Sunday, September 28, 2014

for those who navigate these meshes

She sits on the bed, slowly laying out cards
on her cherry lapboard.

A glass of Vinho Verde shines on the half moon bedside table,
Something sweet and baroque twists from the clock radio.

She’s lovely, in her way, in midnight blue palazzo pants
dotted with little stars.  I get lost in their drape
that butterflies down her legs, crossed at her ankles.

There’s a fussy buzz of some winged creature
caught in the milk white lamp globe, fusing with the lute and harp.

The faint scent of blooms she picked floats my way—
lily-like Hosta blossoms, white and trumpeting,
a cluster of butter yellow bell-shaped flowers that grow in the yard,
some herbaceous Bee Balm in plummy spikes. 

She glances at me, checking to see how disrupted I am
from my own pursuit in a book, brushing her hair back
from where it’s fallen across her black crop top.

I was in the hills above Sarajevo, looking down on red roofs and stone streets,
fingering my Browning, but I find myself moving closer to her,
brushing against the small swath of skin on her belly. 
Feeling the luxury and warmth of it, of her,

Believing that she spells out joy for me
in a mysterious tattoo beneath my touch,
as she stretches her legs out to greet mine.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

La Passeggiata

I know from experience that one can’t go walking one’s beloved dogs forever.  Not off the edge of the earth.  Not, perhaps, even for a few stolen minutes at sunset.  I found that out yesterday.

Yesterday was Sunday and overcast, threatening to rain, but never delivering.  I spent the day alone, mostly.  Sporadically weeding, doing laundry, dead-heading the washed out pale pink Bonica roses and golden Stella D'oro lilies, turning from one thing to another and never quite completing anything.  The dogs alternated lounging on small rugs and beds to watching for bunnies in the front yard, eyeing the mulberry tree for squirrels, worrying the base of the lilac for moles.  After supper I sat on the back lawn, relaxed on a faded blue-green canvas recliner, reading.  Dogs found spots nearby on the patio to lie down and yet keep a sly watch for movement from me, or any errant creature.  The evening was quiet, amazingly so.  I heard no neighbors, no motors (only some quite distant).  I was reading Jean Rhys’ “Good Morning, Midnight” about a woman set adrift in Paris.  And though it was peppered with French phrases, I could parse them out well enough:  What is she doing here?  That old woman?  And I felt for the protagonist, alone, without purpose, a bit damaged, and trying to stay alive, to move through this life quietly, invisibly, if possible.

I took a small break from reading, breathing in the wonder of the quiet, to see that the sky had opened up, the smudgy haze had broken apart to reveal pale blue expanses marked with puffing pink and orange tipped cumulonimbus clouds billowing up.  I decided to talk the dogs for a walk.

We walked down to the creek, which is our usual route.  The streets were silent, but away from our house the wind was picking up and clearing out the sky into more high thunderclouds, both pinker and more orange, to the north and east (and thus, not coming towards us).  The light was turning golden as we came nearer the water.  The creek was full, but still.  Here and there a bullfrog sounded a thick, waterlogged twang from the banks.  A night heron flitted from between some locust trees.  We moved through patches of midges, which clouded around my face, but didn’t deter the dogs, which were busily sniffing the edges of tree roots and mown burdock along the rises of newly blooming elderberry bushes showing sprays of white dots in the darkening green.  Our movement also stirred up the mosquitoes, which began to light on my arms.  I pulled the dogs along, away from the water and up to the grassy park.  The cottonwoods were shimmering with the breeze, each leaf applauding into one another so ecstatically it seemed.  I rejoiced a little with them and wondered how long I could walk like this, in this lush twilight.  I thought of how no one else was out.  I passed houses where I saw televisions on, a man with his laptop parked on a couch.  I thought about how romantic it was to stroll the street at dusk, the freshness of the air, the show of the clouds, the holy silence of the earth.  I thought about being in Italy and how the evening brought the promenade, the walking around the piazza, before supper, being out amongst others, being a community, flirting, seeing and being seen.   Suddenly I felt tired, and I realized that this golden hour held only a few moments of splendor for me before I turned, pulling dogs with me, to go home.

Monday, March 3, 2014

You got married

It seemed obvious once I said it,
yet, I couldn’t picture it clearly at all,
the wedding, your bride . . . 

