The problem was how to begin with the end
and then it turned out there were two ends:
the end within the continuing
that, continuing, enveloped
the end. You passed yourself
coming and going, went through
one loop, then another,
what was behind drawn
through at a
before you, sprung.
Tangle like a bramble,
like a rose. Start,
start again against
ening. A knife
could give up
on patience, but you
were born among
the dull and
kind, who wait
for Spring, and
(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
I am the Earth
And the Earth is me.
Each blade of grass,
Each honey tree,
Each bit of mud,
And stick and stone
Is blood and muscle,
Skin and bone.
And just as I
Need every bit
Of me to make
My body fit,
So Earth needs
Grass and stone and tree
And things that grow here
That’s why we
Celebrate this day.
That’s why across
The world we say:
As long as life,
As dear, as free,
I am the Earth
And the Earth is me.
Wet with colors,
bursting, opening up
like compliments, the petunias
my sister has multiplied from cuttings
cascade over her balcony
on the sixth floor.
Only the purple petunias
ease up the tension,
take away the otherwise monastic look,
the postulant air of her rooms,
crumbling shelves of books,
loads of laundry dried on the line
waiting for the implacable
torment of the iron on a hot day.
Only the petunias erase the backdrop
of the buzz in the kitchen,
her carrying groceries on two buses
and up the stairs,
perfume of velvet
at she rests her aching back against the wall
respite from her punitive list of chores,
a Georgia O’Keeffe print
above her kitchen sink.
The heavy bodies lunge, the broken language
of fake and drive, glamorous jump shot
slowed to a stutter. Their gestures, in love
again with the pure geometry of curves,
rise toward the ball, falter, and fall away.
On the boards their hands and fingertips
tremble in tense little prayers of reach
and balance. Then, the grind of bone
and socket, the caught breath, the sigh,
the grunt of the body laboring to give
birth to itself. In their toiling and grand
sweeps, I wonder, do they still make love
to their wives, kissing the undersides
of their wrists, dancing the old soft-shoe
of desire? And on the long walk home
from the VFW, do they still sing
to the drunken moon? Stands full, clock
moving, the one in army fatigues
and houseshoes says to himself, pick and roll,
and the phrase sounds musical as ever,
radio crooning songs of love after the game,
the girl leaning back in the Chevy’s front seat
as her raven hair flames in the shuddering
light of the outdoor movie, and now he drives,
gliding toward the net. A glass wand
of autumn light breaks over the backboard.
Boys rise up in old men, wings begin to sprout
at their backs. The ball turns in the darkening air.
They say brave but I don’t want it.
Who will we mourn today. Or won’t we.
Black all the windows. Lower
down the afternoon. I barricade
all my belonging. I am mostly never real
American or anything
availing. But I do take. And take
what’s given. The smell of blood.
I breathe it in. The dirt so thick with our good
fortune. And who pays for it. And what am I
but fear, but wanting. I’ll bite
the feeding hand until I’m fed
and buried. In the shining day.
All deadly good
intentions. A catalogue of virtues.
This is how I’ll disappear.
Having used every subterfuge
To shake you, lies, fatigue, or even that of passion,
Now I see no way but a clean break.
I add that I am willing to bear the guilt.
You nod assent. Autumn turns windy, huge,
A clear vase of dry leaves vibrating on and on.
We sit, watching. When I next speak
Love buries itself in me, up to the hilt.