Loving one face, and the soul that animates it
142 erotic sonnets
RIVER READ TALKING INTRO FOR “OF FLARES, OF FLOWERS”
As talking apes, we handle the matter of urgent mating in a way quite different from our hairier cousins. For us musing humans, loving someone seems to be equal parts artifice and fascination. We love someone, first, not for who they are, but for whom we make them out to be through the mists of dim recognition–across the roomful of phony fog and the pulsing rainbows of the disco ball. This fascination, combined with the artifice of who they present themselves to be, is just the initial sauce of the gourmand’s smorgasbord of attraction and affection we term “love.”
And where the imagination latches its mollusk, it secretes its magic–transforming the rottenest rowboat into Cleopatra’s bejeweled barge.
The courtship between two adult humans contains, on average, one million words–roughly 100,000 more words than Shakespeare’s complete plays. This is the titanic effort that the imagination brings to bed with us. And from this art, we weave the dreams of our sexual lives, our tenderest expressions of affection. And, indeed, we weave our own families.
How we imagine love is important. To be raw, to be vulnerable, to weave our dreams of love in utter nakedness, is important. It’s what we talking apes do. We do it incessantly and, in all the animal kingdom, we do it with an artifice and fascination compounded mainly of words.
This human intrusion of the heart and cock into one’s interpersonal affairs can be awkward, embarrassing, and nearly impossible to winningly negotiate.
- My eyes are weary of looking for lovers
- This is the first morning of the first da
- My backpack is weighted with lilies and candle
- I know you minimally only
- Let us play a game then, you and I
- Magnolia petals on a tank… fall lightly…
- It’s enough. To play with scarves in summer air
- What is time, and how is it our own
- The fierce being you would have spring from you
- If Cezanne painted you, what village would you be
- The blossoms that stood out on the branch
- Calm as ponds let yourself be today
- Dancing makes a motion of its own
- I would have you grow invisible
- Return to me naked, I would have you so
- You have such a subtle, neutral scent
- Love me fiercely, though nipples bleed
- You open for me, a luminous anemone
- Each night my mantra sounds your name
- Eros’ rose shed red shreds of petals
- When the tongue darts tart to the aspic place
- The soft musk of your pale downy neck
- Love—-Love thundering, love underlined
- I’d trade prayerbeads for millstones
- Why is love my measure and my means
- Who were you before we entered the trees
- Out of the bitter snow, I came rattling in
- Go until the earth lies between us, pregnant
- The soft fall of flares, of flowers, once the orgasm’s
- For you, I would be little as the rain, and fall on you
- Love has nourished us like a beet root, red
- What is this enigma that has ruined my sleep
- How one goes on wrestling with destiny
- My heart clicks on and off, a sacred searchlight
- Whose face this is I think I know–
- Every day the poet sat down and thought
- Adam and Eve, by their garden wall surrounded
- I kiss your statue, fervid while you vacillate
- How can tonight come without you her
- The wind insisted nothing, came to my face
- When I create my love for you in my heart
- How should I write a poem of love
- All day long I have followed this sad dog
- I can’t have you every day, can I
- So much time has gone by, sliding and washing
- Lovers always meet each other twice
- You are sleeping, a hill where night-snow falls
- A little pale shy wetness, a little slit
- If you must go today, shed your skin
- Say it once and best, unlike the lark
- Grief is not part of us, part of this loving
- Venus is bending now above the bow
- In your mouth there glows a holy rose
- You come to me encased in a shell of light
- Your feet are wounded doves walking home
- You come carrying gifts no other knows
- Your heart’s composed of grey mourning doves
- Black butterflies crowd the white church with shadows
- Someone has written your body on the grass
- When love spills white on her cloudy breast
- After the white heat has left the pen
- The lamp burns in the corner of my room
- We drive on beautiful white roads until
- Though packed with joy, I’m starved for joy
- In you I discover the sea, am lost in waters
- Your eyes are two moondrops, two bowls
- Our wings are straight out, our wingtips just
- In you I taste my death, your mouth the open
- When you kiss me my face changes
- Are we sowing daughters when we seesaw
- You have filled me the way a jug of wine is filled
- How often have I turned the pages of your book
- Let us hunt among smallnesses for love
- Mysteriously each day flares and disappears
- Come to me, come to me, wild rose who grows
- A thorny ladder wraps the mountain
- Death, I don’t get it—Death seems like a fake
- We’re here to celebrate a life of dust
- Bury me standing and pennyeyed
- I am cut, and in my heart is planted
- We’ve been kissing till our lips are chapped
- Voyeurs at the wall of Abelard
- I would break over your body like a wave
- I tie you to the chair and feel the rough
- Dear, I am jealous of you, the way a pearl
- Desire rifles me, disorders my innards
- Life, I hold you up and look through you
- I try to go to sleep, but can only think
- Being here, meeting you, my life, well, my life
- Life, they say, occurs in the caesuras
- I am blind, blinded, a lost mole escaped out
- Your hands prepare a night for us together—-
- When you abide beside me I am calm
- When I am feeling troubled and at a loss
- She is a compass needle going round
- You held my hand and held me back to make
- Have you ever wanted to fly
- Love comes sneaky like the coyote
- Because my dreams know you, I do not
- Break like an oak, or keep faith forever—-
- Shameless is my mistress wetly caught
- For three dates you remained a mermaid to me
- My love is not a river, but it is
- Other constellations have all flashed to ash—-
- File me down to an unbearable essence
- Your love’s locked up in her intricate castle
- In the mist, in the rain
- Play the sistrum softly, softly
- As hypnotic as a living fan of coral
- Love, so great an emblem, a divinest thing
- I thought I knew just what to do with you
- Grey’s anatomy and all that crap
- Miscreant Time has spelt his troubles plain
- Love cannot choose, but knows it is chosen
- Although my joy with pain is blistered
- Death will take you, and I will bless you: “Go.”
- If I were without whoever you are
- Tell me, does love have sorrow for its marrow
- Death holds lovers who forget each other
- Sitting there so saucily thoughtful
- I’m not quite sure I quite know quite how
- What can summer add to what our winter
- I like to watch you try the new words on your tongue
- The world is packed tight with Kreons and Medeas
- I burn through muses like Estes rockets–
- Would you buy me a backyard full of dreams
- You had grown quiet in a snowy field
- Where do the birds go when it rains
- I do not love you the way fire loves wood
- At sunset, how it all runs away from one
- Love is a corpse, nothing but a corpse
- That night you sang to me shines in me now
- Shivery as a delicate dart from a blowgun
- Everywhere people are looking at the heavens
- I pull you open and divide the loaves
- Love comes apart, like shards, in the hand
- If I am living, I must be loving
- Crying out in my wounds, I do not find you
- An infinity of needles stick in my thumb
- Let love’s little sunbeam into your heart
- Put your hand in the thorny conflagration
- In the tripping tick of time it’s taken
Ah, the small Cavity That takes my all.... No gravity Could keep me down-- When I smell Your downy mound.... I fell, I fall!
TWO, WE TWO
It's just a little while We've been two, we two. Too long myself a solitary, Self-possessed as a dromedary-- And landscape as bleak. Too, too long my lonely hills Slanted-- all drift, sift and seethe. No wet roll or rill, no river Rushed oceanward open-armed, Dissolving all the river's crazy Hermit-cackle to one tongue's More marmoreal, vast Unknowing murmur.
I am desperate to love you, to know you, Like a bride who burns off her wedding dress, Like lips waiting, misshapen, to kiss. Kisses fell out of us like water falls, Bursting to earth and deafening the onlookers! When we kissed, we could hear the sea crashing around us. But where are they now, those slippery kisses? What's left of their vast wetness? No child has grown between us. Even a puddle leaves its residue of mud, Some softening of the way Despite whatever volume of traffic. Stirring the syrup of your sweet sweet life, Letting the licks insist their way into me, inside me, Surely my lips remain sticky? How many feet have been here before us? Every foot. Every pace of the path is hard with old passages, old passions. Every route is known; no star blinks undiscovered-- Except by us, two blips on the periphery, Elliptical with longing, our lips chapped by the long wintering over, Too stiff and dry to even whistle! Our veined and florid maps are still tucked in our backpacks. Our tents are not yet ready to unroll with sleep. My eyes keep blinking, keep looking, no matter how dark the way. There's still so much to see, I think, When your hand brushes mine under the pine trees, And the sound of our walking fades into the background, And I close my eyes to breathe. If love is, then love is what happens When you forget where you're going.
Assist me, some extempore god of rhyme; for I am sure I shall turn sonneteer. ~~ Shakespeare
All my life my heart has yearned for a thing I cannot name. ~~ Andre Breton
Desire too cosmic and too close to name A vibrant nothing and a tortured shame. My all, my fall--which in one syllable I'll tell If you beside me, dear, will ride the black thunders to Hell.
My eyes are weary of looking for lovers In every face, every cinch of the hips, All the coffee, the talk, that passes my lips; Tired of my solitude under cold covers. A day is a long time, an hour, even a minute Without you, stranger who will melt my heart, Who will hear the doves beating in my chest And fold herself into my arms like a shirt. Arctic winds cross my forehead, My hands chill and splayed as a penguin's orange feet As I wait on this ice floe for the one I must meet, One who will ignite my nights with lavender heat. Who are you, hands held before you toward my hands' use.... A sleepwalker? A zombie? A mistress, a muse?
This is the first morning of the first day. Even the grass looks like its being born, Its green is so tender, matching your eyes, As we learn to walk together down the unworn path. Birds hesitate, amazed by the songs in their throats, The wild corollas of sound at their command-- Even the mocking bird, even the warbler, hesitate, Testing bright notes in the new sky and new land. The trees look as young as fresh pea-tendrils. Today, water is closest to happy tears. Smiles cover our faces like big chrome grills-- The first hour of the first day of the first year! I look over at you in your coat and your broach, Ask your name, and, slowly, approach.
My backpack is weighted with lilies and candles. I cross argent mountains and oceans to reach you. I throw a tasseled rug before you And stare into wide eyes no longer dull, Passing the carafe until dawn fills us With rock-candy colors, and our smiles are tired From talking too animatedly wired While night cloaks his blue frills around us. How long have I walked to find your country? How long had I slept till I dreamed of you? How long has my desire kept me swimming? Toward you, toward you, my dear, I am swimming! My breath breaks the surface seeking shores of you! Coming home to your eyes, I sing "‘Tis of thee!"
I know you minimally only, The way a head knows hair: an invisible halo,-- The way a sleepwalker knows life: fully lonely As a blind hand walking across a mirror. I know you only as a keel knows water: I divide and unite your surfaces endlessly and seamlessly, Never knowing the wet of your green interiors. But I know you will know me completely. You will know me without any deceit, For deceit's too weak to withstand your winds-- The hurricanes that live in your laughter Announcing: "It is she!" And I'll stand Open to you totally, a book without a binding, And our eyes will share tears simple as water.