Waiting at the checkout,
those in front of me all seemed to have
complicated transactions—
vouchers, exemptions.
They looked rather well-fed and well-to-do.
Then all the cashiers walked out.
I was irate.
What was this country coming to?
What happened to good service?
Or any service at all?
I wanted to yell at somebody.
No one was listening. 
The President had resigned.
Didn’t I know?
Was the First Lady a lesbian?
Someone asked.

And so, some sort of coup
happened while I was getting groceries.
The spring sun was warm 
and everyone poured into the streets.
Water slowly trickled, melting off.
I felt it,
Cool on the yellow walls
Vibrant on the pavement.
I brushed my hand against the stucco
and tried to make sense of it,
to feel what was real,
if anything,
but it was all so distant,
any danger/chaos/bloodshed,
a fog above a thawing pond.
I could see two or three dogs
rambling down the street,
fighting amiably.

I sat on the curb
and you settled next to me
as I slowly caressed the rue
that was growing up,
pale and new,
through the cracks,
and the detritus—
Yellow bits
of discarded sponges.
and crumpled plastic cups.

You started to speak
And I pretended to understand:
Destiny, dynasty,
It all meant nothing to me.

You choked on “rococo”
And your voice went up
Like a bird
To a high branch,
And I saw
The whitened bones of a steer
Resting there,
Gently draped
As if asleep.

And you, too,
Washed up by some long ago flood,
And now here beside me,
Black and white
In your lace trimmed
hounds tooth.
Your hands
Anchored so easily
Between my legs.
As we watched
The people and
The dogs,
The smoke rising in the distance,
And the thinning sun,

You knelt closer
And I felt
Some cool murmur,
the smooth
dark lining
Of your heart,
and the coming night.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


The silent fold of paper
that curved into shadows,
the sly light shining
from your emerald ring.
You think that I've forgotten.
Or you've forgotten

Once, we wandered 
into shops,
felt the icy wonder
of jewels caught
in nets of silver.
I saw how you blossomed
away from the crowd;
warm petals of your hidden
in those worn aisles,
sweet cardamom cream.

On the street again
to grey cobbles
in darkness,
I whisper your name,
And realize
it's no longer true.

Still, I will 
repeat it over and over,
trying to conjure
that plush weft
of your London suit
green like the water
melding moor to sea,
green like my heart, of course,
pulled into your kitchen
where you coyly mashed
the tight pearls of jasmine tea,
the copper patina
against the deep red
oriental patterened rugs,
and later with olives
eagerly dispensing their fleshy coats
under our teeth.

I thought you were a fierce adept
of birds and vines,
so natural in your breathless flow.
Damselflies floated 
on the walls
behind the gloss
of your haloed hair.

I ranged your library,
seeking out in which volumes
you might have secreted 
childhood violets.
The scent of their decay
leading me on.
I felt a glass of sherry
in my hand,
catching some last light
of Sunday,
when we'd let that Fado
recording spin and
cover our unspoken

Do the campions still bravely wave
rosy greetings 
this late
in the season?

Hello, Hello

as we trail
the night

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Where Beauty Rhymes with Vulnerability

He touched the ice rimming his plate of oysters, those poor little crystals, slowly deteriorating.  In his mind he saw her with her coat collar pulled up, framing her face, so indistinct, yet seemingly so warm and inviting, as little snowflakes graced her hair.  How sentimental he had become about her already, not knowing her at all, but letting himself muse on the delight of snowflakes caught in some grassy wave of her hair.  He smiled.  Oh, maybe it was the alcohol, but there was no harm in it either way.  Does thinking make it so?   How would it matter?  Thoughts swam in and out constantly.  Which stuck?  Which set up shop, as it were? 

He brought his fingers to his lips.  Suddenly a strong perfume of hyacinth so pungent and feminine startled him.  He looked around to see if someone had slipped up beside him unbeknownst, but he sat alone at the bar.  Where had he been, then?  He had gone to get some groceries after his trip to the hardware store.  What had he touched?  Fish, cream, coffee, a pack of mushrooms, a tin of tea.  The cashier?  He couldn’t picture her just yet.  Some dumpy woman, with dark strings of hair.  Were her hands slathered with such a strong scent?  Had they touched his?  A receipt passed between them.  That was all.

