Lull

sky lull crp 1 grn mod cmpr

How unhappy they were, all those men,
waiting for a stiff wind, maybe later
some marauding, meanwhile not bothering
to stay on the big guy’s good side,
having killed enough not to care too much
about dying.

Boats creeping along, no one resisting
hopes to simply wash ashore, their minds
drifting further out, each wondering
what he did to displease the gods—then
wondering who the someone else was who
displeased the gods.

Then there is of course the king,
carrying always about himself
the prison of their previous gratitude,
the punishment of brooding looks,
such danger in looking a bit too much
like a mere man.

It was in no one’s nature to be good
becalmed–old passions inspired fresh
affliction. Then they prayed to any god
who loved the things they knew: sand and stunted
shoreline trees, and war. All the rest is
speculation.

Even When the Monster

Even when the monster is finally
gone, the monster has returned, the end of
the movie begins, left over from the
last thrashing: the brand, the burn keyed in.
No matter how far away you get or
how small you make yourself, the monster has
your scent, wants you, cannot live without you
as much as you cannot live with it.
 

For Miz E–Reading Locke, and Other Things

Good lord but you did hard time in the library.
Strolling through once, I saw you holding
An Essay Concerning Human
Understanding
at arm’s length, looking at it
as if it had arrived early for dinner
just to tell you it didn’t love you, had
never loved you, and twenty years later
you’re still standing there with a naked face
and a spoon in your hand.

Where were we in our Pynchon seminar–
Maxwell’s Demon, concatenation,
coprophagia?–when you dreamily said,
“What was that song my father sang
in the bathtub when I was a girl?” to which
Professor P replied as if you’d said
knock-knock, “Mrs. E, I don’t know what
song your father sang in the bathtub.”
When you I thought when you were
a girl, when you were.

Oh all the heady things I knew then
that look now like distant hills or army
tanks in some damp country where I
don’t have a map and don’t have a tongue,
now that I know what I don’t know.

But I get you now, now I know
nothing ever stands between you and
the look of things when you’re flying past fifty
and nobody knows you and you don’t know
who you are. When everywhere you are
some kind of traffic cop is looking at you
sideways as if to say you dumbass, why
didn’t you just gun it through the light?

In the middle of some night, your father’s
singing wakes you like Billie Holiday
inside your brain: do nothing till you hear
from me
. How we obeyed, how we
never heard from any me.

Heart

heart

the last heart
in a faint box
incised with vines
how that heart
younger than the heart it was
labored to rescue
the old man
how the guardians of it—tender
but disregarding the rest
could not disperse
the demons
at the foot of the bed

         that heart was the thing
we counted on
when all we could do was count
we were made small
by things we couldn’t track
mere signals from the gate
and outposts you’d already
left behind
the quiz of it
the previous empire of
ice chips then
looking like the high life
from this side of the
breathing machine

that boat in the distance
you rowed on
marveling at a sky
we could not see
and turned to us to say
and we weren’t there
but we were

the swing of the statistic
and its fold
your oxygen wave
or just our waving
hoping you’d wave back
none of it
is all right with me now

the long hour already done
no longer an hour
no more time, just place
someplace where
there’s no obverse
converse
traverse
just strangers passing by

         it was what we heard
at the end of the world

so call on it, call it out
bring your house with you
but come soon

all our prayers
cannot pace the plea of it
the way your voice could
if we could only hear it

Later, Now

Leighton Lachrymae Met - crp 3 flp tnt

What dissolves later is all front, that
creeping shell, that anybody’s house.
Nonetheless, percentages have been
stable for a week, so the fat sits. We
marvel that the outward motion of the stars
opens such depths to view: as under, so above.

The places you can’t go are monumental,
your only real estate a heart, a phantom
fence. Oh, just look on past it!
There are no details where we are now,
just routine executions—that clamoring
queue so loves a spectacle that any
seeming thing can rule. Windows nailed shut
last week have so far kept our houses empty.

Still, all that can be said about the kingdom
is that we wander its vast wastes, attracting
armadillos and sundry wildlife with our
noisy instruments and luminous radar, now
that the respite of your tenderness is gone.

__________
altered image; original image: Leighton, “Lachrymae” Metropolitan Museum of Art http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/96.28

Only Creature

the loneliest creature
a mate without a mate,
no place to land or launch,
floating, rolling, sailing
from wind to solar wind,
not looking, but listing
toward stormy surfaces,
hanging between pull and
pull away, not sad,
just wandering, a universe
deep dark, that shining thing
far off, all that distance
like loss before you know
it’s loss, like love before
you know it’s love.