Let us play a game then, you and I. Let the table be raised beneath the sky, Let the drums be drummed, and on it lie. Smoky women bear their burning tapers nigh, Dwarves with gongs come clanging, by-and-by. Everyone take your seats, let the last one in, The ceremony of sex is about to begin. My hand finds you, your hand unknots my tie, Lips as lithe as fishes sip, and we let slip Our final disguise. Now at last in naked night We plunge the utter dark with light caresses. Touching the matter to the heart, they bless us. For you and I are nothing when this is, When we are one thing, one mass of blessings.
Magnolia petals on a tank... fall lightly... As they fall... on everything, being The pink delirious things they are. Philosophers in their overcoats construe More meaning than meaning thinks its due, Being the grey barristers of the real They be. But you, sweating in your spring attire, Visit devastation on the sweet magnolia tree, Declawing its blossoms... and trimming the wings Of birds as they return to their warm abode. For you the poet unfolds his ode. For you the tank stutters in its tracks. For you the petals in my stark heart Fall in flattering loveliness... for a start.
It's enough. To play with scarves in summer air Is enough. The weaving and the waving Of their colors in the fresh summer air Is enough. There is no more to be waved Or to be woven than what has already occurred. No past is prologue when the moment's all. Look how brightly the colors wave and curve! The summer air is here, and that is all. The summer air is heavy in the mind, The mind is old and full of dusty thoughts: How this becomes that, how the child crawls into the man; Colors wave and curve, and I calculate their sine. --Ai! You cover me with a hundred scarves uncaught, And the summer air is bright with omen.
What is time, and how is it our own? I will not recognize the clock hours maybe, So bee-like diligent to my task I am, Or, grown slowly thoughtful looking out to sea, Time slips by lightly that would govern me. My time feels most my own when you and I Together spend the gold moments given: Pointing at Venus in her drape of sky, Or doubling-up downright--with laughter shaken. Or when moony looks imbue you, dear, (If I'm not mistaken) the way a clear Pond becomes clouded with the thought of rain Or a mother disappears into her child's pain. We keep time most when we give all our own.
The fierce being you would have spring from you Will yet spring. The life your life trembles to beget Is waiting in your snowy body curled. She shall from your eyes drink the honied fire, And her breath your breath will yet sustain, Inspiring in her unborn eyes a thousand worlds. The new-made woman who will step like brightness Too bright to look at--dances in your likeness When before the mirror you test your tresses. This phantom of your future self shall come yet: And every diamond be her birthright, And every river flutter like her caress. Oh little mother frowning brownly so, Let one small smile be born upon you now.
If Cezanne painted you, what village would you be? What pair of Monet's haystacks, soft, And glistening in sunlit serenity? To me, too close, you are a crosshatch, crossed With empty diamonds and abrasive lines, A certain blotchey rosacea of the soul Yanking your kite-string down from the divine; From the eternal you wither into the small. Here is where we meet, knees beneath the table, The traffic staticy, the world unstable That goes zagging through the fog beyond us. In our discussion's no accordance-- We're as different as figs, as cracks In the Old Masters, two needles in the haystack.
The blossoms that stood out on the branch Now blow along pavement wet with runoff; Fall gave way to winter, and winter now to March When early flowers crowd and then fall off. It is almost too much of the coming thing, This blizzard of blossoms after blizzard in earnest Before the azalea really get going-- Such hazardous blooming should be in jest. Almost too much... with the excited whites Boating toward oblivion in the gutter Where the storm drain lurks, all appetite, And the dark beyond the grate is utter. There's much to consider while we sit as one, Touched blonde by the sun,--but no longer young.
Calm as ponds let yourself be today. Leadeth thyself to lie down, shut off the TV, Hear the million bees murmur rumor of plenty While kids race at recess in unharried play. Peace, peace be on your sensitive eyes, Your fingers steady as new radial tires; Put up your feet, you're off the highwire, Each exhale sails another balloon to the sky.... May contentment come and tuck you in, Pull the clean sheet right up to your chin, Sing lullabies and lieder until you believe No one you know will ever again grieve. Today take this prayer, and light a tea candle: Whatever comes your way you can handle.
Dancing makes a motion of its own. My ears are dense with music of the known; What notes the moment's inner ear can sow! How like a planet a swaying body goes: Orbiting we dance, and in such dancing flow. Is there a blessing in these moves that move us so? My mother used all her days to make amends, Yet all her days were not enough to spend. What moves in us moves without an end, A dance between the register-marks of stars Whose spheres revolve high music to the ears. --We keep turning to become just what we are. Is there a blessing in these moves that move us so? Dancing makes a motion of its own.
I would have you grow invisible, Shrink down and disappear like blotted tears, Like wine consumed in hungry drops, or winter Snow become fantastical in melting March, Leaving the green hillside patched with wet. Do not change your petals for a branch Curved low with many weighted fruits; Burn, flash to ashes, and let those ashes blow Till no grey shred of your greatness waits Behind, till all colors that compose you are undone. Become some transparent, wingy thing They tell about in churches when they sing. Take all you are with you when you go. Still, I cannot unknow you. This I know.
Return to me naked, I would have you so Always and everywhere, like the nude prow Of a wooden ship, announcing where she goes With splashes white as catastrophe, and as loud. Why have you left me for laundry and chores, Your sails lifted, your hand saluting for shade? Why have you left me? For now you are gone: The bed unmade, and my heart unmade. Wherever you go primly sailing now Through cute boutiques or old bodegas I will wait, for I know that night must follow And your bare moon burst before my window-glass. For this new Life where we squall unadorned, Return to me naked as you were naked born.
You have such a subtle, neutral scent, Like a show-pony before she's ridden hard, Before good use turns her breathing scant And she makes a wanton break-out toward the stars That leaves the sturdy fencepost rent. Cleanly we begin, easy in our reins and chaps, Taking the wide acreage at a simple cant Until the rocking saddle slaps. Then I cleave to you and cleave in twain The sweaty mystery of your sex; Molten mists of joy and pain inextricably mix. Raucous across the finish line, We pant and pause and smell as one To what rank stench our hard riding's come.
Love me fiercely, though nipples bleed And lips need stitches where your lips have passed; Love me fiery until love's pyre is dead, The bonfire soaked, the man-in-the moon undressed. The heat that creeps through lovers' veins Ignites silently in eyes and furtive looks Until a shared surrender in the brain Incinerates discretion, undoes every hook. Do not wait for the duration of a zipper But love me instantly, as steam loves the cold air, Hot as torches in huge candelabra. Burn me until for burning there is no cure, For no love comes when lust's coal-red is gone: No mother-love, no nurse's hand, no one.
You open for me, a luminous anemone; You bloom in intense interior colors And wildly give out strong scents of the sea. Are you plant or animal in your passive pleasure? I peel you blandly at my manly leisure, Exploring your deep promise of treasure: The shine in your eyes is silver with glee. Holding our breaths, we bodysurf white combers, Looking left and right in the tumbling lea Until the grating sand our grace encumbers And we land half-dressed on the bedded beach. You hand me a towel, if one is in reach, And out-of-breath smile and shyly stretch: This is the treasure toward which we lumber.
Each night my mantra sounds your name Which in going round undoes itself in sound Until all syllables go circling the same. Night-owls hoo you, dark winds whistle you, clouds Spell out what letters tout you, only you, Until all alphabets jumble just the same In going round, beading prayers of your name. Crickets crick you, and lapping water begs The shore until all oceans go echoing your name.... Faces whirl and blur, merging as they do, Until all faces are your face, identical as eggs. This mirror-maze of gladness has no end: Beauty is not beauty that shares not your name. All surfaces reflect you, only you.
Eros' rose shed red shreds of petals On your bed, your eyelids, and your long lips-- Pressing silence to the secrets that we keep, Just we two, alone as Adam at the Fall. Twins in sin, how redly aches our double-loving (Spiking with sin-cinnamon our apple pie) As mouth-to-groin and groin-to-mouth we lie, Lengthwise mirrors of all our loving's trouble. Each slap and grapple leaves temptation's trace Trailing red rose petals of fingerprints Across the landscape of your ass and face. And, like a gardener in his pints, I pull the thorns aside for only this: To find two lips, your rose, upraised to kiss.
When the tongue darts tart to the aspic place Ranging round the brown aromaed hole Seeking solace between fundament and face, By licks outlining the awkward tale of souls, I know myself a slave of lust, and lave The merry mistress of my cock with praise No higher than my lust himself does rise To be a sunk spelunker in your caves. Round and round we go, and soul to soul We play bandit and the badman night and day Stealing happiness from the world's decay Whose carnival commands us stand in sadder roles. Through the work week, daybreak to dusk, I dream of our theater, the husk of your musk.
The soft musk of your pale downy neck, Apple-dappled depth of orchard's wealth, Wreathes through our low-hung boughs of breath As we share warm whispers and shining cheeks. The bed about us is tumbled as the Andes, White-peaked bedlam of a stormy ocean Frozen when exhaustion paused our oars again And breath returned to calm our pantings. Soft the musk of your downy neck, my peach. Soft the teased traceries of tongue and tongue Vying redly with teeth and lips and gums To bite the splendid fruit our loves unleash. The endless hours move in one slow sigh-- Opening on a downy dawn as warm as thighs.
Love--Love thundering, love underlined Declares itself no louder than your whisper Whispered in a moment unrefined Until my beaten heart is a burning blister-- Along with other parts best left undefined. The small things you say to me at midnight When the drapes are drawn and shutters tight (And day a rumor of remembered sight)-- Those things you say become my private light And blaze behind my eyes in sheer delight. Although small and quiet as two bugs Sitting aslant a ruby leaf in spring, Our love's not less that chummily hugs And waits till dark to say the wildest things.
I'd trade prayerbeads for millstones If stone could grant what lips have wished And manifest for my solitude All the weight of kissing I have missed, Blessing my bed with your beatitude. All the burdens of the awkward ox I'd shoulder as my own if only Hours, not days, remained till I unroll your socks Next to mine, white stripes on the lonely Divan pushed back and piled with busted boxes. Here I wait in a penitent's house, Whose heart's all roses and runaway kites, Whose curse is time--who has kissed eternity And tossed her socks next to mine.
Why is love my measure and my means? My talk, my trouble, my idle thought obscene, My crisis, my crux, my cri de coeur supreme? Of all the arrows fitted for my ample quiver, Or wrinkled routes eked out by many rivers, Why is my sea love, love my apple ever? Flowers come as varied as their seeds began; Varied fall the fruits, and many the works of man; Endless are our melodies, destinies, and dreams. But my drum, though struck by a thousand hands, Bangs one love, my harp--though by an angel band Commanded--pleads love alone through every golden strand. For you are my love, my sun and my seed. Toward you I grow, who answers my every need.
