Archive for September, 2011
I am so lucky that every (afternoon) as I have my morning coffee, Joel ambles up to the river bench and smokes with me, and we look at flowers and talk of poetic syncopation and the gossip of last night, and invariably he offers me a new name, a new poem, which he thinks I would like. He is usually correct, smart soulful man. Today it was Mary Oliver, and how hot the sun suddenly, on our black attire, on our toes, the coffee burning more than my lips and his warnings that she may make me cry, but in the greatest way possible, the way only poetry can do. Enjoy today’s tidbits.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver
Look, the trees
their own bodies
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
the long tapers
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
Random thoughts on a grey afternoon.
Iowa City blues
Iowa city, 17th Sept, 2011.
That river, once blue in your mind’s eye, is swirling mud green,
you can feel the squelch in your toes and
the vile teeth of creatures that mean you harm, even
if distant, even if voiceless.
The clouds are in gestation, their grey omnipotence harkens
whirling gusts of sorrow.
Please rain. Perhaps that will distract from
a small desert I have put through a sieve,
inside my gathered splintered spaces.
There was a promise once made to never write of nature, but
a midwest rakes a brow,
and there is an understanding of why they wrote of birds and flowers.
I would like to write of your shoulders and
other homes I have relinquished.
I would write of wars enclosing,
and even your words would be part of that assault.
But the clouds are pregnant with witness,
I share a landscape with no one but my sobriety, and on days like this,
the flushed rose of hips is alchemy, now blubber, where
beached whales of my perception of self are choking on a bed,
charting an ocean between us.
I promised to not write of the river, but
but water is reflective, and
it has not rained.
With the pace of what’s happening. Yet, I am always inside my own head. And can be found alone, often. Or hiding. Or laughing in semi alone privacy, when there was a full moon, a roof and so much light creeping through metal, through trees, our silences and sentences and lit glowing tips.
I wanted to write and tell you about Pittsburgh and Sonia Sanchez. Her genius. She is 77 years old and put on a roaring show. The energy vibrating through her was ricocheted all throughout our bodies and smiles. She eats macrobiotic food and hugs everyone. Called me sister. Is there anything more beautiful than the African American habit of calling each other sister and brother?
I could have told you about the audience. And how shiny I felt, on the inside. How many people loved Palestine and came up to me in tears after, to say so. What a blessed experience. I don’t have the will power and the inspiration to write a lot today.
I have fallen in love with Stephen Dunn. It is official. I always suspected it, but now it is confirmed. I don’t care if he is in his fifties, married, with kids and way out of my league, I have fallen in love with Stephen Dunn. I will write something this week about how he took over my brain for two days, probably why I am not in any shape to write much today…
Here are some poems. It is impossible to pick ones that would explain how reading an entire book makes one feel. Its not fair, to choose a couple. I have previously posted some of my favorites. A little (lengthy) stalking of this blog will send you back to them. Yes, yes, I know I should start tagging. Sigh.
The sister I never had
enters my wife when I am
sleeping next to her.
So many times
I’ve watched my sister
come from her separate room,
the room that long ago
in a house of brothers
was an extra room
down the hall from where
I would dream her alive.
She climbs into bed
on my wife’s side
and I touch my wife awake
for now my sister and she
are the woman I must talk to
about incompleteness and love.
Awake, she doesn’t know
my sister is in her,
she doesn’t know why my embrace
has so much gratefulness in it,
why my questions are all
whispered as if
a father could overhear us.
She thinks I want to
make love but I remove
her hand and hold it,
ask another question
about high school and loss,
the kind of loss
that repeats itself every day
like being born
without a leg.
I watch my sister leave
as my wife takes me
in her arms, says hush
you’ve been talking again,
and I curl into her
as if it were possible
she could be everything to me,
alone like this,
More things come to them,
and they have more to hide.
All around them: mirrors, eyes.
In any case
they are different from other women
and like great athletes have trouble
making friends, and trusting a world
quick to praise.
I admit without shame
I’m talking about superficial beauty,
the beauty unmistakable
to the honest eye, which causes
some of us to pivot and to dream,
to tremble before we dial.
Intelligence warmed by generosity
is inner beauty, and what’s worse
some physically beautiful women have it,
and we have to be strapped and handcuffed
to the mast, or be ruined.
But I don’t want to talk of inner beauty,
it’s the correct way to talk
and I’d feel too good
about myself, like a parishoner.
