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Good Bones
Number Nine Bedford at Barrow
Shadowplay
Years After Tolédo
Just Sheltering Me
Travelogue: Prague
Rock Running at Pemaquid Point
Shadowplay
Postcard
Pond
Six and Trees
Gathering Winds
Aphasia
Common Shores
Girl Waiting on Fall
Bowl of Montana
A Hundred Laundry Lines
Wars of Summer
Sounds Like You
Genealogy
The Sophistry of Night



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 the universe." -- 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, all secrets.

Spiralling cell by cell from auricle to cochlea,
semicircular canals winding blindly through
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 world
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 middle --
all sound and no sound

When Borges dreamed the man
who dreamed a man
I dreamed an ear and woke to hear Creation
echoing in my own circular ruins.

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Aphasia

No 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,

no lines

no geometry, nor symmetry or astronomy

nothing clever
nothing cleverly simple
(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)

No 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,

and no funny punctuation no


Number Nine Bedford at Barrow

The broker led me up the stairs, selling me
my destiny: number nine Bedford at Barrow.
He swung the door with a wrist flick and,
I'd swear, a wink, the light came on, the broker
chatted with the super in the hall and while he did
I moved right in.
I scrubbed the floors and walls, long strokes
of pine and propriety, and I rinsed away
the ghosts, all dust, any old snot,
I painted the moldings the newest old gold and
I hung my wandering jew,
hung my ever-birthing spider plants,
potted wisteria in a Mexican bowl and I
lined the cupboards tacky bluebells,
curtained the shower with free-floating fish,
flower powered the deep tub's slick bottom,
built a bookcase of silvered oak, let it bend
around the corner of an odd wall,
into the newly track-lit hall where I hung paintings
by friends in a mix of abstract and abstacter,
I hung the African masks bought cheap outside MOMA,
and made up stories of Kenyan adventures,
I gathered rose-dyed lace, resistance along a curtain rod,
painted the commode in pink and azure,
I hauled a brass bed into the corner,
covered it with Ralph Lauren's wildest dreams and
imagined lovers marveling;
I let the lone Italian lamp stand stoic
in the corner dubbed nuovo, I
ordered a case of wine for the weekend's soiree and I
finally, ceremoniously, 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
the broker and the super look at me,
my stupid shining eyes, the "I'll take it" on my lips --
they inform me the space had been rented
an hour before by the super's cousin,
flown in unexpectedly from small town, somewhere.


Years After Tolédo

Years after Tolédo, I still feel the cobblestones
I touched, 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 love.

I lost you in Madrid, among El Greco's visages
weeping all over the place -- how could I compete?
You drifted from me, eyes upturned, pious.
Halfway 'round the world, I still hear your breath in my ear,

intimate as a headache:  "Guernica... ah, Guernica."
It opened a space so wide we couldn't see ourselves.
We parted near the Pyrenees, sad as saints,
stoic as continental shelves.

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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


Travelogue: Prague

We came and left by train and I, used to flying,
felt like a thief sneaking into Prague, late in our first Spring,
weighted with expectation, light with wanderlust.

The city is culled from ancient copperplate, a lithograph.
Our photographs played shell games
with someone else's castles.

In Joseph's Town the stippled cobblestone cast our shadows askew:
stenciled and graven at twilight, two ghosts against the wall
falling through each other.

Along the Vtlava I followed you, dropping korunas into the black
of the river, nacreous and penumbral, it snaked into my heart,
side-winding. I cried, hearing Heraclitus.

That night I made up words in Czech that said I love --
the ictus 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,
but later you got taken on Wenceslas Square,
your handsome fists full of worthless Polish somethings.

You shook off my sympathy like a beggar's hand
but brought me flowers while I slept, which I left when we left,
imagining a lingering brightness

in an ordinary room
on a small corner table.

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Rock Running at Pemaquid Point

Rock running at Pemaquid was a childhood stint,
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.



Shadow Play

I'm not thinking of you this morning
I'm memorizing poetry -- Neruda --
constructing a necklace of words:
from stones with the power for forgetting

(We shed our clothes like corn husks, fast
not caring about broken zippers or pulled hair)

I won't be remembering you today
Doing laundry -- whites and off-whites
I watch my reflection in the dryer door:
Behind, panties 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
I'm going to the movies -- Tarkovsky, I guess
I'll eat licorice, sink low in my seat, feet
riveted to the ubiquitous

 I won't be thinking of you this evening --
Cocktails at seven with the Harry Ngs
Barbara knows this quiet, tasteful place
We'll speak in low voices of ordinary things

(We moved very slowly, as if underwater,
drowning, but knowing of an afterlife)
 

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Post Card

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?

Top
Pond

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
silver eye
on the face of the earth
in a frogless night.

Top
Good Bones

Eyeballing the train: gazes of strangers
criss-cross 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
the hands poke out of his velour
sleeves like birds, the color of milk.
They lounge on a woolen knee, at home,
languid, unposed.

The long fingers make you think:
good bones and the veins aren't blue but
bas-relief, straight, even as man-made rivers
and he wear rings, three silver rings
on his (oh...) right hand.

(I see him playing a piano -- Bach --
Later he'll play Joplin
and we'll go a little crazy)

My stop, I stand and throw a glance:
his face? Simian. Artistic.
Nowhere as good as his hands
so on the way out I pick them up
and take them with me.

Top

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
not.
 

Gatherings Winds
To my sister who visited, briefly

Something in the easy air
of our now in-common town
will blow through Boston (I'd like to think)

luffing the edges of that tent
of discontent
you wrapped around yourself,

you can open your arms now
prepare
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.

Top
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
fisherwomen reel
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 air.

When the ironing's done
the women sleep,
and I will lay with them awhile,
dreams tethered to earth
by a hundred laundry lines.

Top
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.

Top
 
Common Shores

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.

Top
 
Girl Waiting on Fall

She sits fern-like, swaying in a windless summer,
days laid out like dead fish, floating,
silver scales reflecting down to the bracken.
Chin on knee, knee like warm rock
smells of sand: sea-spray and bones,
snow of freckles spackle
above the moon-sliver dog-bite scar and
winter trickles down
where shaving is treacherous:
couple of goats scrabbling a mountain
in no man's season.
She is no man's woman,
neither beginning nor end
but the round, soft middle,
unfurling fiddlehead slow and
boneless as a dream
like a carp plucked clean

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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.

Top
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.


Genealogy
For Jeanne MacDonald, b. 1910

Genealogy: they have a word
For the science of searching backwards for ourselves.
I mark annotations with a ruler and pencil-
Lines like capillaries spider loose across the page.

Between generations, I water the begonias.
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:
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.

The lines converge and disappear,
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
Violin-string thin
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.