Just as the word
is mostly end,
we’ve reached the path
where brittle leaves
and we admit it’s late
for flexibility, for faith
that we can break
so many times
I’ve lived long
enough to cultivate
leaves, to pluck what
uses wisdom has, to prune
my salvia in spring,
savoring age, the not
of being healed,
My nieces tell me how they used to cringe,
afraid of my college portrait in the rumpus room,
my spooky pupils and wild hair. The picture
was black and white, and I thought artsy,
but they were used to color. I wasn’t smiling
in the picture—I had weird bangs
and wore a vintage dress. I was unlike anything else
in their grandparents’ house—which was floral
and potpourri and seashells. My gray eyes
followed them around the room
as they played Chutes and Ladders
or finger-painted on butcher-block paper.
I thought I was the favorite aunt, the cool one
who came by twice a year, who took them
to New York, who bought them wacky dolls
from foreign countries, which I now understand
they took to be some kind of voodoo or black magic.
I knew them as little artistes, girls who would tell me
their weird dreams. We made up songs together.
I spun them upside down. I let them wear
my big clip-on earrings and even bigger sunglasses.
I never knew they wanted me to be normal.
They didn’t know I wanted them to be like me.
“You’ll be a painter,” I said to the graphic designer.
“You’ll be a famous psychiatrist,” I said to the academic.
In fact, we used to play therapy—the girls took turns
lying on the couch and I encouraged them
to say whatever came into their heads,
mostly delicious nonsense—a string of words so sonic
and exquisite I wrote everything down to use in a poem.
Those were my therapist notes. I don’t know
what stopped me from transcribing them—
except to say even then I had inklings
that they were each their own persons,
and I was myself. That our ideas of each other,
though false, were the true poems.
"Men get to be a mixture of the charming mannerisms of the women they have known."
F. Scott Fitzgerald (via saisonlune)
Pages of Winter
Take a look, the birds are dancing
on winter’s white pages.
The heavy guinea fowl and the grouse,
putting everything into it
under the barrel of a gun,
and fate, like a skier,
rushes ahead inexorably
and his sweater flashes between the trunks.
A ski, a ski
has belted the earth, and there’s no shelter
not a bit,
it’s already twilight and the stars crunch
like grains of sand in your teeth.
And you can’t fall down, can’t rest,
can’t even squint,
because if you close your eyes
you give the guns a chance
and you won’t save the dancing birds.
And you won’t turn the pages.
this spring is like that man in the white
radiating heat even from his thumbs
standing so close we steal each other’s air
a wedding band glaring on his finger
the air is overstuffed with white
just as my head feels too full of words
and there’s a rawness in my chest a hope
mixed with resignation
that this will be my final chance
for poetry and …
winter was easier in some respects
watching the branches bare
in too much pain to feel desire
shivered in an empty tub
spring—like the words “my marriage is trying
to find a graceful way to die”
making me realize there’s still a thing
that beats in there
and also wishing
it had never learned this fact
audio here : Francesca Lia Block
Epithalamium by Diane Schenker
One day the Earth will be
just a blind space turning,
night confused with day.
Under the vast Andean sky
there’ll be no more mountains,
not a rock or ravine.
Only one balcony will remain
of all the world’s buildings,
and of the human mappa mundi,
In place of the Atlantic Ocean,
a little saltiness in the air,
and a fish, flying and magical
with no knowledge of the sea.
In a car of the 1900s (no road
for its wheels) three girls
of that time, pressing onwards
like ghosts in the fog.
They’ll peer through the door
thinking they’re nearing Paris
when the odor of the sky
grips them by the throat.
Instead of a forest
there’ll be one bird singing,
which nobody will ever place,
or prefer, or even hear.
Except for God, who listening out,
proclaims it a goldfinch.
The Long Hand Wishes It Was Used
Sometimes I wish I didn’t think in words
and that instead for each thought I thought I drew upon an image,
and that I was able to organize each image in a linear way that would be like sort of like reading
and that instead of trying to describe the edges around something
I could just think the color around the edges of the image to be darker,
that the detail on the image could become more or less detailed depending on how much clarity I believe I needed to disclose at the time
For instance, instead of saying love, I could just think watermelon
I could just think of a watermelon cut in half, laying open on a picnic table
The inside would be just as moist as it was pink
I could picture cutting up pieces and giving them out to my friends.
It wouldn’t have to be sunny
It wouldn’t have to be anything else then just that
It would really simplify my walk home at night,
where every thought I think is some contrived line I repeat over and over to myself
Words are always just replaced with new ones
The pictures would never need to know otherwise
We Dogs of a Thursday Off
The wine of uncharted days,
Their unsteady stance against the working world,
The intense intoxication of nothing to be done,
A day off,
The dance of the big-hearted dog
In us, freed into a sudden green, an immense field:
Off we go, more run than care, more dance—
If a polka could be done not in a room but straight
Ahead, into the beautiful distance, the booming
Sound of the phonograph weakening, but our legs
Getting stronger with their bounding practice:
This day, that feeling, drunkenness
Born of indecision, lack of focus, but everything
Forgiven: Today is a day exposed for what it is,
A workday suddenly turned over on its back,
Hoping to be rubbed.
If you Hire a Poet to Draw a Map
He will take liberties with the land. He’ll unwind rivers that
offend him. He’ll move mountain ranges that get in his way. He’ll
expand the coastline to make room for more otters and seals. He’ll
slide the equator a dozen degrees north so the winters won’t be
quite so harsh. He’ll rename major cities after the lovers of his
past. On the east coast there’s Penelope, so plump and polluted.
And Melinda in the west, awash in fragrant flowers. He’s likely to
add a few states. Some as small as a cafe. Others span great swaths
of the open sea. He’ll sketch in highways where it pleases him. The
black ones are designed for families and grandmothers traveling
alone. The green and orange roads are not for novices. They twist
and turn. Go underground for miles. Pass right over lakes. Then
the asphalt ends. You get out of your car. A farmer greets you by a
fence. He hands you a carrot. You ask the obvious question. And
he replies, Yes. This is the end of the orange road.
The workmen over and above the fence
fit bricks, lift mortar, slap it accurately
in place. Guilty by sitting idle, I
imagine they envy my luxury
of doing nothing until I remember
the days I had my hands full of shovel,
the dragline plowing the ditch of a sewer
through a future subdivision and how
I pitied those who walked by our work
with no apparent occupation,
denied the pleasure of making something,
piece by piece—even if it would soon
be buried—they would depend upon.