Who were you before we entered the trees Of our being together? What creatures walked Under the umbrella of your shadow? Who has been made cool in your shade? And why, besides death, would they leave? You with your brow of hard bread, threshed wheat, Your breasts full of the scents of strawberries and dough, Your thighs some mysterious spring has darkened? Did you exile those others who walked with you? Did you send them naked down the hillside at midnight, No lantern in their hands, the path thorny and burnt? How glad I am they are gone, or, better, dead! Oh! No one should touch you save one most supplicant. Only one being born should enter your cunt.
Out of the bitter snow, I came rattling in. Out of melting March, muddy and wet, Shaking like a harassed dog, I came in. I came in when summer was not summer yet And the soft air gave me leave to wander All night long and stare into the starry sky, At one with the celestial order. And when the nights were hot and the grass was dry And all the world slept out-of-doors To hear the night things stirring, I came in. Out of all nights, and out of every weather, Harassed, tempted, or implored, I came in. And now that autumn's nip is here again (And you still beside me) I'll stay in, stay in.
Go until the earth lies between us, pregnant, The curved horizon blue as a whale's back And every constellation different. Go until your memory is black With absences where I had been the stars That shooed your ship home from her wanderings. Go until the sound of talk is strange, far From your childhood chants and gabblings; Where ABCs are cuneiform on the blocks. Go until time itself has come unsprung And the hands go whirl-a-gig on the clock. Go, go, and retreat not back one rung. For there's nowhere where you are that I am not, Seeing what you see--and what touches you, I touch.
The soft fall of flares, of flowers, once the orgasm's Over... the body's empty tube through which no music Is moving--a sumptuous trumpet dumped in the museum As if no hand no mouth had ever crossed it. Who could imagine it rampaging erect, This piece of rusty history, tucked Where the bodies of dead moths collect, Churning to silvery dust as I walk? Too long have you been unbedded by me Whose arms once held you like a river And covered you buoyantly with balsam and kisses Falling in flakes from heaven forever To dissolve in yourself, in your sea, Your wet spring tenderness unending and green.
For you, I would be little as the rain, and fall on you From everywhere, on your eyes and in your hair Until you turned your mouth up to the blue To drink me in in the drenching air. For you, I would be as patient as the earth And follow your steps everywhere to feel you go and come, Dancing on my skin until the red dust covers us both. I would feel you plant grass in me with your strong thumb. For you, I would be as ecstatic as the sun, Radiant everywhere, and happy everywhere too, Like the abrupt smiles of very old women Who know the sun wants to own them, but keep the night alone. But, oh, for you, I would be the nighttime too! And all the stars, and wrap you up in sleep in my glittering poncho.
Love has nourished us like a beet root, red, Or a sweet potato pulling candy from the dirt. From one look at you, I know that all I ever said Has taken root, my tendrils alleviating the hurt Others placed inside you the way a bullet Lodges in a tree but does not kill the tree-- A tree whose slow rivers of sap, sweet Maple syrup, flow from too deep a mystery To ever stop until they end in blossoms. And those blossoms are your two eyes The color of new leaves, of wings fallen from locusts Who no longer want to take to the sky To sing, but have come down with us among the roots Giving us their dark hymns and dreams of truth.
What is this enigma that has ruined my sleep? This thought that repeats like an epileptic stutter, Lightning always striking the same place, two times, twenty? Sometimes the sway of a dress will make me weep, The cough of a shoe on the sidewalk,-- If it is your shoe, your feet that do the walking. A hundred times I have been in love, and never Have I lost even one minute's sleep, No matter how beautiful the woman, no matter how deep The loves that swam up from my heart to attend her Like aquarium fish when dinner is sprinkled, Their small mouths all Os, hungry and unfed. What is this enigma that has ruined my sleep? Sometimes the sway of a dress will make me weep.
How one goes on wrestling with destiny! Trying so hard to throw away one beautiful thing That has fluttered to your feet like litter, a free gift. Here I am, hunched over the trash can, wrestling, Uncomfortable, angry even, with what has come to me freely: Priceless platinum the world has thrown after me, Chasing me down with free armfuls of ecstasy While I try so hard to throw away one beautiful thing-- Miserably, miserably with my angel wrestling. Life is not a medicine to swallow, it is a feast! Just open yourself to being blessed, you will see! The trash will throw itself away, only you will be left Standing, shining like an angel's wings, You, who tried so hard to throw away one beautiful thing.
My heart clicks on and off, a sacred searchlight Sweeping the skies for your spark and your light Until our X-ed rays meet in a singular spot The way stars press their faces against the glass, Mocking the world with their peculiar taunts: Here we are above you, pure and pristine! You below can never wear our radiant gowns, Trapped in your tragic habit of being human. If only you and I were perfect, untouchable, one! The rest of the world would be nothings and no ones --Only we two in the immensity of space, Locked alone in our looking face-to-face-- Not even minding the other stars' conversation Arranged in their envious constellations.
Whose face this is I think I know-- Though time has hurried with his plow (Leaving alive the eyes); the face is strafed, Scored with ruts and roofed by snow. Had some magic mirror come and chafed My younger self with this injured image of her face, I could not have shuddered with more surprise At my darling's disordered fate. Nothing so wild in wild surmise Would I have conjured for my eyes Who now at breakfast contemplates the wreck Time has drifted to my side. Still, her eyes, measuring my old self as we sit, Demark no damage to my aspect.
Every day the poet sat down and thought. That was his first mistake. Each day he spent Knotting and unknotting until it caught Itself, half a line. Each month his rent And bills piled up higher than his epic On the cetaceous era undersea-- No vorpal sword on that went snicker-snak. The protozoa had proto-souls, you see. He had convinced himself, now all he lacked (In time's green-golden ache and sway) Was a readership that had his back, The discerning few he would show the way. A note was found among his apartment stacks In neat pink script: "Going, not coming back."
Adam and Eve, by their garden wall surrounded, Met with the snake innocently enough, Heard his insurance pitch, had a laugh, And went back to touring their miraculous grounds. Unexpectedly, the snake came back again, Here and there in the shrubs with a hiss, Insinuating that, inferring this, Until the nightmares and migraines began. Then he disappeared, gone in a smoky wisp, And Adam and Eve relaxed, had a snack, Ignored the prickling mounting up their backs Implying there was something important they'd missed. Almost, they made it. But their brains, too big Not to wonder, pulled them under.
I kiss your statue, fervid while you vacillate. Your lips are perfect, poised; mine insistent, Never satisfied, lonelier with each deep pressing,-- Imagining the dark with you undressing, Dropping your bra on the carpet, panties flung Higher than the highest note a soprano sings. But you, being a statue, remain composed. Hands, once warm as bread, lie gracefully reposed. Take my spark, my soul, my all! But do not stay so cold. I keep kissing your coldness, growing old. I hope I am not too rude to one not quite alive, One toward whose loveliness my whole life has fallen, Leaving my own dead pedestal behind, praying my passion Is love enough to bring you back to life.
How can tonight come without you here? Where will I go to bury my sorrow When I am alone and the single stars come clear From behind their invisible cloud as out of a barrow? Without your face close, your hair, your breathing, How can I endure the darkness yet to come? One night alone feels like a civilization ending, The pottery shattered, upended the throne. When my hands reach out for the small Thumbhold on your hip, no bigger than a rose Petal that in our house's garden has fallen, What will my hands hang onto instead, what emptiness? Must I walk alone through the long midnight in sorrow, Without even the company of my shadow?
The wind insisted nothing, came to my face With the frittery gentleness of nothing. I had not noticed were I running a race Or had head bent down, pensive, on some one thing. But I was doing nothing, and so found grace Given by the wind out of nothing. The wind was slightly misty, as I recall, With filaments of seaweed threading the bare Blowsy breath that passed down the empty hall And touched my cheekbone hanging there Blank as a bank of paper, or a roll Of scripture with no writing anywhere. And then in the nothing air there hung, as I recall, Your perfume, too; and from that nothing, all.
When I create my love for you in my heart, Secretly, it's a black alchemy, a recipe Without directions, accomplished all out Of order. Eat of it anyway! Eat every pie. There is a deliciousness in this mystery We consume, one that has us lick our fingers And wipe round our lips with our tongues. Discard every question but how to linger In the slow soft light that gently comes After our tumultuous lovemaking. All the candles of heaven, falling stars and comets, Have been hushed in our mutual taking. Now is the time of quiet, and the time Our murmurs slur most toward the sublime.
How should I write a poem of love? I, who am selfish, small, and alone? "First, stuff your craw with caviar and doves, The best of the best, stolen gold and emperors' bones." I listened to the voice and ran everywhere Stuffing myself with rarities and riches. Surely if one is stuffed with beauty up to here One's speech will be all eloquence and wishes. But, no. I did not know it then But what I needed most was nothingness-- That empty feeling, that utter lack That would let me be filled with you again and again, Like a vessel whose emptiness keeps holding more kisses, And hears in your voice every morning the morning lark.
All day long I have followed this sad dog. My love for you, mangy and clumsy, wanders Down windy alleys, snooping through gutters. And now it's 4 A.M., and where is the dog? One day I had gotten mad and kicked it out. Out of my house, and out of my heart, perhaps.-- My great love for you must wander in the street! What I'd fed so tenderly must survive on scraps. Soon enough, I missed its nails on the floor; Its needy whomp into the bed when thunder uttered; Even love's wet dingy smell when the rain would pour I missed, and missed utterly. Come, help me tonight, whistle out loud; My love is bound to find me, now I'm no longer proud.
I can't have you every day, can I? My stomach will get swollen, sour, and tight, As if candy-gorged on Halloween night. I can't have you every day, can I? You would blow through your lips "Oh, alright." But, in your heart, you'd be bored and uptight. I can't have you every day, can I? Beating a drum too often can blister a thumb. How much more gently, then, when loving someone? I can't have you every day, can I? You can't be hungry every single day, can you? I want you so bad, but you must tell me what to do. "When you doubt that I would be with you, Look into my eyes, and see: All I see is you."
So much time has gone by, sliding and washing Away, the little waves piling into the larger.... Before you, my life had fallen asleep. Now I am awake, a little of me is waking, Like bubbles inching to the top of the lager. Who knew how years go by, that one could sleep so deeply? Together in bed, we yawn and slap our eyes; Dawn opens the curtain with a sunny spear. I feel as if, when we walk, my head scrapes the sky. Our feet are leaping like deer! Together our nights are pink and warm, The stars are the tips of a baby's fingers. We hold hands and walk across the night lawn; Somehow the moon looks down at us, laughs. Awake, we linger.
