Years later the cloud brightens in the east
the moon rises out of the long evening
just past midsummer of a cold year
the smell of roses waves through the stone room
open to the north and its sleeping valley
gnarled limbs of walnut trees and brows of extinct
barns blacketn against the rising silver of night
so long I have known this that it seems to me
to be mine it has gone for so long
that I think I have carried it with me
without knowing it was there in the daytime
through talk and in the light of eyes and travelling
in windows it has been there the whole way
on the other side like a face known from
another time from before and afterwards
constantly rising and about to appear
Though his taste buds were dying and every meal
made him grimace and wonder out loud
why we were such lousy cooks, he kept on
hungering for remembered dishes—
lobster Cantonese, corned beef,
bacon and eggs, a good strong mug of joe—
and we who wanted him stronger
seized on this longing, brought plate after plate
to his bed. One bite. He’d spit it out
and start musing on his next desire.
A Manhattan. Pork tacos. A Cuban cigar.
We took turns heaving a shopping cart
aisle by florescent aisle, dodging
Christmas carols, canned comfort and joy,
hesitant, as if the perfect choice
could save him or at least could buy
a day or two. We loaded up on juice—
—pineapple, mango, tamarind, banana—
after he’d taken a single sip
and leaned back on the pillow, sated.
Sweets became the last thing he could taste—
Häagen Dazs, Ensure, vanilla yogurt.
He was diabetic, we couldn’t tell:
were we killing him faster? Sometimes,
when we urged him—a sip, just one sip, Daddy—
he would comply, meek and eager to please,
and other times glower, his brown-green eyes
hard as marbles. His flesh waned,
curling before us like paper in flame.
Still, there remained one taste
he could enjoy, an orange freeze pop
in its plastic cylinder. He’d hold it
with relief, drink a few sips
of melted ice, then fall asleep,
the magic wand still in his hand.
We’d tuck it safely back
among the freezer’s frosted-over tubs
and like the loaves and fishes it never
seemed to run out, still there each time
we opened the freezer, still there
after he died, a waning
quarter moon, its crayon brightness
filmed thinly with ice, the flavor
of something approaching hope.
“To find a connectome, or the mental makeup of a person,”
researchers experimented with the neurons of a worm
then upgraded to mouse hoping
“to unravel the millions of miles of wire in the [human] brain”
that they liken to “untangling a bowl of spaghetti”
of which I have an old photo: Rei in her high chair delicately
picking out each strand to mash in her mouth.
Was she two? Was that sailor dress from Mother?
Did I cook from scratch? If so, there was a carrot in the sauce
as Mother instructed and I’ll never forget
since some strand determines infatuation as a daughter’s fate.
Dear Writers, I’m compiling the first in what I hope is a series of publications I’m calling artists among artists. The theme for issue 1 is “Faggot Dinosaur.” I hope to hear from you! Thank you and best wishes.
—Ali, editor, Artists among Artists
I think that I shall never fear
a brontosaurus that is queer,
iguanodon as fetisheer,
a mammoth bringing up the rear,
an astrodon with extra gear,
metrosexual squirrel and deer,
a breeder with a dance career,
a fruit with cauliflower ear,
a lesbianic Chanticleer,
a grinning limpish-wristed Lear,
the weird one or the mutineer,
but those who perfectly adhere,
stay clear, stay clear, stay clear, stay clear.
After wandering years
to gaze at his umbilical cord
pickled in a jar. Plopped
in brine years ago
like the frog in the pond
in his famous haiku.
fame meant nothing
to him. He stood
in the blazing rain
in his family graveyard
and as a crow squawked overhead
the stones proclaimed him
the last of his line. He
kept feeling inside his
straw raincoat for a missing
limb or the hole where
the wind and rain
flew in. I’ll get drunk
tonight, he thought,
and his eyelashes glistened
as he trudged back
to his hermit’s hut
to gaze again at the jar.
The predictability of these rooms is, in a word, exquisite. These rooms in a word. The moon is predictably exquisite, as is the view of the moon through the word. Nevertheless, we were hoping for less. Less space, less light. We were hoping to pay more, to be made to pay in public. We desire a flat, affected tone. A beware of dog on keep off grass. The glass ceiling is exquisite. Is it made of glass? No, glass.
The bonsai tree
in the attractive pot
could have grown eighty feet tall
on the side of a mountain
till split by lightning.
But a gardener
carefully pruned it.
It is nine inches high.
Every day as he
whittles back the branches
the gardener croons,
It is your nature
to be small and cozy,
domestic and weak;
how lucky, little tree,
to have a pot to grow in.
With living creatures
one must begin very early
to dwarf their growth:
the bound feet,
the crippled brain,
the hair in curlers,
the hands you
love to touch.