What scent would she wear?  His blue-robed oyster princess in the snow?  He brought his fingers back to his nose.  It was almost choking thick and sweet as a hothouse in spring:  now jasmine, now lilies.  He pulled back a little.  Just a touch here on his fingers could make him nostalgic for something as yet unknown, a swing of silk in a hallway.  But a whole pasture of it, a whole swath of a woman dripping in such scent—one wouldn’t be able to breathe.  His happy reverie was broken.  He had dark thoughts again.  Women were difficult.   He returned his attention to the oysters and ordered another drink.  

The Timid Light Around It

She thought for a long time about the various birds she brought to her story in the car.  Why had she chosen them:  hawk, raven, crane—surely there were more melodious names, more colorful ones.  Would Dell’s son have joined in if she had called out other names?  No, it wasn’t her words; something else was holding him back.  Was he grown-up already and suddenly too shy to speak his mind and let loose his usual parade of the fantastic?   She wouldn’t know.   In so much of life, our minds are elsewhere.  Some one had said that more poetically than I, she thought.  I have my dead.  That was Rilke.  Why did she think of that now?  Grief slipped in like a thief, when one’s mind was wandering.  I have my dead.  Yes.  Mine.  A collision of losses seeped in, crowding her thoughts.  She walked to the windows to see the loons had returned.  It felt too early, too sudden.  A melancholy came with the draping mist, pulled like wool over the olive water of the lake.  One loon preened its black and white herringbone feathers while the other floated silently, two solitary figures in this muted world.  The redbud on the shore that once was so brightly pink with blossoms, was now hung with a few yellowing cordate leaves.  The locusts next to it had long ago shed their petal-like growth, and once-gilded leaves littered the muddy black earth below like some shrugged off cloak.  She turned to tell someone this and only found a dusty ficus, inherited from her mother, that somehow kept its dull life afloat in this still indoor life of no birds, no bees.  Who was she thinking she would tell? 

She lit the two white tapers and drew a bath.  She poured herself a Pastis.  How cloudy it was:  The drink, the world, her mind.  How cloudy and how white:  The bathtub, the candles, her skin.  She let herself slip into the heat of the bath, smoothly soft the porcelain, like the marble of him.  How she had felt the heat, that terribly violent and delicate machinery that ran under his skin, beneath that thin weave of his white shirt, patterned with small red leaves, tiny acanthus.  How would it feel to have them drift down over her?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Painted with Birds and Insects Amongst Blossoming Branches

The teapot had drawn him in—its blue pattern calling from some past; a dream perhaps.  Her dress, yes, blue slubbed with white, twined over and over, long like how his bones felt now that he remembered, something deep and flowing through him.

He wasn’t going to that shop, just passing by on his way to the hardware store for some couplings.  Some couplings, dammit.  And then the blue in the window glinted, caught his eye.  He went in feeling too large, of course, too unsteady.  If only it had been some bigger place, some vast anonymous brightly lit box where he could slide into an aisle unnoticed and browse with his eyes scanning the shelves, his fingers free to touch without any questions.  But it was a cubbyhole of a teashop, a dark acrid den.  He was afraid to ask about the pot.  He didn’t want to hear its provenance—how it was Delft or Chinese or what the design meant—he only wanted to touch it, to hold it close to his face . . . .

“You like that pot?” 

Oh please, he thought, don’t say it, don’t tell me.  “Yes,” he nodded, looking downward, sighing.  

Just then another customer banged through the door, jangling the red strung tangle of brass bells and asking loudly, almost bellowing:  “Tea.  I need Green Tea.  And White Peony.  Do you have these?”

Oh, thank god, he thought.   While the proprietor re-directed her gaze, he reached quickly into the window display and grabbed the teapot, pressing the blue shining ceramic to his cheek.  A sleek, cold rush; thrilling, like popping one’s head out at night from an overwarm house to just catch a glimpse of a sliver of the moon before it was shrouded again in frosty clouds.  “Forgive me.  Forgive me, my love,” he whispered to the soft glaze, the tiny twists of stems and wings.  Just as quickly as he had grabbed it, he replaced the pot and left the store.  Back on the blaze of the sunlit street, he felt his heart burring, his whole being smiling.  What, what was he doing?
He had gone mad.  He shrugged and kept going.