When Borges Dreamed
"He wanted to dream
a man; he wanted to dream him in minute entirety
and impose him
on reality... He was seeking a soul worthy
of participating in
-- Jorge Luis Borges,
The Circular Ruins
When Borges dreamed the man
who dreamed a man
I went to bed and dreamed an ear:
wanted to hear: murmuring ghosts,
Spiralling cell by cell from auricle
semicircular canals winding blindly
the most profoundly silent forest
of cilia -- I nurtured them from
root to tip.
Tympanic membrane next,
stretch taut and ready to listen.
(I dreamed and dreamed
the tiny porous wafer)
Wanting to hear children tell,
alone, at night, of heaven and hell,
to hear my father from across the
full of explanation.
Wanting continental driftings,
the moon's ancient whirr,
nocturnal winds at timberline
in a place where nothing lives.
Hammer, anvil, stirrup and,
at labyrinthine end, the drum:
little Buddha nested in the dark
all sound and no sound
When Borges dreamed the man
who dreamed a man
I dreamed an ear and woke to hear
echoing in my own circular ruins.
more satellites and no more sex, no more chasms and no more filigree, no
french phrases (s'il vous plait) no wind, of course -- wild, whipping or
otherwise, and no flowers (or maybe a few; I can't help it.) No more body
parts as metaphors, no doors, no hallways, no words with bones, no bones,
no weather, no brand names or trademarks, no lines between lines,
geometry, nor symmetry or astronomy
(Wrap the favored words in a brown bag filled
with rocks of no particular beauty, drop the whole kaboodle into the bay
and watch it sidelong, sinking, bubbles floating to the top: palms and
psalms and pomegranates, heliotropes and tropes and dun beaches, tessellate,
masturbate, consecrate, periwinkles, capillaries and keenings)
growth, within or without no sinking back into the loam no home, or home
away from home no lover, no self no empty shelves, no tarnished stars,
empty bars, rotting cars, dusty jars, no rhyme no rhythm,
no funny punctuation no
Number Nine Bedford at Barrow
led me up the stairs, selling me
number nine Bedford at Barrow.
He swung the
door with a wrist flick and,
a wink, the light came on, the broker
the super in the hall and while he did
I moved right
the floors and walls, long strokes
of pine and
propriety, and I rinsed away
all dust, any old snot,
the moldings the newest old gold and
I hung my
hung my ever-birthing
in a Mexican bowl and I
cupboards tacky bluebells,
the shower with free-floating fish,
the deep tub's slick bottom,
built a bookcase
of silvered oak, let it bend
corner of an odd wall,
into the newly
track-lit hall where I hung paintings
in a mix of abstract and abstacter,
I hung the
African masks bought cheap outside MOMA,
and made up
stories of Kenyan adventures,
rose-dyed lace, resistance along a curtain rod,
the commode in pink and azure,
I hauled a
brass bed into the corner,
with Ralph Lauren's wildest dreams and
I let the
lone Italian lamp stand stoic
in the corner
dubbed nuovo, I
case of wine for the weekend's soiree and I
and with every hope for the future,
placed a mat
of finest hemp and the word "Welcome"
in seven different
languages outsides the door where
and the super look at me,
shining eyes, the "I'll take it" on my lips --
me the space had been rented
an hour before
by the super's cousin,
flown in unexpectedly
from small town, somewhere.
Years After Tolédo
Tolédo, I still feel the cobblestones
kneeling near the only mosque-chapel.
I could not
get up, kept sliding my hand
over the rounded,
dusty mounds. Una piedra, dos piedras,
was all I
could think, knowing little more Spanish,
and less about
I lost you
in Madrid, among El Greco's visages
over the place -- how could I compete?
from me, eyes upturned, pious.
the world, I still hear your breath in my ear,
a headache: "Guernica... ah, Guernica."
a space so wide we couldn't see ourselves.
near the Pyrenees, sad as saints,
stoic as continental
Just Sheltering Me
Standing at the cellar door,
arms on hips, lips pursed, angling
toward some solution:
tongue and groove or tessellation,
oak for particle board or
the creation of cathedrals.
I watch him beveling the edges
as he teaches me to line
pine shingles the right way, wasting
precious time and knowledge
just sheltering me.
He moves in measured economy,
a man pondering, holding the absolute
of a level against the rounded body
of a boat he built in a field
behind the house he built
before he knew he might create a world
of wood, of sandstone, of silver
or, as he has done -- and without implement --
forge a legacy
of the truer elements.
-- For Valmar Stauffer Thompson
We came and
left by train and I, used to flying,
a thief sneaking into Prague, late in our first Spring,
expectation, light with wanderlust.
The city is
culled from ancient copperplate, a lithograph.
played shell games
Town the stippled cobblestone cast our shadows askew:
and graven at twilight, two ghosts against the wall
Along the Vtlava
I followed you, dropping korunas into the black
river, nacreous and penumbral, it snaked into my heart,
I cried, hearing Heraclitus.