Lovers always meet each other twice. First, in animal excitement, pupils wide, Stamping and pawing and rubbing their sides, They leap into each other's mouths; it's nice. Later, if they continue consuming each other, A day comes when their hands are on the same handle And they turn the wheel together, humbly, And their eyes, once wild and hungry, grow tender. It is this tenderness that holds the baby In the womb; the womb that's made of tender netting. It is this tenderness that weaves the nest, That tells us "yes" instead of "maybe," That gives tonight's moon the light it's shedding. It is in this tenderness you and I may rest.
You are sleeping, a hill where night-snow falls. No longer do you laugh and become a cloud, Cotton pinched between the nurse's able fingers, helping all, Letting the blood of others enter you, clotting Their wounds or applying alcohol before the needle. Now you are purely sleeping, your breath apples, Your great shaggy hair-river up in a mop. Tell me, am I remembered in your dreams? There where you fly above the world without a cape? Am I a one-eyed giant crunching bones? How I would like to crouch down and enter your dream-tunnels And patter in the water after you, running.
A little pale shy wetness, a little slit Is all it is; not even a flower is so shy-- Not edelweiss on its rocky sit, Nor bold button pom, nor lazy calla-lily. Yet through this keyhole (and with this minor key) A prism of delight may print its rainbow On all the sky, and all of space, and me. How fretfully you guard what nowhere shows But is secret with the secretness of souls-- Invisible until given in gift outright And then a purple palimpsest, a slippery miracle, Perpetual desire emblazoning darky night. All of this you gave, and are giving yet To one who never can, nor shall, forget.
If you must go today, shed your skin Like a snake, folded over in silken pleats. I want to roll always in your musky and fragrant muslins. I want to cover my pillows with you, and stitch moccasins-- My face on your rosy breast, my feet in your feet. Your skin pours over me, cream from the pitcher Dousing me head to foot till I'm swimming In white memories of touching you, deeper And deeper. You, not God, are my soul's keeper. With your beauty, your nearness, your softness, I am brimming. I smell that one spot behind your ear, you know, Every time I close my eyes to pray. Every time I close my eyes--as now-- You are there, luminous in naked ecstasy.
Say it once and best, unlike the lark Who goes on going on repeating, Refreshing voice beyond the boundaries of the park Far into horizon's pale receding. Say it once and let that once stand fast, Unlike the sea seducing the long seashore With repetitions of a caress that does not last But, mutable and moving, touches less and more. Say it once, once only, unlike the sun Whose heartbeat breaks each day from night's breast Burning as if no other billion days or beats had come, Warmly consoling all beneath, man and worm and beast. Say it once, then let all saying rest. Say "I love you,"-- not first, not last, but best.
Grief is not part of us, part of this loving. Grief no longer eats our bodies, cracking bones And finding in our marrow we are lonely. That grief is gone which had kept us alone. The griefs that blasted us have blown through Leaving the house refreshed, the shutters tested, The waste of tears pooled coolly in the foyer. New light in the garden exalts wet roses' colors. Now we discover each other with dry eyes Looking clearly at each other's shoulders, The tilt of hips, cuffed hair, crooked smiles, All of us that shows us solider. You look at me as I at you must look: Evenly level, starting to open the book.
Venus is bending now above the bow Of earth, her body shedding Venus-light Into spirits which had been ember-low, The burned-out mascara of the night. Venus goes stalking among the other stars Winking in their little admiration That so great a lady would come so far To let them be gems that hem her graces. Venus lets me follow too, as, slowly, We walk beyond the dusk together Into whatever the evening is evolving-- The sunset wind that kicked is now a nothing-feather. When Venus descends to us, rayed so ably, Cupid's bivouacked in the bushes, surely.
In your mouth there glows a holy rose; Two sun-red roses are your fiery eyes. When your palms turn up, they hold roses Warm and red, blushing and alive As your two cheeks, where two more roses open, Or the rose-loveliness pinning back your hair So that roses orbit you like cherry moons. And when you weep, the roses all despair. So like roses are your noble knees, when up From scrubbing you run to greet me And kiss with your rose-mouth--an open cup Full of rose-blood, which rosy perfumes wreathe. And when your rose brow shadows a look that knows, My soul is lost in folds of rose.
You come to me encased in a shell of light, Light dripping from your wet fingertips Until swept sparks gather on the mat like sweat, A slow swirl of flame rising to our hips-- And we in the center of this focused rose Touch like torches our incandescent arms And fall into the whirl of liquid pulses Beating to our hearts' bruised alarms. Here in the center of light is love And silence. Only your face floats above The burning candle end; only your eyes and mine, Dear, in all the ardent fire remain. Only here, in the light's heart of is, The earth releases her captives, and we rise.
Your feet are wounded doves walking home, Your hair a current of motionless water; Melancholy your eyes, dark daughter, And your high forehead is a sandstone dome Irritable winds etch and erode. This is your catalog, but not your ark. What you are continues, unwinding like a road Blessing dusts are paving for your good; What you are reaches out beyond the wind, Beyond strange stars, far past the last spark. The familiar grip of your loving hands I love, and because your hands know well My intimate recesses intricate as bells, I love and follow you beyond the wind.
You come carrying gifts no other knows But me, who loves you the way a seafish Loves the sea--until my body lives in you entirely, Transparently--waving in your waves, like so. The gift of your body is the first gift, Round and good, a spicy hand-pinched empanada Floured and left to sizzle until ripe--la! --No, not your body, just your ears are first. You listen like a mouse, full of tiny attentiveness, Hearing in my most minor word the major chord; This is a gift--I throw off my melancholy shroud Under your lemony canopy of giving. You stand at the prow, your heart straight out like a flag, Flying forward to new continents from my crags.
Your heart's composed of grey mourning doves Cooing in circles under the dogwood tree. Come, my nunnish sis. Come, break open to love, Alight upon the budded branch you cannot yet see. Let light interpenetrate you like honied waters Or as when lime and garden dirt are mixed; Let corn stand golden in the blackest rut; Let seed and need be one; let the roaring sun be fixed. If there's something in the roadway, pick it up. Let your pockets hang fat as a puppy belly; Love itself, and love alone, fills fullness up. --Is that a dime glinting in the gully? In my heart, too, a bird is circling, dear, Its wings fanned wide for loving--or despair.
Black butterflies crowd the white church with shadows. Secretly now I speak, who had been plain before Fear and pain had come and nailed my door. I am lost in a world of truculent shadows. I only approach what's real in whispers, I am mute before the others. All that was solid is now thrown shadows. The black butterflies land on my heart and fold their wings, My tongue forgets to sing. Love has webbed my ardent hands with shadows. My hands, once full of eloquent caresses, Are folded now in wings of blackness. Do not follow me into this twilight, Love, for after such a dusk must come the night.
Someone has written your body on the grass In long erotic brushstrokes loaded with dew. You shine on green blades that shimmer as we pass Sighing thigh and eyelash as only you could do. The trees' great roots tangle enticingly Romancing the dark fructification of earth As I romance you in the grass blades, Erect in the dirt as iron filings pulled toward magnetic North. How I want to roll in you, breathe in you, Bury myself in you,--pull the lawn up like a coverlet And sleep in the deep mystery I see is you Always and everywhere, even in death's regret: When you are gone, let my bones on your bones Lie lingeringly--against death's cold alone.
When love spills white on her cloudy breast, And stormy brows blow clear of steamy Os, And aching Ahs breeze to their windy rest, I, new-calm, quiet to calm's no-moan. The placid window opens to a sky Where I float alone, unclouded now, And listen to my lying mistress, fly- Ing in her far Afghanistan, unfollow- Ed by harrying lust, the insistent prick- Ling that turns moist "Maybe" to "Hurry, yes!" O how we seeded love's tempest to light- Ning desire!--which lies beside, a deflated gust. So we lie apart who had shared one heart And, pant for pant, had each played the stormfront's part.
After the white heat has left the pen, The tower come to grief, and all our loving Ceased, there will be time for turtle-doving And all the public petting couples plan. After the bed has ceased creak-quaking, And reddened knees and slipping toes uncurl, There will be time to be just boy and girl Laughing at our nasty pelvic snaking. After the sweet tipping, love and shove Of two bodies burning to be one, The shouting out to God and His holy son, There will be time to count all the stars above. But now I say, looking over at you again, Let stars remain unnumbered till time's end.
A lamp burns in the corner of my room, Evilly-eyed. Somehow, today, my happiness Is playing hide-and-seek with me gloomily. Newspapers pile up. The room's a mess. Only over the bed is there a memory Of wings, scarlet happiness, ecstasies We shared on the fitted sheets of ivory. Those afternoons come to me now. Too clear. My head rattles like a tin can full of pebbles: The pebbles are hard eyes of yesterdays I've seen, From the mildly annoying to the incredible. Remembering you, our joy, makes me sadder than I've been In a long time, a long row of odd days, Ragtag and worsted-ended, without your golden rays.
We drive on beautiful white roads until The lake is a single blue eyelid; Strange fish leap, straining their scarlet gills, Keeping their watch on humankind. We are so young, we people of the earth, The other creatures don't understand us With our prayers and wars--but they and we both Mount the lovers' excited crucifix. The turtle, the bluejay, and even the jellyfish Sting and huddle--and skim through the mighty sky-- When we lie down together as I wish. And you, too, craven and wanting and sly, Cozying over with your pearl skin and fur dish, The hollow in your side where we meet and say goodbye.
Though stuffed with joy, I'm starved for joy; For you I have devoured every jot, Jammy and seedy as raspberries. My ecstatic skin incinerates acres, the starving fire Of joys consumed by their own desire! For you I am made hungry as the sea, Drinking every river to the lees. To my gullet goes all treasure, all junk! Greedily I gorge on diamonds and rust, Old anchors, the amber delicacy of sunsets. All goes down to my soul with a clank. For you, I eat empires and dandelions equally-- For you, I have made myself open and empty, Starved to taste, with my being, all of your being.
In you I discover the sea, am lost in waters, Smelling the bitter brine that floods from my cock, The sharp salt exfoliates of our Maker That shiver hoarsely in the sweat of our fuck. With you, I grab at the reeling gunwales And almost fall overboard each day; Every night, biting smiles from the dark, we assail Each other with our shark-bodies--saw and sway! Below you, I am drowning. My hands go wide As I look up, loving the sky's last uncertain bright As the green water's weight breaks me inside. There's only you at the surface, only you in the light. Let me live this adventure, dear woman, In your body, by your side, as a man.
