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orders of magic

The night we opened a shoebox, one of an infinite
assemblage of coffers and receptacles, their hollow
mass looming in lamplight like buildings on a dark
city street, and out flew a moth the size, it must
have been, of a small bird, and I shrieked like
a vocalise, testing my upper range without even
knowing I was singing: and you came in—it had
landed on the lampshade, its wings settled, mottled,
as large as my hand, I thought it must have been,
and you took it gently, you held it, moth whisperer,
and said, it’s beautiful, opened the door and released it,

its powers of specter and thrill gone, to whatever
next candle—the porch light, street lamp, the moon.

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Birthday

birthday

Then, prayer needed to be close to bones
to have force. Close to the grave or to relics.
Now, if I am to walk the causeway, tracking
the shoreline but light and mist obscuring it
as well, what will be my markers? The tide
capricious. I will be a stranger, as I have been
always to myself. I will have no guide, having
arrived late. Once I reach the island, I’ll hope
to find the marsh helleborine, and further,
the churchyard. The book, I know,
removed to the libraries in the south.
The great saint’s shrine at a cathedral
inland. I seek what has long disappeared,
its breath stilled but for wind and its
little flurry over the water in retreat.

Reuters interview pantoum

When will it happen? Very soon.
I’m announcing it now. I have to say
there is an end. I’ve been very
consistent. It has to be humiliation.

I’m announcing my dissatisfaction now:
I like to drive, but I can’t drive anymore,
not consistently. It’s a humiliation,
to be driven by limousine or SUV,

when I’d prefer to drive myself. By the way,
just so you know, Xi is a very good man
who, I’d guess, also travels by limo or SUV,
because he’s important. I know the best people,

and, just so you know, they know I’m a good man—
the best man. I don’t really want turmoil—
then my people can’t do their important work.
But you know, I loved my previous life.

I think I was a good man, my work wasn’t turmoil:
I had a lot of things going. This is more work.
My previous life was good. I loved it.
I thought this would be easier.

I was busy then. I did a lot of work.
and now, there’s no end to it.
I thought it would be easier, but
the end of it will happen, I hope, very soon.

On Rhyming

There’s the modern rhyme of Nabakov

which the Police have paired with cough–

as in “he starts to shake and cough”–

Sting was a teacher, hence Nabakov.

We maybe should have started out with you,

which lovers and singers rhyme with blue.

These lovers are gone and also never true,

which gives the writers lots to rhyme with you.

The best rhymes, my poetry teacher said,

were in Don Juan, which we then promptly read.

We recited rhymes to hear what Byron said,

our lack of rhyming prowess conjured dread.

Byron called us ladies intellectual,

a backhanded rhyme with hen pecked you all.

noise

noise

You’re across the room when my voice
makes the fitting connections in its
draped room, parting the folds, singing out,

but you did not hear me, I see you did not
stir from your task, the lamp suffusing you
with its light, its particles in their

infinitesimal flicker. And you’re with me,
close, in the dark, my voice a hush,
I whisper near your ear, but you haven’t

heard me, I know, your hands on my skin
making their sure approach: and now,
you’re across town when my voice travels

in the air, mouth just inches from a transmitter,
and if you hear, I can’t see you, you’re wherever
you are, with friends, my voice wireless,

disseminated among strangers. I am driving
too fast past mountains with mist clinging
to their snowy tops, barns, farms, power

stations fly by, I can barely hear myself,
my force an almost spent spring, everything
making a din of its own speed: I want sound

to still in its peaks and troughs, and you
to hear this voice, seep of a little lost river
gone underground, its soft course and flow.

cathedra

cathedra

men, friends, came, called as brothers
to lift the chair from its down-the-stairs
station into the bed of a truck, hauled

down a highway to a room where he
would heal, or that was what we all hoped:
and placed in the far corner, by a window

where one could spy a field, a mountain,
a white horse, a train: so the hush of
afternoon, where he slept and she folded

her legs up into its soft angles: then
her neck tilted to one side, their quiet
hallowing the light sifting in.

Dear Emily,

Today on my walk I saw poppies, unbloomed, lining the sidewalk. It is my favorite place, a square designated by a log fence and sometimes populated by small, ceramic gnomes. Just now, the world is ariot with blooms and buds. The poppy heads are baby green and fuzzy. The look like alien mouths about to pop open. But then do, and they transform, first intoxicating with their blaze of red and orange. Then, you may boil them to make a tea, or others find a way to take the drug directly into their blood. Do you understand? I don’t. The woman who owns this land once offered me some poppy seeds, seeing how I loved them. I can stand and adore them for hours. I took the seeds but never planted them.

Sometimes you come upon a scene and it steals your breath and that, that should be enough.