Now, in fact,
I feel like I’m talking
to a strange beautiful woman at a bar, I’m
animated, I’m wearing that little fixed
smile, I might say anything at all.
Still, it’s better to treat a beautiful woman
as if she were normal, one of many.
She’ll be impressed that you’re unimpressed,
might start to lean your way.
This is especially true if she has aged
into beauty, for she will have learned
the sweet gestures one learns
in a lifetime of seeking love.
Lucky is the lover of such a woman
and lucky the woman herself.
Beautiful women who’ve been beautiful girls
are often in some tower of themselves
waiting for us to make the long climb.
But let us have sympathy for the loneliness
of beautiful women.
Let us have no contempt for their
immense privilege, or for the fact
that they never can be wholly ours.
It is not astonishing
when the scared little girl in all of them
says here I am, or when they weep.
But we are always astonished by what
beautiful women do.
“Boxers punch harder when women are around,”
Kenneth Patchen said. Think what happens
when beautiful women are around.
We do not question
that a thousand ships were launched.
In the eye of the beholder? A platitude.
A beautiful woman enters a room,
and everyone beholds. Geography changes.
We watch her everywhere she goes.
Waiting with Two Members of a Motorcycle Gang for My Child to Be Born
by Stephen Dunn.
I was talking to “The Eliminators”
when you were born,
two of them, high as slag heaps and
uncles to be,
all in black for the occasion,
All you wanted was out;
you couldn’t have known that you
when you came, or that your father
was let loose
from graduate school, a believer
I expected “The Eliminators” to
disappear, snuffed out
by a stronger force, a white tornado
of my own.
That’s not what happens, though,
as you will learn. They smiled when
they heard of you
and shook my hand. And another time
have been my head. May you turn
stone, my daughter,
into silk. May you make men better
than they are.
If the horse that you ride
is blind it’s good
that it also be slow,
and please stroke it
a hundred more times than you would
the powerful dazzling one.
To be generous is one thing,
but there’s a clerk in some of us,
quick to say yes.
Worry about the command
in the suggestion.
Worry about smiles, and those men
whose business is business.
There are joys and enigmas
of an evening alone
There are always the simple events
of your life
that you might try to convert
Did you know
a good dog in your house
can make you more thoughtful,
even more moral?
And sex without conversation,
sex that’s erotic or sleepy…
oh don’t let anybody tell you
there’s a wrong way to have it.
Tell your lovers the world
robs us is so many ways
that a caress is your way
of taking something back.
Tell the dogs and the horses
you love them more than cars.
Speak to everything
would be my advice.
I wont comment too much on the poem below. Allow inference. I am stranded in another airport for another few hours and the sunlight hates me. The big city vibe of this airport is nervous after the Iowa river sunbathing and its midnight conversations. I want to hide in poetry but the airport is never quiet, is it.
I wrote this poem a few days ago, not sure why. I am on my way to perform poetry at the City Of Asylum Jazz poetry festival in Pittsburgh. I have to choose a poem that a jazz collective will play to. Sounds a little frightening. I havent chosen the poem, I cant seem to. Should I be Palestinian? Or a lover? or a mourning daughter? or none of the above.
You get one shot to claim a persona for an audience of strangers. I might leave the choice for another person to make.
It is dangerous living with nothing but poetry on your mind. Everything real is so distant and I know the crash is coming. But what delight to have the labour of your day fulfilled by emails for poetry, blog posts on poetry, plane rides for poetry, updates to letters on poetry, and the reading of poetry on airplanes, turbulent.
I may have died a little and gone to language heaven. It will be a rude awakening come November.
Iowa City, Sept 6th, 2011
I have littered the room with cups of coffee,
all bits of bitter sludge
in the attempt aftermath,
At night, the scent of hazelnut- fake chemical- is noxious
in the room, but I keep them,
thinking maybe less sleep
is a gift given or dream interrupted or a chemically induced state of
resurrection of self.
I have vacuumed into my belly a hundred poems today
in torpor and angst
the arms ache from shaking across screens -transcendent lines-
whose words now combust with the radioactive
remains of all that brown sugar and late night thoughts of kisses I digest,
but even after this cleanup,
nothing is clean
sentences wobble on dust motes
the sun is phosphor glowing through
drooped eyelids stubborn but the rain would have told better
stories- I know, I have read them-
I tried to sleep
I am not sure if the poem is what always awakens you.