Your eyes are two moondrops, two bowls With silvery goldfish going lazily inside; Your white hips are built like a waterslide, And I go down with no owlish thought of rescue at all.... Let me dive in your wetness and paddle refreshed! Whatever apples the sea offers Your breasts give me also in our affair; Our affair of noon shadows and shaded flesh. Lie with me on the salt beach of our bodies, Stretch out into the sand of many hands And dunes of restless thighs, neither land Nor sea really, as we are neither soul nor body only. Whatever we are, we are in this air Together; this liquid land and hard sea, together.
Our wings are straight out, our wingtips just Touch as we move motionless over the whole Earth as we glide without diving over the whole Map of creation, silent and colored-in, just us. What do we see from the great height of our love? Millions crawling over the earth and over each other, larvae Feasting on their mother's corpse in a red furrow. There's more to this earth than our hovering. I'd rather fly beside you, lashing our hook-beaks, And starve on the air currents like a dying leaf Than dive for the fattest lamb, the most ripe beef If we must walk among those whose lives are crooked. Can't these fools see that love is a straight line? Love stretches straight from your taut heart to mine.
In you I taste my death, your mouth the open Corners of my grave, damp clay ochre and dun; Your arms like gravediggers hold me round And lower me helpless to the sucking ground. Here, in your mouth, live the roots of many things, Many ripening vines; incantations and songs; Buried in you are deep emeralds, mines of nickel and lead, Rivers of ore coursing among the buried. So much comes so deeply from touching you, Breathing you in; even in this final suffocation, you Remain dark and compelling--of you I can see no end, Although the earth you are composed of has an end. You are measureless, endless and supreme-- A depth beneath which no man may dream.
When you kiss me my face changes, like a face stamped on a lollipop when it’s licked. Gradually the face smears to a flatness and disappears, and the tongue gradually becomes the color of the face that is no longer there. So you are slowly becoming the color of my soul, and I am forgetting my face lick by lick. Lick by lick, I begin to resemble the smooth personless joy of a red balloon–until (perhaps deliberately, in a fit of hungry ecstasy) you bite through me to the white sweet stick at my core. And no one knows me any more than the washed-up skeleton of a dead whale, picked clean by diving gulls and rolling back-and-forth in the acid waves.
Are we sowing daughters when we seesaw? Is any throng of sons arising from our private aching, The back-and-forth of our terrifying loving That silences to shame the puma and the daw? Is it enough to just be here and be just us? Doesn't "fairest nature desire fair increase," Isn't your body a longboat full of empty seats Where antsy children clamor, like on the bus? Isn't there something in the flower of ourselves That desires to be plucked like the heavy magnolia, Plucked and held up, despite the streaks of purple melancholia? Is it enough for love to just ask these questions? Our fears exchange a look of blackest ice; A shiver comes, and then a kiss; it will suffice.
You have filled me the way a jug of wine is filled; Drop by drop your tears have shed: pale joy, dark grief Replacing fear and solidude and sorrow with belief --Almost I could not believe, almost my wound of doubting killed The new true universe we two have willed. Out of my sadness, shedding the black crown In the alabaster dust at your feet, on my knees I have made this pilgrimage through many trees-- Out of the night dances on the wintry lawn, Out of the first spring day arrived in streaks of dawn. And now I am here, and you are here, And we drink from the heavy clay jug we've been filling. Night and day we drink to the dregs, and there, my silly, We are empty and happy as a ring tossed in the air.
How often have I turned the pages of your book, Reading your braille nipples, commas round your mouth-- Your eyebrows the astonished parenthesis of a look Damp delight engenders for us both. I read in the firelight stirred by your fingertips: How you yearn to be warm bread and warm earth Rising and restless, the air whipping! There are so many marvelous stories to touch As I run my tongue across your fragrant words, Swashbuckling over the mossy moat of ooh and aah To reach the climax: castle, cave, treasure or fabulous bird. And there in the dogeared dark of bed and book, The phoenix erupts like a hydrant! Ah, fabulous bird! And your eyebrows almost contain your fireworks look.
Let us hunt among smallnesses for love: The tapering end, held tight, of the elephant's tail, Or how a condor's aiming wing ends in a single quill-- They way your nose reaches me before your lips from above. These little things, littler and littler, The kindness one might extend to a mouse; It is in these small wonders that we build our house, You and I, meeting alone, thumb and thimble. Notice the tininess of quiet: The ballerina leaping in the barn by herself --So small a gesture--or the inchling elf Who goes on tiptoe to view love's riot. Prayerfully, we fold ourselves into bed, Close our eyes, and dream the littlest dream in one head.
Mysteriously each day flares and disappears, Stars are thrown over us in a glimmering net And we swim in our dreams through an unforgettable wet Until dawn ignites its sheet of crimson paper. Everything goes up in the fire, daily; vagueness Has my kisses mingle with others' kisses; In a week, my face is merging with the visage Of a half-dozen half-remembered masterpieces.... When oblivion unplugs the phone, and the line goes dead Your friends discuss the stranger whom they loved; Who you were has come and gone like a matchstick's red; Those who swore you oaths forget your voice. Since you and I must succumb to such severe severing, Let's play today as if today we were forevering.
Come to me, come to me, wild rose who grows Apart--I climb the thorny mountain, And I tread the thorny path to know The thorny secret of your thorny heart. Bitter the wind and long, long the way To come to the dancing brook, your fountain; The thorny rock I climb both night and day. And there at your root I slept, a day and night, And dreamed a pilgrim dream that has not Gone away: O little mountain rose, who bent And said the words my heart still hears: Come to me-- Come to me, walker and stranger, come drink Beside my rocks and my roots, come drink My dreams and kiss the bitter thorn of me.
A thorny ladder wraps the mountain As I stride to attend your musky rose; I come for your body's garden, mossy and open: Of your musky skin, I breath the rose. I climb the ladder as I climb you, daily Heaving my weight up toward your unconquerable eyes,-- My heavy regrets, my dank past, my disguises. Hurrying, I plunge into the thorns. Ai! Suddenly, the angry angel's red-hot rapier is everywhere, Hissing into my neck, my lungs, my sides, Lancing the blue coil of my intestines. Will loving you and climbing you leave me dying? From the highest rock you bend, dusky rose; I attend your soft musk's music, and I arise.
Death, I don't get it--Death seems like a fake When (right next to you) my eyes snap awake Like blinds rolled up in the alert light of dawn. Everyone's always mooning over some grave, Some president or lover or bloke awfully brave --At best I manage to stifle my yawns. Microbes and cancers and blanks on the map Steal time from their eyes they'll never get back. Why don't they get wise and do what I do? Building big monuments is hard on the back, And who cares what's there in the blanks on the maps? So why don't the world shut up and just love you? They'd see crystal-clear how Death was a fake When (right next to you) their eyes snapped awake.
We're here to celebrate a life of dust. We're born passing away, as we must. Dying we crawl to our parents' knees, Choking clutch our holy rosaries. Crippled we round the bases at stickball, Hamstrung pitch pennies against the back wall. We count our raises on fingers of bone; The dying crowd cheers, but we're still alone. Nothing and no one can stop the sands shift- Ing down the hourglass and over the cliff; We're dead at our prayers, and dead at our song; Dead in the mirror; dead all the day long. When across the bed your kiss comes like a knife, I open my mouth, I surrender my life.
Bury me standing and pennyeyed, A pagan and a fighter I have died, Nor expect to be alive again-- So loving you must have an end. Although intimations came and went Of a meaning more eternal when we kissed, I kept to my convictions and now am spent.-- Light a penny-candle if I'm missed. Don't imagine that from heaven I would frown If you still cavort and canter like a lass; Something there is that loves a clown, And I loved you when I saw you last. So leave a stone and raise a glass to me, Who when he kissed you, kissed you; as it was meant to be.
I am cut, and in my heart is planted A grafting of your luxurious bough-- Some gesture you made, some grace half-granted Rinsing kitchen mangoes beneath the faucet. Your eyes were black and hungry, your mouth too, As you shook out of your pants-- Round the rickety chairs we wheeled, rich and slow, A sweet molasses movement in our dance. The mango juice oiled your open breasts Olive-toned and slanted, and the green smell of tea Rose wreathed from your hair--I lost my breath And rode your slipping hips for certainty. And now from the grafted tree that grows, I shake a thousand hours of our mangoes.
We've been kissing till our lips are chapped And happy, our eyes hypnotized from a gazing-fest That out-stared the sap in their sockets. Too long we've lain with sex on the brain And the groin--oh, the groans!--we must stop it. We need to rest, shut up, get dressed, And see if the blue world still rolls outdoors. Sore as a sigh, we depart on our lark, Creaking weak keisters to the car: The movies, the mall, or Seaside Park? We drive until five on our dutiful tryst And ask: Did a longer day ever exist? We laugh as we dash madly back to bed Where we align half-divine and (half the time) head-to-head.
Voyeurs at the wall of Abelard And his heaving Heloise heard love made, Forged from iron fires groaning hard Where bellows hiss and the hot poker's laid. Cleopatra paddling on her barge Proffered pink enticements to Antony While excited slaves looked on with eyes quite large And the sinuous Nile slinked into the sea. When Salome threw her seventh veil away And shone before Herod as God intended, Unashamed as sunshine at midday, Even John the Baptist lost his head. So ardent are our toe-to-toe romances, Prudence peeps between her fingers at us!
I would break over your body like a wave Every night, over and over, over your back, Your hair, dissolving into the shadows I crave That inhabit the nape of your neck. I would bear you distances to hidden sands Like pirate booty, alone beneath the palm trees; I would not share you, even with the moonlight, on our island! To me you have come, to me remain. To me. I open your heavy chest and count the treasures there: Zion and Taj Mahal in a single body! Your lips are memorable as a cut lemon; Your tongue persuades me to love's duty.... Tonight I break upon you a million ways And break and break until my breaking stays.
I tie you to the chair and feel the rough Of wood and soft of skin compete and play For where my wet attention goes and stays, Although the sport's sniggered at as uncouth. Still, there is a time to bring the rope and bind The love-object to her astute pedestal And grant her darkest wish therewithal: To feel assured that mating's sting is blind. I with she and she with he and they with them Play a roundel merry Mozart could commend, So difficult's't to parse the beginning from the end Until the music stops and draws the curtain. I would tie you to me more gently, though: Be thou the butterfly on which my breezes blow.
Dear, I am jealous of you, the way a pearl Is jealous of the moon.--Vanity, my girl, Has brought me singing here beside you Although I am small as a child's first "O." Teach me your light, how you throw yourself Over every roof and field, and all the items on the shelf, Detailing the dust on the clock... even its hands you enhance-- Infinite and infinitesimal at once! I stay stung inside myself like an eyeball, Greedy to see, yet selfishly pearled as a shut shell. How can I break open like a moon-gleam, Traveling the nothing, and giving even dogs dreams? Teach me your light; its depth, its height-- I would crest with the sea-wave, and give lovers light.