The ones in ether

the ones in ether were the freshest ones
the latent fulcrum fortified the lake
the radish drilled until the end was done
the earless boss grew teeth out of her face
we paid her curses off and relished some
the federales chased the smoke away
the stew he made and crawled out from
our saints all nailed inside the naked cage

Something to Love

The sadness of the family goes away when
you give up on your parents’ happiness.
Not far at first, it just moves in with
a family down the street–you see it
on their doorstep waiting for the dad
to get home. Kids at school think it’s your
cousin, looks kinda like you, you say
so what. Later it seems gone for good,
but then one day you’re riding in that
swaying endless station wagon, counting
phone poles and potholes and there it is:
looking all lonely, kicking weeds
in an empty lot. “Look, look!” your
mother hollers backing up and
looking back, and you see it
big as sunshine on her face:
she misses it, she misses that sadness,
she wishes it would come home.
Now you know that if it did,
she’d have something she could love.

pontiac ad pontiacsonline bw flp fin

we alight

we alight
a branch, a pencil
someone’s hand
imagined home

our submarine, our coast
our delight, our new skin
our body bag

our moon, our outer space
our buddy the robot
roved out of orbit
equipment
left behind
is reprimand

the power hand
a lie, a command
a storied put-together
duct tape, spite
spit, static

our mystery scene
our screen seen
our camera that
shaky trope
disappeared
our all again

Ectoplasm

The layman’s term for ectoplasm—that’s what
the cool girl-woman with the Audrey Hepburn hair
in the tight black dress says to the guy in the suit
who leans in close to hear her, as they glide past on
their way into the room at the party where the cool
people hang out with other cool people, wearing the
still faces of the cool, knowing, you think, things
you cannot even imagine, and never ever saying
the layman’s word for ec-to-plasm.  They look like
they’ve been imported from some exotic place where
nobody is ever surprised by anything, but what do
you know, you’re fifteen, and not the worldly person
you expected to be putting on your first pair of
stockings, like slipping into a new body, exquisite,
being loved by those stockings till you realize they
are just the first of encumbrances and bindings still
to come. These cool people don’t look, they gaze, and
when they gaze at you they make you not exist, your
college boy date knows these people, but he’s not cool,
if he was cool, he wouldn’t be here with you. Why are
you here, your reckless friend out in the car with the
other college guy doing who-knows-what, it’s like
every double date she will talk you into, and it’s only
the second date of your life, your dog wouldn’t let him
get out of his car when he showed up, then that
disappointed look from daddy when he looks at you
now and your mother wishing you’d just go away and
saying so again just yesterday, you wish you’d go
away too.  Ectoplasm, what a disappointment when
you look it up later, it’s not anything, you look up
layman too but you already know from the way the
cool girl said it that it means lowly and uncouth, in
other words you, so unlike these sleek girls in black
supernaturally untouched by this Mississippi heat,
conversing, murmuring, sipping the cool drinks of the
cool, not the sloe gin and 7-up your friend is knocking
back in the car and will be throwing up in about an
hour on some gravel road. This party starts to feel sort
of like church, which makes you want to say damn
over and over, just another place where you don’t
belong, you’d rather be dancing in your room alone or
watching Star Trek or throwing sticks for the dog.
Twenty years later, you’ve been some places, you’ve
had plenty of cool, you’re back home, it’s two a.m.,
you’re in one of those not-exactly-nightclub clubs, the
kind without a fixed address, and there’s a goddess
singing the blues, singing like there’s some enormous
feeling inside her that’s going to kill her if she doesn’t
get it out and every word is pulling that thing out of
you and all the people you’re standing with here too,
the only thing in the world is this voice kneading this
pain.  When the set ends it’s like you’ve come out on
the other side of something you thought you’d never
make it through, the whole room is hollering praise
and gratitude.  Everybody takes a break, the smell of
pot comes in from outside, somebody has put a cold
beer in your hand, now the room’s not full of sound,
you’re just looking around, and there they are, current
incarnations of the cool people from that party when
you were fifteen, arrayed around a table in the middle
of the room, performing cool but looking also a bit as if
they wonder how they arrived in this place of mortals
with our mortal inconveniences like falling in love with
the wrong people over and over again or fucking things
up when you are trying hard not to.  When you see that
skittish ethereal mist rising up from their table and
hanging in the air above them, you know what it is:
ectoplasm.