But the body must rise,
brush off the orange and purple
glance discreetly at the mute TV where they can sell me myself,
when I have lost everything. The body must rise and not stop to wonder-
who are these people yanking and shoving and screaming their lives out, like soda pop water, my mother used to always warn…It’s nothing but water and sugar and will rot your teeth..here, some fruit…how could they also share a world where your remembered lips are still so round, little tongue, mango fuzz, clean, little slip triangular at my unbecoming blushing, the dismantlement of all resolutions of resolve, the opening of thighs for life anew -
the body must rise, even to cold coffee cups and
a swollen tongue,
lingering of bitterness, teeth shooting complaints, fire.
Unfetter the eyes from glasses,
the hair from wrapped entanglement,
run water on everything you could not heal with a hundred poems.
Be naked with the silent TV, outside your
bathroom, where you question
and how far your fingers can reach.
Then you must paint.
and lace the body further -prettier, smarter, softer, healthier, stronger, better, feistier, forever-
set the sun outside for yet another meeting
of literary minds
who will speak of such calamities- of thousands killed in buildings that reflected another sunset-
your own longing
is minute now, a tremor.
Perhaps, you think, I can still learn something,
which is not read by a sorceress from the remains of a
coffee cup, the
way your grandma used to –the passing down of her Nazarene dreams, her warnings-
you should be able now to hear the door crashing behind you,
don’t forget your eyeliner -armor-
and you must then
-this here might need some preparation-
say thank you to the man who opens the hotel front door,
and you must find the right sentence that commands thighs to other motion,
and you must walk,
even after having spoken to no one,
even after being without.
This is the saddest excerpt from a poem I have read all week. I read over 120 poems the past few days, which causes a certain madness in the brain and a certain un-quelled longing in the gut. In discovering Robert Hass, I came across this, and it moved me. Then I was meandering online, and it popped up again, randomly. I figured I must share it. Maybe it will mean nothing to you.
(I only realized how appropriate the title of the full poem was, till now. Magic, it exists. I swear.)
September Notebook: Stories
He found that it was no good trying to tell
what happened that day. Everything he said
seemed fictional the moment that he said it,
the rain, the scent of her hair, what she said
as she was leaving, and why it was important
for him to explain that the car had been parked
under eucalyptus on a hillside, and how velvety
and blurred the trees looked through the windshield;
not, he said, that making fictions might not be
the best way of getting at it, but that nothing he said
had the brute, abject, unassimilated quality
of a wounding experience: the ego in any telling
was already seeing itself as a character, and a character,
he said, was exactly what he was not at that moment,
even as he kept wanting to explain to someone,
to whomever would listen, that she had closed the door
so quietly and so firmly that the beads of rain
on the side window didn’t even quiver.
We had an all American lunch yesterday, lots of meat, little veggies. The sun had blossomed beyond description and it was the calmest breeze I ever did feel. We wandered around looking for coffee and food, as everything in our hotel had shut down for Labour day. On our way to food, we stopped by Prairie lights to pick up books, at least the guys did, and this made all the difference. What went from a warm, languorous afternoon, with beautiful people and a very cloudy sky, to a poetry fest at lunch. Evidence below. It was the most poetic french fries I ever did ingest. I was introduced to the poetry of Robert Hass, which also made my afternoon spiral into various directions, all luminous, all flickering with lights on water moving, the way the young man took his sandals off and read by the trees, the loud girls taking photos on the bridge screaming about being cover girls and so hawwwttt, the way you could almost forgive them the defilement of silence as they were so young and beautiful and unaware. I enjoyed the book a lot and the rest of my mad evening, which is another story altogether. This is the poem I was requested to read out loud at lunch, by Joel. It is gorgeous.
Privilege of Being
Many are making love. Up above, the angels
in the unshaken ether and crystal of human longing
are braiding one another’s hair, which is strawberry blond
and the texture of cold rivers. They glance
down from time to time at the awkward ecstasy—
it must look to them like featherless birds
splashing in the spring puddle of a bed—
and then one woman, she is about to come,
peels back the man’s shut eyelids and says,
look at me, and he does. Or is it the man
tugging the curtain rope in the dark theater?
Anyway, they do, they look at each other;
two beings with evolved eyes, rapacious,
startled, connected at the belly in an unbelievably sweet
lubricious glue, stare at each other,
and the angels are desolate. They hate it. They shudder pathetically
like lithographs of Victorian beggars
with perfect features and alabaster skin hawking rags
in the lewd alleys of the novel.
