More than putting another man on the moon,
More than a New Year’s resolution of yogurt and yoga,
we need the opportunity to dance
with really exquisite strangers. A slow dance
between the couch and dining room table, at the end
of the party, while the person we love has gone
to bring the car around
because it’s begun to rain and would break their heart
if any part of us got wet. A slow dance
to bring the evening home. Two people
rocking back and forth like a buoy. Nothing extravagant.
A little music. An empty bottle of whiskey.
It’s a little like cheating. Your head resting
on his shoulder, your breath moving up his neck.
Your hands along her spine. Her hips
unfolding like a cotton napkin
and you begin to think about
how all the stars in the sky are dead. The my body
is talking to your body slow dance. The Unchained Melody,
Stairway to Heaven, power-chord slow dance. All my life
I’ve made mistakes. Small
and cruel. I made my plans.
I never arrived. I ate my food. I drank my wine.
The slow dance doesn’t care. It’s all kindness like children
before they turn three. Like being held in the arms
of my brother. The slow dance of siblings.
Two men in the middle of the room. When I dance with him,
one of my great loves, he is absolutely human,
and when he turns to dip me
or I step on his foot because we are both leading,
I know that one of us will die first and the other will suffer.
The slow dance of what’s to come
and the slow dance of insomnia
pouring across the floor like bath water.
When the woman I’m sleeping with
stands naked in the bathroom,
brushing her teeth, the slow dance of ritual is being spit
into the sink. There is no one to save us
because there is no need to be saved.
I’ve hurt you. I’ve loved you. I’ve mowed
the front yard. When the stranger wearing a sheer white dress
covered in a million beads
slinks toward me like an over-sexed chandelier suddenly come to life,
I take her hand in mine. I spin her out
and bring her in. This is the almond grove
in the dark slow dance.
It is what we should be doing right now. Scraping
for joy. The haiku and honey. The orange and orangutan slow dance.
A week of nonnegotiable fantasy, days
of unmovable image—in a locked room,
against a door, in front of the window.
I, of course, am wearing a skirt, stockings
holding onto my thighs. You look
and then look down. You think
what you think. There’s only this table
between us—a slight expanse
of wood and steel, file cabinets,
note-taking. You rely on me
and I you, not to. But I’m undependable
with the right kind of pressure.
I look outside at the land you love
clearing its throat, preparation
for singing. We have an understanding.
A bridge arches over the river, river
rises to meet it, pigeons fly out
from the dark underneath, and starlings
rise and fall in parabolic sweeps, glissandos
drawn from architecture and math, music
almost impossible to play.Amy Dryansky
I don’t care what you call
love—a word I know
like wasp or water oak,
as my knowledge
of nature, gleaned
from old encyclopedias.
You say love
But I saw the artist’s rendering
like photography, the legs,
graphic blood the color of maple syrup
in a diagram on how to puncture trees.
Somewhere in My Body Are Two Flowers For the Same Person
I do not always have the right thing to say
my foot sometimes moves without me
a wing of my library is filled
with only the knocking of one cuckoo clock
and the voices of yellow flowers
a path of empty vases follows us
somewhere in my body
fold newspapers by the thousands
turning them into small squares
Elegance of Surprise
It’s about now when things stop
making sense three a.m. you and I, a taxi
San Francisco streets.
In the back seat I’m humming
the pulse of the city like the thin cross—
hatch of wires that fly by the window—
a secret code I can’t quite decipher
because dawn is lurking to the right
of the corner gas station.
Patient as the street lights that guide
our way home, you’re murmuring
directions and I imagine
your hand on my thigh. I think of how
we kissed in the blue-lit bar, how nothing
ever turns out the way they do in romance
novels, more like a Dali painting—
objects dripping out of reality
into strange and lonely space.
But in an hour, I find your unfamiliar body
explaining itself under my fingers.