Desire rifles me, disorders my innards, Chars my hugging arms to black, helpless studs, Untongues the eloquence of my familiar patter And leaves my heaving soul standing mute. I'd shredded myself to spastic tatters Disobeying love's laws and rescinding old statutes, Frisking suspects for tinder to ignite with desire-- Desire the fever that burned down my house. I was wrecked with wanting until you came, Plain as a square of sunlight on the oaken floor.... Then I saw: how overwrought and strange my pain! How simple to acquit desire's rave and roar; Desire is nothing when love is--which, fussless, Overpours the brim desire desires.
Life, I hold you up and look through you, A clear pane of ice skimmed from a puddle Held only a desperate moment in the muddle Until fingers go numb and you slip through.... Only a moment, and what I saw Was the color and contour of conchs, The sweet center of a woman's haunch Open and thirsty--for a man's peck, a lover's paw. Life, if you have a meaning, what else Is it? Today a man and a woman are meeting, Words pass between them, a sleet of bees, Until night finds them naked as a racing pulse. Life, share with me all of your secret whispers. Wife, kiss me with your fresh lips like cinders.
I try to go to sleep, but can only think. Strange shades of death assault me, Drown me in their inks, squids of the sea Constricting the peaceful measure of my soul. A tomtom is rapping in my awake ears From inside the cork corridors of my skull; Whatever's left of me is not my will, Just this red repeat of sound that sears. I watch the animated faces go by In a silent film, every mouth sealed with cellophane; Are they laughing haphazardly or crying out in pain? I watch the animated faces go by. The moon rolls into my room, a bloodshot eye. We stare the night out. We do not blink.
Being here, meeting you, my life, well, my life Is feeling complete. I almost don't want To jinx it by saying so much about my life. Almost, too, I don't want what I want. How can his be? We are two humans, Alike as mirrors facing each other, Same sets of hands, toes, same talk, same tongues, lungs The same, and yet.... I feel your alien center out there. Your pride and determination to teach well, How love has sucked you up like a vacuum And now you are afraid. All this I feel, And myself going around humming Te Deum. Being here, meeting you, my life, well, my life Feels complete. And yet, almost, I don't want my life.
Life, they say, occurs in the caesuras, The pauses when passion's breath is breaking Or the mired eye at dawn is mildly peering, And lovers lie replaying their old overtures. Life is what's happening when it's not, When nothing much is foremost in our thoughts, A finger caught in some stray weft of webbing While over Miami the blue moon is ebbing. Life, elusive fish, is not captured when it's caught; It's not the adding and subtracting of pensive thought Or any other species of abstract thinking. Life is just the waits between the blinking. So long as I lollygag (between the birth pang And oblivion) with you--I'm content to hang.
I am blind, blinded, a lost mole escaped out Of his long house, for now my home is in your self; In you, my soul falls up out of itself The way a lotus floats over its roots. In you, I am so close to being air, to flying! You pull my umbilical cord through my mouth, And in my center forms a silver pool of truth; Almost, in you, my me, my I, is dying. We are together as the cords of a twisted rope. Together, we turn back from frogs into tadpoles; Soon we'll be egg-sacks, then a single egg, pale. We kiss with our mouths open as if saying "Hope." You, who have my sight, my life, my sighing, Come be blind with me beyond our dying.
Your hands prepare a night for us together-- Candles and glasses, the eats chopped and prepped; How carefully, how thoroughly, I am in your debt! The bed turned down, the rum-topaz light soft as feathers. A hundred times I have walked around you, sighing, While you hung up the moon and arranged the plates, Preparing even the corners of our life until very late. And all I can think to do is undress you, and kiss your feet, crying. My gratitude fills me, like wetness in cactus-- Don't let my sharp whiskers deceive you! Inside I am sweet and full of grateful dews. That you should live our life so intently.... Without practice You throw love everywhere like streamers from a spotlight, And happiness explodes in me like a burst piñata.
When you abide beside me I am calm, All my tempests by temperance overtaken. Life's hazards hurry in, but not their harm; Although my leaves do rattle, no root is shaken. When my hot forehead meets with your tender palm My fever breaks, my delirium mistaken. I do not know what others do, madam, But with the seal of your solace I am so blazoned I feel myself a lion who was a lamb, Yet mellow in my marrow as a Shaker. I hope to be no more than what I am: Gratefully alive, and grateful for thy Maker-- For nothing could surpass, in the world to come, Than this I have, when I by thee awaken.
When I am feeling troubled and at a loss For no other reason than I'd forgot My own reasons for getting too hot, She comes to me with a cool compress (And rustles near me in her silken dress) And manages without managing at all To manage away my worry with her skill And save me from my own self-caused duress. And for this aid I have no help to give, None at all, but school my truant gratitude To look on her with love,--me, whose natively rude, And petty too, and, so, condemned to live.... Then she comes again with her talk, her touch, Her tender balm, making smooth the rough.
She is a compass needle going round, And seems in all her spin and waver More like something lost than something found. Still, how the blue point endeavors! And will not be put off her trying harder (No matter that she'll earn no extra chevrons). What lodestone rubbed to make her so endure? Something there is perhaps in her being pinned To house and job and child and filling the larder. For round she goes, feeding us and filling bins With fine fidelity for one so scattered, So torn between her going out and coming in. Still, she knows her North despite all hazard --As if loving us were all that really mattered.
You held my hand and held me back to make Me stay, who would have walked on without a thought To reach the ready bench past the woodland brake And there sit content, and have no further thought. You held me back, and pointed without a word-- There, between the slant and screen of trunks, A fox returned to her nesting brood, Her mouth blooded, and in that mouth a skunk. Such dedication had the young ones yip And tear at the striped carcass, black and white, Love had brought dragging for their sup-- And kept the mother-skunk from her kits. You held my hand, and may you always Be so wise of eye and wise to nature's ways.
Have you ever wanted to fly? There was a frog who wanted to fly And got his chance. First, he was lonely, And cried at the pond's edge in his great loneliness. His voice was like a drum. Other frogs Covered their ears. Dragonflies flew off in fog To avoid the cacophony. What was the frog lonely for? I'll tell you. He was lonely for the sky --Just that. That's where his froggish dreaming was tacked. Low, low in his frog-throat, who knows why, The great loneliness gathered, like the great Tension of a bowstring pulled back. And out of that came the frog's dark cry Like a lover's lament. He was in love--just that.
Love comes sneaky like the coyote, Stealing hearts left trashed and discarded; Love cannot enter a gate when guarded For love is soft and secret as midnight smoke, Easily spooked by a too-attentive hoot Or too-oft remembrance of an antique hurt. But let down pride and let down vigilance And love like moss on every root will grow; Love will come slinking by for kitchen scraps With eyes as big as moons in a puddle's overflow-- Love will live on iffy maybes and a half-perhaps. Once love's pennant's pitched upon the parapet, She waves her colors gaily, victorious in surfeit.
Because my dreams know you, I do not, Because I do not know my dreams. Sad eyes Come glancing, and then suddenly hide themselves In the blackness of wells, in a pine board's knot. In my dreams there are rumors of your beauty, And I follow the noble words like stepping stones Over the abyss, my old bachelor home-- Sweep me: winds, words! I weave songs of fealty. I curl around what you might be, white lady, Like a dog around a stove, the tongue around "love." How everything below curves toward what's above! Every plant and every eye is trained on the butane sky. And so, white lady, whenever you want You may appear here, as my dreams you already haunt.
Break like an oak, or keep faith forever-- Die in the harness, your heart a furnace of effort: The oath of a bull is not the oath of a feather. Love with your will and not your body only, The way virgins married Vesuvius alive And died in a silence terribly lonely. Condors mate with their wild kind on the crags As sky and rock mate in ravening winter, Their high crying caught in the wind's brag. Come take me, maiden, with your Amazon mind! Come kiss lips till lips blaze and splinter! Come ravish the man who climbs to marry your kind! The oath of a bull is not the oath of a feather: Break like an oak, or keep faith forever.
Shameless is my mistress wetly caught, Wily in her seeking freedom thence-- Demure when spanked as though she would be taught, Yet still runs wild at her third offense. Who could teach much to such wantonness, Frenzied to be free, when freed all frenzy still? Unbidden, she'll curl upon a lap to rest-- All things her way always is her only will. She charms at first with an off-hand gesture, Comes for pets, is damned attentive; Your good opinion seems her only pleasure…. Next day proves her unretentive. How can one instruct such a flitting wisp? No way but enjoy each shimmer as she shifts.
For three dates you remained a mermaid to me, Swimming away and flashing your tail. I didn't even know if you had two legs, and the sea Kept foaming right up to your navel. When would I feel your slick body climb into bed, Your clothes lumped in a disordered heap, Your half half-sinking, taking ballast aboard, And you naked as a newly-sheared sheep? Something was fishy, my little mermaid; Was our romancing faux or spurious? The course you set was cunningly laid, And my suspicion kept me curious. But then you swam up, and sailed home to my bed, And wrapped your legs around my head.
My love is not a river, but it is In the river, flowing among the yeasty curls, Wetting itself in the wavery spray and the spritz Playfully as an otter with two balls. My love is not grand like a church bell Forged lovingly from parishioners' pennies, Calling in the blackclad faithful to solemnly kneel; (But my love does have a tongue for you, Jenny.) My love is not as vast as the Great Plains' Majesties--fertile and broad and deep; But my love does peep like a prairie dog, is game To pop up and play hide-and-seek. My love is a funny sort of thing, and a small: A paper plane thrown in a cathedral.
Other constellations have all flashed to ash-- Old photo-bulbs, popped and nude, Heaven's eons reduced to interludes Since your starry being has come to pass. I doodle the lines of your constellation, dotting spots That limn your chin or trace your waist With my hands and mouth, pausing at each place To braise my pallor on your burning body's hot. My ardent lips come back bruised and burnt As burls, and tears shine hard where lust had lurked-- Surprising eyes, and leaving me unsure how this works. Loving is not loving that will not learn to hurt. Now I lay me down on the grassy floor And memorize stars that are all yours.
File me down to an unbearable essence, Pinch me tight like ground spices, and haul My granular essence up to your curious nose. Inhale my sharpness; love is at the core. It has taken me a long time to arrive, A long time I paddled in love's tanning vat Disputing causes, examining the sieve, Adding up my love-lists like an accountant. But now I am soaked, dunked, drenched, a whore Wholly open and wholly possessed; I love all of you, your least eyelash adore; I love you stripped, or bathing, or dressed. Love is at my center, love up to the teeth; Now love me too--quick--or love must come to grief.