All of creation is offended by this distress.
It is like the keening sound the moon makes sometimes,
rising. The lovers especially cannot bear it,
it fills them with unspeakable sadness, so that
they close their eyes again and hold each other, each
feeling the mortal singularity of the body
they have enchanted out of death for an hour or so,
and one day, running at sunset, the woman says to the man,
I woke up feeling so sad this morning because I realized
that you could not, as much as I love you,
dear heart, cure my loneliness,
wherewith she touched his cheek to reassure him
that she did not mean to hurt him with this truth.
And the man is not hurt exactly,
he understands that his life has limits, that people
die young, fail at love,
fail of their ambitions. He runs beside her, he thinks
of the sadness they have gasped and crooned their way out of
coming, clutching each other with old, invented
forms of grace and clumsy gratitude, ready
to be alone again, or dissatisfied, or merely
companionable like the couples on the summer beach
reading magazine articles about intimacy between the sexes
to themselves, and to each other,
and to the immense, illiterate, consoling angels.
From HUMAN WISHES (Ecco Press, 1989)
This is the first draft of a poetic-ish commentary on the Dean Young reading I went to last week. If you read the previous blog post, you’ll see that it was a benefit to collect money in a variety of ways to help heal the heart of a beloved writer, by his community. They, as poets, were not used to selling things. It was endearing. I thought of how we poison our own bodies, sometimes with garbage food, sometimes with poisonous people, sometimes with our own thoughts. This naturally led to some majorly cheesy questions and the poem below. Those of you who know me will probably forgive the silliness of wanting to write about hearts at a poetry benefit.
Iowa city, Sept 5th, 2011.
Sometimes, the heart plunges outside of
the tucked self, refuses
that purpose, its sole ticking mission, crumbles the rules, unwritten by you.
A wastepaper basket of all what should have been.
You can beg it, but it has moved, and left
you no stone trail. In its invisible structure,
decisions have been made,
while you were out drinking,
searching for brighter stars.
The hum of the air conditioning is louder than my heart,
and what comfort. The trees wobble outside, and I know a sunrise can be counted on.
Even the sky is still blue, as I will
it to turn over, close its eyes, so I can be naked.
Some hearts are not so pliant.
You may need health insurance, stitches, your
children, a nurse and private weeping you
may only imagine on your wife’s face, upturned to her own god.
You can perhaps imagine how they all sat in silence.
Expected, respected, your words were
masters, from a far away time we have
not abolished. Poetry is concrete around these weightless figures, in a bookstore,
where not even feet made themselves audible. Your poetry was at stake,
but could also save, could even play
hunter to hearts that fled, with abandon.
Your friends, that word never quite
synonymous with visceral spheres of action
and speech and all that handholding entailed,
your friends have gathered to save your heart.
What is in the heart, but blood pumping common matter?
Why all the squalid love stories?
What you required was money, and what
you could offer was poems. And
in an alternate fiscal system, there was enough to barter.
beloved by many
and your heart
and their money
and your words
and their time
and your legacy
and their energy
a young driven woman with tresses
whose older poet lover also sang lines, a stake through my own center.
In poem after poem, we sat,
stood, crossed stealthy our ankles,
remembered, yearned for precise revelations of what
language could still offer,
in the recedes of our faces which knew too much,
a room of books and lovers,
a plain for solitude as far as the mind can think, a brink, the precipice
of expression, tugging at clefts in my own boundaries,
while they kept wading
to save your heart, waterlogged in congenital spells and damnation.
They ventured out as far as the worth of poetry is measurable.
Down as far as the imagined sea pocket was deep.
I kept thinking of my own heart,
not blighted at birth,
I know humans die alone,
but what of the multitudes who will protect you from the journey?
in a bookstore where
the pages ought not scare you. My knees shook from all
that I do not know yet. And all that leaving behind of what I once knew to be true.
The questions on inherited heart disease, how
that forms future rows of plastic chairs
and the drinking of wine, and the distribution of song.
What would you store in the heart to brew evil?
How do we ferment what is fresh?
Was I born lucky?
What could you write if you were ending.
Do fingers offer more to the mind on slow decline?
You must wake up, and speak to the body of sunlight,
for a poetry reading can save you.
To hide away from the malice of the heart,
start with a hand on your breast, pray to nothing but skin,
and what comes in between.