I made up words in Czech that said I love --
wrong, rhythm wrong, your answer in an equally foreign tongue.
Next day we
slept on the tour bus.
The day after,
you and Kafka formed a friendship without me,
you got taken on Wenceslas Square,
fists full of worthless Polish somethings.
You shook off
my sympathy like a beggar's hand
me flowers while I slept, which I left when we left,
a lingering brightness
in an ordinary
on a small
Rock Running at Pemaquid Point
Rock running at Pemaquid was a childhood stint,Top
A perilous sprint: eyes on toes, nose to knees,
Toes on striated earth, more crevasse than peak.
Up a granite hill from the sea,
It's a perfect metaphor for me:
Write and run! No pulling hair, no wear and tear
or setting suns and similes, proportion,
truth or fiction, dreams
on collision course with diction.
Let's find again that ravaged beach,
images buried under the sand
understand your own rhythm in the beat of the waves:
again and again and again to infinity --
We should all labor toward such equanimity.
I'm not thinking
of you this morning
poetry -- Neruda --
a necklace of words:
with the power for forgetting
(We shed our
clothes like corn husks, fast
about broken zippers or pulled hair)
I won't be
remembering you today
-- whites and off-whites
I watch my
reflection in the dryer door:
swirl a freak storm
(We fell backwards
as one, taking a leap
of faith that
the bed would be there)
I'm not thinking
of you this afternoon
to the movies -- Tarkovsky, I guess
I'll eat licorice,
sink low in my seat, feet
be thinking of you this evening --
at seven with the Harry Ngs
this quiet, tasteful place
in low voices of ordinary things
(We moved very
slowly, as if underwater,
but knowing of an afterlife)
The post card graced a space forgotten as its sender:
A solitary occupation above the sink,
warping and fading for three years
Languishing until this moment, when
it finally caught my eye --
I peered: Dali's little vision in oils
Not little at all! All eyes but not just
eyes or just a card, a clever trick of space and vision --
You must see it for yourself:
"Architecture of the Eyes," 1929,
For me, from S., in '89, and the words more startling
than the thirty-eight painted eyes,
Not including postal workers,
and my other self and that makes two more,
the one who loved you.
"Paris, Marseilles and the Cote d/Azur ...
Barcelona and bulfights, excellent wine ...
I wish you were here ... my body so brown ..."
I read the stamps, too, and the quatri-
languaged title again and again, turn it
over and over
What a hasty read it had been,
Missing the tiny world, miniature mise en scene
painted with a brush of one hair
How did you find me, carte pequena,
after all this time, mail being what it is
and its sender?
The frogs know when it's time:
after late summer rains
have driven the pollen from the top.
They dive privately,
spin in to the nether.
Imagine tiny skeletons
finely strewn on the sodden
underbelly. We pollywog stare
through the blackened reeds
that refuse to die
from Spring to Spring
and back to bracken.
The winter moon plays Narcissus:
looms large on the pond,
reflecting its ancient cameo self.
and the pond is an unblinking
on the face of the earth
in a frogless night.
the train: gazes of strangers
and lock in middle distance.
He gets in
at 28th, sits across from me.
I avoid his
eyes, although his hands
are fair game
and what hands.
I fall in love
and want to cry for
poke out of his velour
birds, the color of milk.
on a woolen knee, at home,
The long fingers
make you think:
and the veins aren't blue but
straight, even as man-made rivers
and he wear
rings, three silver rings
on his (oh...)
(I see him
playing a piano -- Bach --
go a little crazy)
My stop, I
stand and throw a glance:
good as his hands
so on the
way out I pick them up
and take them
Six and Trees
Six and trees bloomed
round as naptime dreams:
mint balloons on stalks,
the sun a pinwheel
on a flat blue plate.
Myopia, they intoned.
My mother moaned; I waited
'til I was nine, then
the lines were defined, the world
aligned, perspective mine.
In my granny glasses (gold)
I'm old, I thought
but I was
To my sister who visited, briefly
Something in the easy air
of our now in-common town
will blow through Boston (I'd like
luffing the edges of that tent
you wrapped around yourself,
you can open your arms now
for the gathering winds.
Remnants you scatter about me:
A green bracelet gathering dust
bereft without your winter-tan wrist
markings in my sorry notebooks,
moments you earmarked for sadness,
now fallen away unnoticed, errata
in a tome
Your blond hair has blown
down the downtown
wind-tunnels, funneling the usual
admiring glances from those
you'll never know or might
if you come back.
They'll wait, we'll all wait,
we miss you, dear,
like the last train out
like the chimera we call home.
A Hundred Laundry Lines
Why watch? All shades are pulled
though a tv once flew
from that window there
falling silent through the air
in the wake of bitter words
In the courtyard
I can only see their hands,
imagine they feel soft as oysters,
pulling at the sheets
that snap and billow and
sound like homemade aluminum thunder.
Parading t-shirts in a conga-line
shimmy away the afternoon
and I wish I could watch forever.
