He left the room, assured of his immortality–
or was it just his cologne?
I once wanted his money–not really his money,
but the freshly minted coins of reason.
His hands smelling like prime numbers.
I once wanted his swagger, his fame
but without the dental work.
I’m reminded that my destiny was
to stand reflected in the infinity-inducing
mirrors with other women in restaurant
bathrooms who pat their hair, make that little
moue with their lips;
who return to the tables of men,
their hands wet, body hairs galvanized
like filaments of iron. Strange how
everything is orderly even in dissipation
when leaves blizzard the pavement.
I don’t see them land but their fall,
the event of it, is still present, almost invisible.
translated by michael hamburger
Autunm eats its leaf out of my hand: we are friends.
From the nuts we shell time and we teach it to walk:
then time returns to the shell.
In the mirror it’s Sunday,
in dream there is room for sleeping,
our mouths speak the truth.
My eye moves down to the sex of my loved one:
we look at each other,
we exchange dark words,
we love each other like poppy and recollection,
we sleep like wine in the conches,
like the sea in the moon’s blood ray.
We stand by the window embracing, and people look up from
it is time they knew!
It is time the stone made an effort to flower,
time unrest had a beating heart.
It is time it were time.
It is time.
Do this: take two fingers, place them on
the spot behind your ear, either
ear, the spot where your skull drops off
into that valley of muscle
& nerve—that is the muscle that holds up
the skull, that turns the dumb bone
this way & that, that nods your face up &
down when you think you
get it—press deeper, touch the little bundle of
nerves buried there, buried in
the gristle—the nerves that make you blink
when the light bewilders you, that make your tongue
slide in & out when you think you’re in
love, when you think you need a drink, touch
that spot as if you have an itch, close your eyes &
listen, please, close
your eyes—can you hear it? We think our souls live
in boxes, we think someone sits behind our eyes,
lording in his little throne, steering the fork to
the mouth, the mouth to the tit, we think
hungry children live in our bellies & run out with their
empty bowls as the food rains
down, we sometimes think we are those
hungry children, we think
we can think anything & it won’t
matter, we think we can think cut out her tongue,
& then ask her to sing.
And yet the books will be there on the shelves, separate beings,
That appeared once, still wet
As shining chestnuts under a tree in autumn,
And, touched, coddled, began to live
In spite of fires on the horizon, castles blown up,
Tribes on the march, planets in motion.
“We are,” they said, even as their pages
Were being torn out, or a buzzing flame
Licked away their letters. So much more durable
Than we are, whose frail warmth
Cools down with memory, disperses, perishes.
I imagine the earth when I am no more:
Nothing happens, no loss, it’s still a strange pageant,
Women’s dresses, dewy lilacs, a song in the valley.
Yet the books will be there on the shelves, well born,
Derived from people, but also from radiance, heights.
Your world is as big as you make it.
I know, for I used to abide
In the narrowest nest in a corner,
My wings pressing close to my side.
But I sighted the distant horizon
Where the skyline encircled the sea
And I throbbed with a burning desire
To travel this immensity.
I battered the cordons around me
And cradled my wings on the breeze,
Then soared to the uttermost reaches
With rapture, with power, with ease!
In studying the anomaly
it was determined that holiday decorations
look sad out of season,
that there’s no excuse for the mistakes
of my people. Red paper hearts
on the front door into April,
a cauldron that doubles as a planter
in summer. Always the starscape
to help keep me honest, to remind me
that distance is easy to cross.
The analytic belt I’m equipped with
reminds me of an indescribable autumn
from one hundred generations ago
though even last year
I was someone else.
I was faced with a choice.
Proceed with the same core
or blow it up to restart
& maybe go further. Most of my programming
has survived into this new battle.
I can smell faint ocean
salt on the breeze & I have different
reactions for its presence or absence.
Now is the time to overcome problems.
I debate the finer points of being desperate,
of wanting things to remain
as they are, though they can’t.
I’d rather not go into details
since specifics make me queasy,
like in pictures when people put their heads
too close together. How can they stand
such forced intimacy?
I take off in search of my home planet.
My resolve is stronger than ever.
When I go away from you
The world beats dead
Like a slackened drum.
I call out for you against the jutted stars
And shout into the ridges of the wind.
Streets coming fast,
One after the other,
Wedge you away from me,
And the lamps of the city prick my eyes
So that I can no longer see your face.
Why should I leave you,
To wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night?