How will love live there?
Find an answer.
Brown eyed man, who could not see beyond the breast and my laughter,
who could not unite life force with a history,
I have mistreated my heart long enough.
I clog it up with late night commercials,
with the sugar and grease of traveled gravel and
necessary pit stops, with the filth of
daily news and massacres, elsewhere, stored
It droops with flashed images of what
is pornographic in its hunger,
as the chaste heart gallops, saying I, to every river.
The clouds are still white, and my teeth solid, in anger.
Beaten muscle, thank you.
Set aside the nicotine, and the
caffeine of buzzed skin rubbed on steaming
curved corners, the traces
of salt survival in every vein, the morphine
of happiness we drip like smiles,
clutching at semblances of a lone sentence
to finish one poem that will keep you,
benign, untarnished, sheltered.
This here is
tremor of faith in aortas that stride,
that withstand Palestine,
and the wilting of jasmine flowers,
If this fist sized secret can conquer sunlight,
and understand the moon,
it can serenade my sister,
hold a child who deciphers it,
leave always a window open for the scent of my mother,
why would I allow you room for rental?
If a poetry reading can save you,
why summon in the sorceress of malady, the harbinger of sickness?
Brown eyed man,
this here, is notice
is the last paper slip of eviction.
I went to a benefit poetry reading recently which was organized to help collect funds for the health care required by the heart of a poet named Dean Young. He is beloved by many. Discovering his poetry has been a pleasure, if very intimidating. I wrote a long piece on my own heart after hearing about his congenital afflicted one. Apparently, I am not alone in this. We laughed over the french fries in the cafeteria as another told me of all the American poets who strive for less and less sentimentality now struggling to write about Dean and his heart, the word “Heart” coming into play far more often they would have liked to. How to write about mortality and love and friendship and poetry without all the necessary cliches. I fail at it. Of course.
I shall post up my own poem when I summon the courage this week, but for now I leave you with one of the poems I enjoyed at the reading, read by James Galvin, head of poetry department at Iowa Uni. James has a ridiculously fantastic way of reading, slow, sexy and deliberate, with a deep voice, and all the correct pauses, making humor arise of situations written that may have evaded a reader. It was a joy. This is the poem he read by Dean.
Sources Of The Delaware
by Dean Young
I love you he said but saying it took twenty years
so it was like listening to mountains grow.
I love you she says fifty times into a balloon
then releases the balloon into a room
whose volume she calculated to fit
the breath it would take to read
the complete works of Charlotte Bronte aloud.
Someone else pours green dust into the entryway
and puts rice paper on the floor. The door
is painted black. On the clothesline
shirttails snap above the berserk daffodils.
Hoagland says you’ve got to plunge the sword
into the charging bull. You’ve got
to sew yourself into a suit of light.
For the vacuum tube, it’s easy,
just heat the metal to incandescence
and all that dark energy becomes radiance.
A kind of hatching, syntactic and full of buzz.
No contraindications, no laws forbidding
buying gin on Sundays. Not if you’re pregnant,
if you’re operating heavy machinery because
who isn’t towing the scuttled tonnage
of some self? Sometimes just rubbing
her feet is enough. Just putting out
a new cake of soap. Sure, the contents
are under pressure and everyone knows
that last step was never intended to bear
any weight but isn’t that why we’re standing there?
Ripples in her hair, I love you she hollers
over the propellers. Yellow scarf in mist.
When I planted all those daffodils,
I didn’t know I was planting them
in my own chest. Play irretrievably
with the lid closed, Satie wrote on the score.
But Hoagland says he’s sick of opening
the door each morning not on diamonds
but piles of coal, and he’s sick of being
responsible for the eons of pressure needed
and the sea is sick of being responsible
for the rain, and the river is sick of the sea.
So the people who need the river
to float waste to New Jersey
throw in antidepressants. So the river
is still sick but nervous now too,
its legs keep thrashing out involuntarily,
flooding going concerns, keeping the president
awake. So the people throw in beta-blockers
to make it sleep which it does, sort of,
dreaming it’s a snake again but this time
with fifty heads belching ammonia
which is nothing like the dreams it once had
of children splashing in the blue of its eyes.
So the president gets on the airways
with positive vectors and vows
to give every child a computer
but all this time, behind the podium,
his penis is shouting, Put me in, Coach,
I can be the river! So I love you say
the flashbulbs but then the captions
say something else. I love you says
the hammer to the nail. I love Tamescha
someone sprays across the For Sale sign.