By four p.m., the lines are shorn.
Not a sock - I squint and stare
not one little undershirt in the
When the ironing's done
the women sleep,
and I will lay with them awhile,
dreams tethered to earth
by a hundred laundry lines.
Bowl of Montana
You lured me to montana
with just your voice, no promises
except some snow and a dog
and I just sort of arrived
still breathing new york air
you gave me one night
alone in your bed
enough for me
to know I needed you
you asked me how I liked it,
montana, and I didn't know
couldn't speak for love
I said it was a bowl
those ringing mountains
and us inside
five days later, on the road
we followed the columbia river
because we weren't speaking
it looked like a wound, long scar
all the way to somewhere north
of san francisco where we found
our voices again
I've moved on, you and the dog
went home to montana
but when I think of us
we're still alone together
in a beautiful bowl,
steep and slipper-sided.
I can only look up in wonder.
Shoreline: Pemaquid Beach, Maine.
Even white-caps are gray today:
lacquered waves hurdle apace with rushing skies
in a late, wry September
Backside of the beach,
clam flats spread, the color oats.
We lay our bets, these poker chip days,
me for the clouds, you for the waves.
We count our common shores,
spread thin on sand, tired ribs contact,
expand in perfect arrhythmia.
I catch you staring at a blond all shades of gold.
She comes between us, scalpel-like.
We rake seaweed with frozen hands,
collect periwinkles and count them like days --
wish they were days, for season to circular season
we turn from the shore and leave
our summer selves: ghosts in primary colors,
an ocean between us, cool waves lapping at
what is left.
She sits fern-like,
swaying in a windless summer,
out like dead fish, floating,
reflecting down to the bracken.
Chin on knee,
knee like warm rock
sand: sea-spray and bones,
of freckles spackle
moon-sliver dog-bite scar and
goats scrabbling a mountain
in no man's
She is no
but the round,
fiddlehead slow and
like a carp
Wars of Summer
Choke cherries fill the puckering child
As jets knit at the sky, caricature the minutiae:
Janisseries of ants and bees,
Commando squads of ticks and fleas.
Swallows dive the pines while thunder rolls
The underbrush and stirs the wounded.
Night's flanks suck light backward -- lewd!
He feels like fighting!
In this liquid air, this summer guerre
This waterglass of plenitude.
Sounds Like You
Down the long hall: "pla-ten, pla-ten,"
Flattened footfalls echo a sigh
And the walls sigh too, a small breathing, moth-like
Of wood and air and expanding shadow:
Sounds like you.
Roaming the house you old cartographer you
Leave an aural trail of crumbs: a slammed door and gasp
of regret or muted delight, an on-singing wine glass, a book
Laid open with a whisper or set down with a gentle thud.
Your voice drifts down to me, through the years, still
Contralto, still timbred with a slice of lime,
Burrowing under my roughened skin,
To smooth the edges of the day.
Again your footfalls -- toward me now --
Marking your time, marking mine,
Keeping it all in some
Exquisitely measured rhythm.
For Jeanne MacDonald, b. 1910
Genealogy: they have a word
Between generations, I water the begonias.
For the science of searching backwards for ourselves.
I mark annotations with a ruler and pencil-
Lines like capillaries spider loose across the page.
Leaves curl in like tongues, darkened and
I never see them fall, but sweep them later,
Palm into palm as I gaze past the window-grate:
Across the way, a house is being razed.
The family gone, the view is hollow:
The lines converge and disappear,
Painted squares of black have sucked away
A year of sun. I think of other fallings, here and there,
Mothers and sons, sons and daughters,
A few from the outer branches.
Unprofessional stains appear, wayward ashes,
Ancestors blown like heather
From the lowlands and moors to root again,
Clasping their own distances,
Far from me as the haunt of their keenings.
The Sophistry of Night
That moment before sunrise:
When all questions should be asked
Once and then forgotten.
A moment parched with promise, snapdragon tense.
At the downbeat of the day, I ask myself:
Will it happen again, will it take the usual form?
At other latitues: the lifted baton,
The raised fork to watering mouth,
the open mouth, the sucked-in breath
as hand is lifted, fisted and senseless.
The day brings questions
That night sloughs off.
This new cold fear: that the end is near.
Go back to the violent umber of night.
Give away all that might be left to grieve.
At the downbeat of the day I ask
Will it happen again, will it take
The usual form?
I watched the sky: slate to granite to gunmetal gray,
From a room that had witnessed nothing.
These morning moments stretch
Through upside-down days.
Day follows dawn follows dark
And the questions come round again.
At the downbeat of the day: Could it
Happen again, would it
Take its usual form?
My fullest life is lived at night,
the days merely melon-
sliced in they wear thin with time.
Night, if I may play favorites,
Grows thick and epochal.
I dream of sleep as a child again:
Breathing a lilac scented night
Innocent as a nun cloistered in the mews
Her armature inviolable but light.
To sleep without fearing
the sophistry of night.