The Sphinx

I don’t remember what you whispered to me,

only that you did.

Was it, “The Past is never as simple,

as the Future thinks it is.”

 

Our faces are a white Rubik’s cube.  Only soft clicks

betray hints

of things coming together on the inside.

 

You sit to my right.

I sit to your left.

Calligraphy in smoke

writes itself blindly from your left ear

into ostrich feathers.  In fury,

I’ve twisted my own words,

turned them into sticks and ash.

 

These things are balled in our minds. Three ripples,

Spinning storms crackle, envelope us

in sound.   Billions of tiny shards whirl and crash

against each other,

bleeding against the shape of us,

all of it rising together out of the sand,

tympanic.

We are immobile around one another, anchored,

sightless to the things we are tied to.

I am unseen, the hole in the top of our head waiting to be filled.

 

April 9, 2017.

 

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Pain et Beurre

A telestich, Paris 2001

 

 

Sour night fades to gray organza, finally.                                              We have been awake

in Paris since bells tolled at witching hour, their thrum

in code to spell out time’s long hands,       hours until the world outside our room gets up.

Fantasies of simple bread and butter baked –                                                          thick crust

on which to layer disjointed                                         dreamery of cars that run on empty,

 

driverless – slip like mercury along darkened boulevards

circling the city of light,

emitting signals in the language of the denizens of each arrondissemente, sotto

voce –                                  brush automated words of love against street cleaner’s broom.

Graffiti artists complete cartoons and chimera

soon return to slumber shadowed under awnings at the tabac and each bridged arc

that spans the drowsy river.        Across the narrow bed I hear the rumble of your stomach

the clatter of the gate rising over bakery windows.         We are hungry.                Feed us.

 

 

March 21, 2002

Pre-Occupation Dies a Slow Death

I am sitting so straight;

a needle I could pierce straight through every conversation

floating against the tile and washing over me, my shoulder blades exposed,

sweater on backward and a dime-sized moonbeam of a scar winking

at the talkers.  I want to stay here a while thinking

 

about other things.  Your breakfast-stained hands are slick against my sleeve.  My hands

move

suddenly to reposition your cup and straw, as your mouth works to suck

the last bit of milk from the bottom.

 

I touch toast points to egg yolk,

remember my mother’s egg cups,

bite on the thought that I’ve never done all of these things together before.  These things,

 

happen to other women.  The sight of freckles on an arm splattered angrily against the sun,  skin carefully and not so carefully bitten

from the fingertips of a right hand.  This morning, I woke to the most beautiful of kisses,

nostril barely flared against nostril, air leaving and staying–

no trite tongues–

 

but complex fitting of lippage to lippage, the thought that this kiss is all we ever have to do

 

if we just kiss.  My edges are glued to every knowable plane

and all the identifiable details stitched to me, butterflied backward,

until I am pulled apart and into you completely.

 

 

May 14, 2017.

The Laundress

         —For Ms. Louise Hall

 

She lived

past a minefield of potholes

big enough to swallow a car,

dirt packed,

tightly hidden by a tangle of vines,

 

low-hanging trees

that seemed green all year round.

 

I never saw her wear more than a sweater,

 

so insolated, isolated.

 

The suspension sank when she sat.

 

Our small space filled with the smell of cotton,

worn and clean from the best sheets,

her sweet smile and exhausted silence,

the occasional honest laugh,

 

the precision of her outside life unmatched,

an economy of motion, wings that barely flapped,

sycamored, shirts turned swiftly,

lined in all the right places

 

November 5, 2010

The Little Robot

She’s a wind-up toy

all chromed and coveted from the rail.

The hands that want to touch her can

but sometimes fail,

rub spots like fingerprints in icing on a birthday cake.

 

She moves in syncopation,

cleans the carpets and the floors,

sprays spray to glass

on the mirrors, the windows and all the doors.

 

The little robot stops and stares,

gets caught in her own reflection

for a moment, shorts, too long,

then continues her routine, pulling spiders from corners.

 

She shows no mercy –

kills those with poison and without,

keeps a good home,

there’s no doubt that her mother taught her well.

 

She’s not just a collector

but follows her program.  Her handlers ring the bell.

She’s made to repeat and do it over,

ride dust ball corners.  This is her hell.

 

November 26, 2009

Carbon Black

 

What did we know of love

or proportion when we were young outlines,

external organs waiting to hemorrhage on each other,

wanting to bare our new pinkness for almost anyone to see?

 

We panned for sex in a gold rush.  It was so easy then.

That gold was abundant.  Life was a placer stream.  We were pure excitement,

mined without force,

glittering coldly and washed clean.

 

Love was an act

and we were drawn softly into thin wires,

 

heat-seeking conductors who pressed ourselves onto glass,

reflected ideals others radiated,

while vibrating through the darkness beneath adulthood.

We thought we were telescopic, could observe

our future in active galaxies, ride the consequences,

red shift on long wavelengths,

 

carefully cover our carbon black

under layer upon layer of alteration,

until we became art veins so nuanced,

 

so complete,

that even we couldn’t remember where we started and left

our own unveiling to experts wielding tools

hewn from finite resources, sharp-sighted analysts

who distinguish pentimenti from sloppy restorations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 14, 2010

Sashimi

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