So I tell Hoagland it’s a fucked-up ruined
world in such palatial detail, he’s stuck
for hours on the phone. Look at those crows,
they think they’re in on the joke and
they don’t love a thing. They think
they have to be that black to keep
all their radiance inside. I love you
the man says as his mother dies
so now nothing ties him to the earth,
not fistfuls of dirt, not the silly songs
he remembers singing as a child.
I love you I say meaning lend me twenty bucks.
of course, James ended his reading with saying…”No, seriously, lend him twenty bucks”. Which the audience smiled and smiled at.
Helen Wing is one of our newer Poeticians, who for me is an example of the precise raison d’etre of the collective. Helen decided to pursue writing much more seriously, and in some very distant beautiful places, because of her involvement with the collective. Or so she tells us, and I radiate joy at those emails. She only read with us a few times, but her absence will be felt, and here is hoping she will return at some point in the winter to Dubai to perform some more. Today I woke up to rain, and sweet foggy memories of heavy moments in a twinkly night, and for sustenance, I was given these poems below, by Helen, to share on the site. Thank you, darlin. I hope you enjoy them, anonymous readers.
(And Rewa )
Of daemons in the duster, and of the most important things
Of the most important things
I simply cannot speak:
of passions old and new,
(although I do, but don’t do too,
if you get my drift,
not in any way that means that
we can seamlessly,
in blazing cherubim honesty,
stand here holding
each other’s feathered hand),
of babies’ toes, of undone
laces and straightenings,
of the agony of just one line of verse,
of yearning the size of Ireland
and potential not existing yet
even in the ancient patterned
I line up by my bath,
as lapidary taunts
that reminisce the suppurating disconnect
between the my long lost bodied earth
and the light years hence out-distancing
of my spirit forsaken sky,
of the leagues between who I meant to be
and who I then became
none of the stones I stepped upon
the peach chalcedony, the jadeite,
the insect snare of the agate seam,
the darkest hidden antimony,
or the weathered vicious flint,
of insignificant, shadow-ash
small, domestic pain,
strung like a grey grease-stained
stinky-stale dishcloth over
the tarnished lip of the sink
of my down-the-plughole type of life,
the enemy of Jif;
of mammoth envies
and sluggish rusted antonyms,
of fizzed-up dreams and nicotine
blasphemies and coked up, choked up,
staunched and cauterised desire,
of things I lost and cannot find,
of who fits in and who does not,
of whys and hows and whens
I really should have known,
of things in the end that I never even realised
I was supposed to try and understand.
No, of all these,
shall we call them,
(though I am finding now,
since these translucent, polished light
caressing and consoling
fluttering around the kitchen,
and the bath
and the stairwell
and the hall,
(all the places people secretly have to weep),
witnessing the ablutions
of my suspended in mid-air violet whittled life,
since these gorgeous fluttering winged creatures came,
I am finding
that of at least a few of
these seemingly important things
one day soon,
So, she starches your shirts,
turns your collars,
Spic and span!
Wouldn’t you rather she took you in her mouth and
pulled on you
like she is dragging the shirt off a fidgety child?
Don’t you still want her to
draw you out until
you release from the depths of your belly
that is the nearest you can come
to a pin-striped
which while it lasts
threads every part of you
the silk skein of the frothing web
that spreads out
to every last corner
you would prefer
So, you already know that,
as time succeeds
you’ll prefer the shirt.
you tell me as a mark of pride
that she is very clean.
So, explain to me why this one thing
will never change
will always stay the same,
explain to me
that feeling as you button up
your freshly laundered shirt,
break out new pants,
pull on your navy
explain to me
how spic and span
and primped and cleaned,
she makes you feel
that all that is
that your fingers trail the length
of my carnelian, carnal cave,
in your stag-white,
that the past
that we treat
with a tenderness
reserved for all new-borns,
that we think
(Hymning him who brings the light) and now the light
I was always so afraid of death
your words roar into me with the brute-purple force
Your words run like slaughter swords,
like knives, they cut into my flesh,
your crimson, blazing courage
Your red, red words
burn into me,
slice right through
the thicket I had grown around my heart,
did I say battering?,
ochre’d, stinking corpses
and bulbous, silvered flies,
I was always so afraid of death.