Your love's locked up in her intricate castle. High, high the parapet! In the moat, a crocodile. I slip into the black water anyway, the way The moon slips into your mouth when you raise it, singing. My desire for you has made me brave-- Not brave to conquer, nor to save, But brave to kiss you and to be kissed Regardless of what the interference is. Bold lions lean yellow in your feline eyes, Crouched to kill with womanly surmise; In your mouth, ten thousand snakes lie limply curled-- Ready to haunt and hiss at a word. All this I dare who never dared before: I throw down my heart before your farthest shore.
In the mist, in the rain, Comes illimitable pain; Here your face remains a memory Of insuperable agony.... We who had been lovers, closer Than diodes anodyne and chosen Now separate like trees in fog, Dull white columns half-sogged Until I and all I feel Is insubstantial, ephemeral.... I myself a ghost Invisible in mist, lost Without you as my anchor, dear, My source, my succor.
Play the sistrum softly, softly. Her image glides all ghostly When the refrigerator hums And dead of night is come. I am haunted by her now Who knows the strength and hour Of her presence, of her power-- Oh ghost at once sweet and sour! Illusory, frightful, Hysterical, delightful, The woman in the mirror Haunts and appears. On my shoulder like a parrot She hops, my ghoul, my Pierrot!
As hypnotic as a living fan of coral, As delicate in their blue aurorals The veins on your legs wave their traceries, Sturdy pillars of impious ecstasy. You climb aboard me, and I sink beneath Breathless as a turtle swimming in a reef; Chains of bubbles from my hooked lips Enclose my moans of sinful happiness, Audible only when they pop open. So I sigh with the sea.... Do I sigh in vain, Evoking only my lady's harsh laugh? O My lady of marble with marbled thighs, Punch me, crush me with desire til I sigh Your praises upward in a silent prayer of pain!
Love, so great an emblem, a divinest thing Like Himalayas beyond Himalayas' aspiring: So tall, so fierce--an Amazon from the moon Loitering on the porch between us now it's June. Love, once remote beyond ebony pearls of Cathay, Strolls by with baskets of daily laundry; Love sits knit in the pearl of "purl one, purl two" As we lounge of an evening with pay-per-view. Love, when I was ignorant and young, Lay locked in a castle beyond my tongue Which knew not the secret keys of a kiss: Holding hands in the rain, the nearness of bliss. So long have I stood imagining wings Who, knowing you, flies over everything.
I thought I knew just what to do with you: Keep you in a box on my Friday night shelf, Feed you snickers and movies and romantic fluff About stars in your eyes and kisses like wine And other such fabulous stuff. But, oh, how mistaken! My heart was taken When your body spooned glued to mine. My will swam away under a tidal wave To tropic, Tahitian moons. I thought I knew You, I thought I knew me. But, today, I am a man lost at sea, the sea gorgeous, A man on an island washing away under his feet.... And I need you, in your wooden canoe, to come And take me to wherever you came from.
Grey's anatomy and all that crap: Bodies blueprinted and expertly dissected, Drawn and quartered from arse to cap As that curious scalpel the eye directed. No diagram can master what you are: Lusty stardust fallen to our sphere. Here, you present yourself humanly: Swearing at the buckles on your mackintosh, Spilling the last soggy bag of groceries, Stamping your rain boots free of fresh slush. That's the you who you are--whose eyes see deep, Whose breath is half roses when you're half asleep, Whose kiss is integral, and whose calm arms are just The skinsoft thing that wakes the whole of my lust.
Miscreant Time has spelt his troubles plain On papery forehead and chill cheeks eaten By the wind. Lacing my sneakers at dawn, I ran, once, and raced the wind unbeaten. While still a boy by the barefoot pond, I saw my face resolve past hanging fronds Unlined by any lesson of the Lord's; All was still penny-a-wish and open hope. Now past my zenith, on the far shore lodged, Where snows heap up and the hillside steepens, I reach weakly across the wrinkled gorge To one who keeps my heart within her steeple. Will you take this hand and creak on crutches?-- There's a place past the peak where the church is.
Love cannot choose, but knows it is chosen To undertake all that love can endeavor: Hurl rocks from the heights, or love you forever, Whichever is hardest, more burning, more frozen. One big love is better than any half dozen; One Mississippi masters ten cataracts-- Those, my lover, are simply the facts. Love cannot choose, but knows it is chosen. A hunchback haranguing the town with his bell, A lady pirouetting herself off a cliff, Hamlet pondering Ophelia's sweet "If...." That man with the Nose who knows words all too well; They all knew nothing, but one thing knew then-- Love cannot choose, but knew love chose them.
Although my joy with pain is blistered And I choke on every luau larded at my feet: Purple whortle-berries, vintage of San Griet, Still I eat, still drink to life and leisure. Each hike I take toward some higher good, Each leap I make, induces some new seizure; Each trial into undiscovered pleasure Leaves a trail of bodies through the wood.... Still I trod, having found no higher God Than duty to what beauty here appears-- Leaves that come and go throughout the year, Milkweed seeds drifting slowly from their pods. Whatever cost our private Christmases incur, I'll pay the pain, so long as you and I continue us.
Death will take you, and I will bless you: "Go." Not like demented Edgar shall I wander and weep, Clasping for golden sandgrains on the margin of the deep Where every wave is saying, sweep, sweep, sweep. No, no. Not in tragic sadness all alone Will I face the inevitable lightning: Your face yellow, or wan, dead and frightening Down in the dark new box black with lacquering. Instead, I'll stand happy and mad as the rain, Watching the deep drops, like sucked gumdrops, fall On the gathered mourners, and wetly roll Prescient and perfect and round as crystal balls. My time continuing, your time remains, For I will praise you, darling, till you are come again.
If I were without whoever you are Would I feel the loss, and miss it? The spoon licked clean, the talk at the bar, The bree and crackers, the hand at whist? If I were without whoever you are Would your memory enlarge to a shade? Would you haunt me at midnight with a twanged guitar, Misplace my keys, ruin parades? Would I bury my head in your pillow, Sniff the drawer where your sweaters were left? At movies, would I weep like a willow? Would I feel like a victim of theft? Who would it be who was driving my car If I were without whoever you are?
Tell me, does love have sorrow for its marrow? Is a dandelion lovely only Because its baldness leaves us lonely? When the player prates "Tomorrow, tomorrow..." Or the expired milk curls its lip, Their change of state makes us moue and weep. Is it the same with love and her tears-- Wiping our noses or blinking them back Stops our hearts as if under attack. O, look in the mirror with that look of fear: The horseman is coming to trample our dears. The x-ray, once backlit, the cancer is clear. The test returned positive from the hospital staff, Our hearts are in our throats, and we cannot gasp.
Death holds lovers who forget each other, Who pretend the soft pulsings in a wrist Everlastingly unroll.--Death's cold furs Wrap up those proud hearts' hot velvets In a chill no quilt can conquer. It is no idle boast of coffins To say they box us best that box us last.-- In satin trim and eternal dim We kiss goodbye our past. No lovers' squalls within such walls remain. So hold me now, and thou to thou, We'll build a house of love and pillows Plumped with such subtle human powers Death's retreat will last our lifetimes' hours.
Sitting there so saucily thoughtful, Your firm legs a-dangle, uncrossed, Your eyes milky and mildly unfocused As your lips taste tart thoughts that are lustful: What pictures are you painting in your mind? Do azure sands unfurl below tan skies? Do proud men crouch between your thighs Flashing dark looks beneath hair wildly curled? You sit on your tall fantasist's throne Cruel and adored, the barstool worn flat From daily use (chopping carrots and all that), A woman who shy-slyly transforms her home Into Pan's Cavern, where white firelight dances, Anonymous hands strip us, and we grow frantic.
I'm not quite sure I quite know quite how Or quite why you love me even now. After so many leerings and pairings, So many hesitations and darings, Assignations, arrangements and trysts, Allurements, procurements and back alley kisses, Still you return, still make me feel missed. At each meeting the mystery deepens, Yet no abyss intervenes with its weeping, No catastrophe clatters, no shinbone shatters, In fact, almost nothing at all's the matter! Only you and I standing in the clear air, No moon romancing the contented pair Waiting for nothing else to appear.
What can summer add to what our winter Love has found? The heat and desperate damp of days Leaning from the sill with a sangria pitcher, Moonlight looming through a greasy lens, The stacked smoke of apartment grills Confusing fuzzy flavors and leaving palettes burnt, The noise of neighbor kids grinding by on big wheels Floating through summer screens green with bugs and lint. Oh summer is one-thousand annoyances Compressed into ninety sweaty nights While Bennies scoop up spots on all the beaches.... Love me to the depth, love me to the height Of all the loving any human heart has vowed. Only, do not wait for summer; love me now.
I like to watch you try the new words on your tongue, Mouthing "missus" and the house address Strange as Demosthenes with his pebble-tongue. All of this had come of your trying "Yes" Once before the parson's congregation: A new household, and a man, and all this strangeness. New wife, is all your world a wedding? Is stepping past a traffic light like passing arches garlanded? Is love brand new, or just the Sears bedding? Your married life, you say, began in childhood Dressing dolls; in middleschool there came petting; Then all the mercenary ads in "Modern Bride".... Knock the domestic idols from the shelf! Step in, my merry love, and be yourself.
The world is packed tight with Kreons and Medeas, The Antigones go wobbly, the Electras are mad; Tragedy springs bubbling from each tongue-tip, you'll see, The good are driven into the arms of the bad. Helter-skelter harpies darken the trees; It's chaos at home and confusion abroad-- The sad children are all abandoning God, They sing no more carols and never say "Please." When the good life has gone from golden to black, When virtue is threatened and evil triumphant, When all the old dears are under attack, What kind of love can two lovers want? We lock eyes and lock horns and threaten a fight But coo soft as doves when we spend the night.
I burn through muses like Estes rockets-- Skirts and faces whirl in a grand fandango, The shipboard romances tucked in a pocket Real and unreal as a fabulous go-go. "Love" crumbles at my lips, a communion wafer Eaten when blood and wine are not enough, Nor I transformed by what I have quaffed. Love's no drug to make us feel safer; It's a razor on which we willingly tango To a personal oblivion we have crafted Cunningly, from basement to rafters. And in this morose house, my soul Winds the empty stairs and surveys the windows Hoping I do not know what I know.
