that before I knew it I'd be
swaggering to the candy store
for a Milky Way. M. Degas
pursed his lips, and the room
stilled until the long hand
of the clock moved to twenty one
as though in complicity with Gertrude,
who added confidently, "You've begun
to separate the dark from the dark."
I looked back for help, but now
the trees bucked and quaked, and I
knew this could go on forever.
Fri, Apr. 18th, 2008, 01:02 pm
How I Had To Act
One day I went and bought a fake fur coat
from two old ladies in a discount shop
no young woman should have walked into: taupe
fluff with leopard spots for four hundred bucks
which I charged—no cash till my paycheck—
admired by the two old saleslady crooks.
Five minutes later I was at my shrink’s
casually shoving the bag by a chair,
one arm flopping out synthetically. Trinkets,
all belonging to my crooked grandmother,
floated across the wall already filled with the shrink’s
trinkets. Afterward, among the minks
on the street, I caught sight of my grandmother
in a shopwindow. The wind was howling.
I wore the fake coat with a babushka. Another
possibility was: that was me. I didn’t
have four hundred dollars and felt humiliated
by what I had acted out and berated
myself for buying a blazer in the size
of my sister the week before! You MESS!
I called myself a lot of names. Eyes
on the bus looked up when I barreled on
in the coat I couldn’t return to the store.
I refused to go shopping alone anymore.
My rich friend said, “A fun fur . . . how daring.”
How daring to become my clever, lying
grandmother and before that my sister whose loved,
dirty stuffed leopard Gram craftily destroyed.
I had promised myself a real fur coat
which I wanted as I did a real self, employed
with real feelings. Instead I bought a fake
which I couldn’t afford. “What a mistake!”
I chortled to my shrink, who agreed
though I did not want her to. How terrible,
I wanted her to say, How terrible
you have to act this way.
Wed, Apr. 16th, 2008, 09:59 pm
When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-coloured
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground,
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm,
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate wilfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree~
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
Tue, Apr. 15th, 2008, 06:05 pm
Phenomenology of the Prick
You say, Let's get naked. It's 1962; the world
is changing, or has changed, or is about to change;
we want to get naked. Seven or eight old friends
want to see certain bodies that for years we've
guessed at, imagined. For me, not
certain bodies: one. Yours. You know that.
We get naked. The room
is dark; shadows against the windows'
light night sky; then you approach your wife. You light
a cigarette, allowing me to see what is forbidden to see.
You make sure I see it hard.
You make sure I see it hard
only once. A year earlier, through the high partition between cafeteria
booths, invisible I hear you say you can get Frank's
car keys tonight. Frank, you laugh, will do anything I want.
You seem satisfied. This night, as they say,
completed something. After five years of my
obsession with you, without seeming to will it you
managed to let me see it hard. Were you
giving me a gift. Did you want fixed in my brain
what I will not ever possess. Were you giving me
a gift that cannot be possessed. You make sure
I see how hard
your wife makes it. You light a cigarette.
Sun, Apr. 13th, 2008, 03:47 pm
I think I grow tensions
in a wood where
Each wound is perfect,
encloses itself in a tiny
Pain is a flower like that one,
like this one,
like that one,
like this one.
SO THE HALL DOOR SHUTS AGAIN AND ALL NOISE IS GONE
In the effort to find one's way among the contents of memory
a principal of association is helpful—
"passing rapidly from one step to the next.
For instance from milk to white,
from white to air,
from air to damp,
after which one recollectes autumn supposing one is trying to
recollect that season."
you are trying to recollect not autumn but freedom,
a principal of freedom
the existed between two people, small and savage
as principals go—but what are the rules for this?
As he says,
folly may come into fashion.
Pass then rapidly
from one step to the next,
for instance from nipple to hard,
from hard to hotel room,
from hotel room
to a phrase found in a letter he wrote in a taxi one day he passed
on the other side of the street and she did not see him, she was—
so ingenious are the arrangements of the state of flux we call
our moral history are they not almost as neat as mathematical
propositions except written on water—
on her way to the courthouse
to file papers for divorce, a phrase like
how you tasted between your legs.
After which by means of this wholly divine faculty, the "memory
of words and things,"
Is it I? cries the soul rushing up.
Little soul, poor vague animal:
beware this invention "always useful for learning and life"
as Aristotle say, Aristotle who
had no husband,
rarely mentions beauty
and was likely to pass rapidly from wrist to slave when trying to
Thu, Apr. 10th, 2008, 06:57 pm
A Kind of Courage
The girl shepherd on the farm beyond has been
taken from school now she is twelve, and her life is over.
I got my genius brother a summer job in the mills
and he stayed all his life. I lived with a woman four
years who went crazy later, escaped from the hospital,
hitchhiked across America terrified and in the snow
without a coat. Was raped by most men who gave her
a ride. I crank my heart even so and it turns over.
Ranges high in the sun over continents and eruptions
of mortality, through winds and immensities of rain
falling for miles. Until all the world is overcome
by what goes up and up in us, singing and dancing
and throwing down flowers nevertheless.
Wed, Apr. 9th, 2008, 05:17 pm
We Never Know
He danced with tall grass
for a moment, like he was swaying
with a woman. Our gun barrels
When I got to him,
a blue halo
of flies had already claimed him.
I pulled the crumbed photograph
from his fingers.
There's no other way
to say this: I fell in love.
The morning cleared again,
except for a distant mortar
& somewhere choppers taking off.
I slid the wallet into his pocket
& turned him over, so he wouldn't be
kissing the ground.
Tue, Apr. 8th, 2008, 09:34 pm
The List of Famous Hats
Napoleon's hat is an obvious choice I guess to list as a famous hat, but that's not the hat I have in mind. That was his hat for show. I am thinking of his private bathing cap, which in all honesty wasn't much different than the one any jerk might buy at a corner drugstore now, except for two minor eccentricities. The first one isn't even funny: Simply it was a white rubber bathing cap, but too small. Napoleon led such a hectic life ever since his childhood, even farther back than that, that he never had a chance to buy a new bathing cap and still as a grown-up--well, he didn't really grow that much, but his head did: He was a pinhead at birth, and he used, until his death really, the same little tiny bathing cap that he was born in, and this meant that later it was very painful to him and gave him many headaches, as if he needed more. So, he had to vaseline his skull like crazy to even get the thing on. The second eccentricity was that it was a tricorn bathing cap. Scholars like to make a lot out of this, and it would be easy to do. My theory is simple-minded to be sure: that beneath his public head there was another head and it was a pyramid or something.