Now dripping lupine teeth,
your cut-cut words,
slash and tear at me,
grind me down
I was always so afraid of death
I will die with the vision of your Tyrian eyes
An archangel carrying the flaming sword of my rendition,
terrible, brave and fierce,
My body part exists for this:
that you might
bring me back to life
if that should be your wish.
Your words roar into me and I am no longer afraid of death.
All that is
for with words alone you inter me in your violet sky,
I am currently on a long trip to the USA to attend the Iowa International writing program, with 36 other lovely writer/poets/journalists/filmmakers and free spirits. It took a lot of suitcases, hustling and bustling, manic last dashes to taxi cabs and a little heartache to get here. It took too many airport coffees to mention, and the notion that one can only go forward. It took self discipline and not answering my phone. It took rummaging through bags in late nights to collect the odds and ends of lives, now ready to sleep. It took maniacal laughter on drunken buses celebrating the love of my newly wed friends, who are glorious. It took experiencing an earthquake in a house that shook, conversations with a woman who is 97 years old who told me everyday she still enjoyed life, who told me I was beautiful. It took a lot of rain, and dirt on my toes and a hurricane and laughter as my wondrous sister said the things that only she can say, to my heart.
And now I am here, and life is anew, and there is starlight and sunlight and moonlight and very cheap, very tasty alcohol, and more poets than the soul could bear. There are bookstores, and good looking healthy youngsters, like a balm on tattered thoughts. There is mexican food and hazelnut coffee, and more trees than I can manage to climb in three months. There are mischievous smiles across local bar tables, and the surprise of the discovery of a shared love of poetry and far off deserts.
I have so much to write in the next three months, and vigor flows through all the tired tendons in my elbows and wrists. I am working on my film, and dreaming of evictions of the heart, and older poets reading words I can only fathom writing in a far off blessed future, and in the meantime, after the fragrant colored smoke drifting off river walks in the late night, there are poems, poems that make no sense.
Poem that makes no sense.
Iowa City, August, 2011.
Nothing here reminds me of you, not the languid frogs in the trees,
although, in retrospect, many parallels could be made.
And I like frogs,
Nothing much. At the end of it. Not the hexagon
shapes of possible lights over other moving ripples,
and me and my curls and waving hands,
all the insects in leaves, humming a
funk tune private for my sorrow.
Not even the thighs of young bodies flitting by, briefly humping
everyone’s kinky imagination before furiously
dying as they jog us by,
doomed to motion.
Not even the ungirdled breasts bouncing on cement.
Those smoke-free streets, where
burn still happens.
Not the glorious 4 dollar
shots of kickass whiskey, nor the hawk eye repetitions,
even though you
are no strangers to animals of prey.
Not the blonde braids you would have
noticed on sweaty foreheads,
Not the wide bed, half
alive, not the dead
bed which still has use, that mobile shifting of covers and oblivion, vital.
It is good to sleep in new places.
Not the lack of sand, and everything
being so luscious, not the texture sweet rough dreadlocks
on my gentle new friend, nor
nor the peace of cream cheese on blueberry
bagels, and the search to find ubiquitous coffee,
and finding plenty, nothing
nothing about the
sunlight reminds me of you, not the green green green
not even the damned blue echoing to where we parted.
Not the mania,
as if we needed more salting of what we slashed,
not the music, suddenly
from a forgotten jukebox time, now
also a match lit in the memory shelf of song, which
is like no other,
that recognition of self amongst worlds disparate,
that pitch of human and
machine which stays with one,
when one leaves,
even when one leaves often.
And that other, lighter,
ice blue in
the face of a tamed
wolf who liked table spoons, etched on wrists, because of poetry
and something else within him,
which I may never know.
Not even his hands reminded me of you.
That jukebox manna crashed
across a strange bar, casual,
and, not even
the silence in me reminded me of you.
It is all really rather silly, all of it, in
the end, the
moaning and groaning,
and the unexpected yearning which abates,
and the lack of will to always go into
all of that breaking, and this evil
notion of time,
and not even thoughts of my mortality, grisly, reminded me of you.
It is 1:21 in the morning,
this here is a new continent
wrists flounder and probe,
back hunches, and stretches to maintain life,
waist distended and spine
out of righteous sphere,
head a little askew in its orbit,
and my eyelashes a horizon of all I could have
possibly seen before
you, all that which did not tell of your name,
i am cold
and I will not sleep,
for it is important
it is important to write a poem that does not remind me of you.
Which, perhaps, makes sense.
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