Would you buy me a backyard full of dreams? I see the fence, pale, a little rattled. I see the tiger-lilies growing boldly along the seam. I see the mole's house, by his round door the dottle. There's room enough for vegetables, some bamboo, A clothesline dancing from the house to the tree, Maybe a swing below a low branch, too. I see us there, happy, and the huge moon makes three. So many dreams vibrate above this square of ground; So many terrible, lovely things live in our bodies. When will this dreaming and wanting have an end? After long enough, even pure dreams seem shoddy. Would you buy me a backyard full of dreams? Stand beside me, just here. Do not dream.
You had grown quiet in a snowy field, Stood a little near the fence, did not move But led sleeping flakes on your blushing tongue to yield Their bodies back to water, misting love. How like those little crystals, though in large, My solemn wishes harmless fall on your magnificence To dissolve in the huge waters of your marge And, losing all themselves, add nothing to your sense. For you are more, in your silent warmth, Like constant earth that wears seasons for her veils, Changing summer green for autumn's gaiety, -- More constant, more true, more everything of worth Than the fretful melts that touch your least detail And must, with touching, the seasons of their being interchange, Losing their winter dignity in your kissing spring.
Where do the birds go when it rains? Their wings like little snippers are still, Black wings, yellow wings, grey wings, again And again they flash... and, like knives, are still. Again and again the pain of tears is falling; All over the world and my block it is raining, On the little birds especially--in their walls Of bushes, their deep green bushes, they're wailing. A bird wails with silence, for a bird Is born to be always singing; it is not born To be silent in the rain, in a bush, like a word Unspoken. So much silence! My heart is torn With words I have not spoken, cannot speak When you look at me like rain beginning to break.
I do not love you the way fire loves wood Although my heat's as great, my hunger greater; I do not love you as saints crave the good Although my devotion's deeper than saint's prayer. Not by any measure of heart, hope, or greed Does my loving come round to loving you; Not by comparison's calipers does my love exceed What others' love may be for those they do. No; it is by excess of gentleness And superlatives of softest care, By exquisite forethought for your happiness That my love arrives when you are least aware And prepares the wide ground with downy flakes For your descent from clouds into the love I make.
At sunset, how it all runs away from one, Day slips by day slippery till days are done; Whatever we were is not what we become. "Old age should rage," but we are infant beings And do not know our ends and meanings-- Carved from scrap, and, erected, leaning. What comes to us and comes of us is scattered; We moon by mirrors as if mirrors mattered --But the self is fugitive, identity shattered. We are a rift in the jazzman's riff, A glass-bottomed boat lazily adrift Sighing into slender reeds that whistle rough. And so, our only music's not our own But time's, whose ticking hands leave none alone.
Love is a corpse, nothing but a corpse Of joy, of memory, until the next minute Lips incinerate, fire goes up in the copse, Fire-fingers through the furze spread enchantment, And the body, momentarily present, Manifests for its own self-destruction:-- When what is you has escaped its vent And enters me, hissing whispers of perfection. So long and lovingly do we circle In this clasp, scientists at our instruments Hooked to reality's terrifying lure, The self at the telescope knows not where it went. The fishing line cuts until soul's bones show That cadaverous look, that ecstatic glow.
That night you sang to me shines in me now, Long streamers of notes poured from a bucket; I am wrapped in your song, the long hair shadowy, Completely contained in your voice as in a locket. Move your voice over the fluid night, Lift hosannas from your throat like fireflies, Sparks flung arrowlike from the flames' light When green wood goes yearning to the campfire. Now your voice is dark, black pools in a cave, Liquid with the deep auguries of earth, Baptismal of beginnings, the underground nave Where songs spring among the first things of life. You carry me around your neck, your voice full; I flow with you into everything beautiful.
Shivery as a delicate dart from a blowgun You entered my blood, and my blood responded. Shivering, I leave behind my lonely skin And dance entranced where I had only wandered. Now my heart's set loose among the stars.... I visit the constellations, my neighbors; The Plieades are in my arms, not strangers; Andromeda's my roommate, borrowing my car To drive the dark wilderness behind your eyes. And there I am, too, licking, flickering. O, such wildernesses! Beyond known skies I gather the fiery flowers continually, Fattening my basket, fat to overflowing With just you, all the you I am knowing.
Everywhere people are looking to the heavens For perfection, for completion, for A patch to cover the holes in themselves. Even the man, the woman at an auction, Bidding low and hoping for a bargain, Are looking for a cheap perfection. The ears of the fox twitch again and again, Alertly aware of the wind's siftings, Nose lifted to sniff a vulnerable perfection. Even the vole, even the sandflea sings This song of seeking that will not hush. This song is revolving through everything Slowly and grandly as gravity's deep crush.... Somewhere, with great perfection, you holster your toothbrush.
I pull you open and divide the loaves Of your lovely body over and over-- You are shared and consumed, our molten moves The everlasting communion of all lovers. Your shoulders rise whitely as round hills, Your buttocks tell of eternal life, How all the long loving that we spill Goes on flowing for centuries, life After life. On your bedstand a handful Of earrings, a litter of glittering Such as might flutter from a beautiful Night--a splash of discarded things, of rings-- Meaningless with no central singleness to adorn, The pin in the pinwheel where our motion is born.
Love comes apart, like shards, in the hand, Defies the twine of the newspaper bundle; Decrepit as autumn, love creeps toward the cold Dissolution entombed in earth's snowy mantle. When the body departs, love departs; Love does not endure among the bones. Love is the flesh's unconquerable throne, An elegance of kisses, a masterpiece of hearts. Two hands, when they cross, build cathedrals; Two hearts, when they meet, come to summer In an instant, like ringing a bell. Love, in this life, is all life's shimmer. So take this hand. Today, take this hand And kneel with me, and knead our daily bread.
If I am living, I must be loving. As air enters the lungs, as words exit the mouth, My diamond toward your diamond is craving-- Twin lights entwined as self within self, Shine within shine, our beauties exchanging. How lightly we touch the deep-hidden beacon That flares unwearied, unwary of loss, A lighthouse that gives all to all who may come: Illumination's essence, simple, unglossed-- A lamp where we read our hearts' simple tome: Loving is living with the extravagance of grass. Extravagant we shimmer as dew shines in the grass! As dew lives a moment (and that moment must pass) Our loving is dew, and must vanish at last.
Crying out in my wounds, I do not find you. Crying out in midnight misery, you are gone. Crying out from inside the mountain, I hear no reply. Crying out from under seas of tears, I drown. Is there nothing to find in this thin agony? Has pain no standing with love's ecstasies? Sweet, sweet the shame of wanting you only. Sweeter than honeysuckle is being unworthy, Being a bark-wasp on the great tree of your beauty, Being the dust blown about by your eagle's wings. I crawl before the thrown light of your glance, I shrivel like burning tissue to nothing. Crying out of my emptiness, I empty myself-- Breathing in at last the nectar of yourself.
An infinity of needles stick in my thumb Whenever I try to write this love, This cargo of roses, this boxcar of honeycombs, All the things unearthed by your eyes from above. When you and I talk, it is two rivers meeting, The white ropes of foam go on riding Together among many rocks, our silver notes greeting The silver sky--and our laughter keeps striding. When you and I sleep, our dreams exchange clothes And we stand up in each others' shadow-world Like puppets unfolded from a magic chest of souls-- Our faces gigantic in rouge and wood. Only in dreams, where our strings tangle, Can I write like a river alive with sun-spangles.
Let love's little sunbeam into your heart; Do not fear love's indelible dart Whose impact, whose crater, can blow hearts apart. Let love's little sunbeam into your heart; Let blossom love's seed in your most indwelling part Whose wild vines kudzu the field where they start. Let love's little sunbeam into your heart; Don't yelp when love's hammer and tongs make you smart, Reconcile pain and love and all that. Let love's little sunbeam into your heart; Through stained-glass parables and great works of art Love comes crashing until bright glitter results. Let love's little sunbeam into your heart And we'll endure every turn, till love flips our cart.
Put your hand in the thorny conflagration, Jump in with your whole body and soul! Leave not one shred of indecision Unburnt in the bonfire love engulfs. Our love is both the light and the heat. Strangers warm their naked feet, their faces Blazed bald from the glare of two undefeated hearts. Dark is driven out; all the spotlit night-opossums Snooze confused; bats hang dazed in their belfries, Waiting for stars to pinhole evening's curtain. None of them know a star has fallen by the highway Singing and whistling unbearable matins. Jump in with your whole life--right now! To your great soul this fire is a small flower.
In the tripping tick of time it's taken This fist of flowers, these cut daisies To wither brown in their cobalt vases, I've tapped out my hymns of being shaken. You found me wild among old shadows And with careful eye overlooked my petals: Trimmed, arranged, and displayed me gently In vibrant vases of your own. Now my carnations red and jonquils yellow Branch and bunch as you would have me (Who from moody singleness hath saved me). But will you still love a wild thing so mellowed? Do not discard me when I am brown and drear-- Let me be wild again, tucked behind your ear.
CODA: The Night Janitor
Each eve, whatever came for me to push (Mash notes, tissues, cups) I was content to crush-- Not caring its meaning or intent. I thought all that nosed me thus irrelevant. I had a schedule and sought to keep it Tight. When dust purled about me, I'd sweep it Out of sight. Litter of the day in piles Fed the starry furnace basement-style. My fire did not care my fire's source So long as burning never lost its force; My face sweat as I handed in the trash, Reddening when words their hidden cache Of light revealed. So I spent my nights.
Ode to an Earlobe
O to the ear, entering in in lullaby lilt Goes O against the sweet strength of eardrum And hums O down the lovely length of the ear tube. O starts the sound with my mouth on your earlobe And O goes the round of your mouth with a moan And O go our days, each round into the next O of the time that O is dwindling! O is the end of the flute that is sighing And O is the lambent moon that is prying O upon our loving by waves that are trying To reach O your toes in sand-spray waving O with the ecstasy of our slow loving To moons of our eyes O-open and crying While lying down together and sighing-- O you say, O God, am I dying?
Leda After Lunch
The park had invited us, we did not wait But walked out, out beyond the sound of gates, Our hands unhinged and dropping to our waists. I held my lover down and gave her gall. She turned her angry face to the half-fallen wall. "Life is good," I crowed, rowing her home. For a minute in her midst, I was not alone. Haunches on heels, I left her quiet after that-- Watching her breathe, retrieving my hat Rolled past my grasp in the flattened grass. "Life is good," she sighed, she swore, And slit her eyes and said no more.
This is the color that crawls along chasms, That spurns the moon and mocks good luck In laughing spasms. This is the color that counts down to null, Reverses years, and peels the skin From the skull. This is the color of grimace and grime, Of "murder most foul" And troubled times. This is the color that steals pens' souls, Lays waste the vastest fields And heighs the Devil home. This is the color bells hide in their bellies, That creeps in cracks and smells Of napalm jelly. This is the color that empties every eye, That pitches tents in tumors And blots out the sky.