I realize something about the elegance of surprise
as morning arrives wordlessly
light breaking over abandoned streets
with the simplicity of a story that’s told
again and again and again
If I’d been better at math perhaps these scrawls would resemble geometry. A right triangle could obviate the unflinching parallels on this city map. My blue Mazda trying to untangle on-ramp from off could also visit our unfinished past and crumple the zeros — they litter the road, this highway where all lights are timed to ‘stop’ just as I accelerate. The laws of inertia enforce this claim: I’m glad I knew you. I’m glad we once steamed windows, tangled sheets; while on clocks, numbers came unglued and fell to the floor. I’m glad for memory’s angled interruptions, for the ways bodies intersect. Although the map is faded, my memory’s exact.
She was not the one who let you kiss her
behind the fake palms at the wedding reception.
She was not the one who went with you to Star Trek
number whatever and your knees bumped together
and struck intergalactic sparks in the back row.
She was not even the one who did your loads
of laundry in college and typed two and a half
term papers for you and cried at the bus station
while it was snowing like a scene from a bad novel.
The one you’ll remember until you stop
remembering is the girl who sat beside you
in eighth grade biology and she kept smiling
sunbeams of encouragement as you dropped
then fumbled the scalpel and she had brown hair
and an implied continent of freckles and a short dress
and skinny legs and all the boys said Chrissie
was too nerdy because she got 100’s on all the quizzes
and had a rock and mineral collection at home
that she dared to discuss over a half pint of milk
at the cafeteria lunch table. Together you took apart
the fetal pig and it seems like yesterday becomes today
because in your mind it is as if you were married
to Chrissie for those two piggy days in that class
more than anyone else you’ve known before or since.
From snout to curled tail she wasn’t girl-like yech
or gross but right there with you observing
the wonderful and frightening bits and pieces
such as sprawling liver, thumb-sized kidneys,
or tracing out the vas deferens and inguinal canal,
and you were accidentally brushing your foreheads
and touching each other’s still smooth hands
and those trusty knees came together beneath
the table in a way that did just about everything
except make a baby and that wasn’t actually necessary
because as unnamed boyfriend and girlfriend
your pig dissection discoveries were the actual equivalent
of your own offspring nursed with fumes
of formaldehyde and careful forceps pull
and tweezers squeeze until you put the remains
in a bag at the end of the last day and dropped
them in the hazardous waste container.
Then it was time for lab reports to be written,
grades to be entered in Mr. Bender’s book,
and for everyone to move on to another project.
You got a B and Chrissie nailed the A and she said
she was sorry and patted you on the back,
an entirely new gesture from her that moved you,
but you couldn’t say so. “It was just a pig,”
you told her but even then you knew it wasn’t
and that you would never ask her to a dance
or even see much of her again after this class was over.
The pig was everything, heaven and earth and love
and brief roses with no sequel. Years later
you heard that Chrissie was an indie singer
with a single in play, then the band fell from FM grace,
she faded away and moved to Barcelona of all places
where you hope, really hope, she is shaking a tambourine
as well as her long brown hair and that late at night
she still takes out her rocks and turns over some
of the interesting ones she has collected along the way.
I remembered what it was like,
knowing what you want to eat and then making it,
forgetting about the ending in the middle,
looking at the ocean for
a long time without restlessness,
or with restlessness not inhabiting the joints,
sitting Indian style on a porch
overlooking that water, smooth like good cake frosting.
And then I experienced it, falling so deeply
into the storyline, I laughed as soon as my character entered
the picture, humming the theme music even when I’d told myself
I wanted to be quiet by some freezing river
and never talk to anyone again.
And I thought, now is the right time to cut up your shirt.
Come into animal presence
Come into animal presence
No man is so guileless as
the serpent. The lonely white
rabbit on the roof is a star
twitching its ears at the rain.
The llama intricately
folding its hind legs to be seated
not disdains but mildly
disregards human approval.
What joy when the insouciant
armadillo glances at us and doesn’t
quicken his trotting
across the track and into the palm brush.
What is this joy? That no animal
falters, but knows what it must do?
That the snake has no blemish,
that the rabbit inspects his strange surroundings
in white star-silence? The llama
rests in dignity, the armadillo
has some intention to pursue in the palm-forest.
Those who were sacred have remained so,
holiness does not dissolve, it is a presence
of bronze, only the sight that saw it
faltered and turned from it.
An old joy returns in holy presence.