Can this be the same one that beckoned then,
dazzling, zaftig, generous, from its bright eternity?
I remember its pull on the skin, its promise—we felt it
then, called it love, or knowledge.
Tonight it looms, flat as a coin, unspent, curiously cold.
Luna. Glyphs of warning. Was it always so? How can I
know—time transfigures everything, even memory.
You. Did you think it could save us?
Summer night, a beach in Mexico, sweet rot of seaweed; I stole
from a tent, stood in the sand beneath the swollen moon;
vapor of sex rose from my skin in the chill, black air.
Between waves that lashed the land I heard my heart;
fierce, unfamiliar din of desire; knew I was changing
everything, knew the damage, yet I stayed.
Tonight a light spring rain soaks the garden past my window,
the earth all moonlit, astir with emerging crocus. I could go
out there now this minute, be in it once again, the clamor
and gnaw of growing things, stir of limbs in the wet raw air,
my skin taking it in, what remains.
But no, let it sleep, let the limbs, the longings. After a time one becomes accustomed to a mild, dreamless expanse, and it’s possible to settle there, inviolate, for as long as it takes. And there, the moon, aloof in its realm, see how it endures so well without us.
Her hair, that halo of red gold curls,
has thickened, coarsened,
lost its baby fineness,
and the sweet smell of childhood
that clung to her clothes
has just about vanished.
Now she’s getting moody,
moaning about her hair,
clothes that aren’t the right brands,
boys that tease.
She clicks over the saxophone keys
with gritty fingernails polished in pink pearl,
grass stains on the knees
of her sister’s old designer jeans.
She’s gone from sounding like the smoke detector
through Old MacDonald and Jingle Bells.
Soon she’ll master these keys,
turn notes into liquid gold,
wail that reedy brass.
Soon, she’ll be a woman.
She’s gonna learn to play the blues.
I can’t stop staring at this stuck-up bug
clamped to its reflection on the glass.
Is it merely a cool surface, a pause
in its bug day, with an approving twin
for partner—silent, yes, but not remote—
one whose feelers, at last, match its own?
Or does it recognize them as its own,
those glistening, compound eyes? Can a bug
be vain, see in its own gaze a mote
of Zeus-like, loving gold, and sip a glass
of self agog before its bug-eyed twin,
embrace ambrosial soi? Skip the applause,
Walt Whitman. This bug’s a pig. It appalls
to think that even insects want their own marquee to bill bugself above bugother, win
the prize for uniqueness! Why should it bug
me to see vanity in this looking glass
of fellow creature, genetically remote?
Yet we’re riveted. Why must I emote
about its penchant to high-five its paws
with its own paws, pat itself on the glass,
interfacing with, basking in, its own
hairy-thorax image, like a shutterbug
on a self-timer jag, spending self to win
more gorgeous self to gorge on, a win-
win thing, a queenless king with a fishless moat,
safe to hover close upon, for a bug
whose mug’s the spitting image of his pa’s
although they’ve never met. He’s his own
maker, far as he can tell. In my glass
he can see himself as peerless. My glass
shows me aging. In my glass I can’t win.
Win what? Just how loathsome is my own
longing to be more than one more mote
among the dust-spun masses, soul on pause,
hand clamped on the damned remote? The bug
is moot—won’t impose its image on its own,
as I do, on bugs, landscape, songs, seaglass
someone sent me once when I was young and winsome.
A week of rain has brought the hillside
down. They watch from the washed-out
road as their house shudders, slumps
over its open front door, and lowers itself
into the flow, turning from their gaze
like a shy bather. Now a great white oak
that shaded three generations born there
to river life follows the buckling land down.
Its long roots brush the eaves in passing.
They had always understood the language
of storm, knew what cracking foundations,
tilting decks, or the sudden gush of buried
springs meant in a place dry since late June.
They grasped the implication of sodden limbs
visible through widening gaps in the living
room wall. But even when the first windows
bulged and sang with tension, the back door
jammed and power lines snapped, small breaks
in the clouds were enough to keep hope afloat.
Tonight’s forecast is for a gradual clearing
and cold winds coming from the east.
it is easier to work
after our bodies
paper and pen
neither care nor profit
whether we write or not
but as your body moves
under my hands
charged and waiting
we cut the leash
you create me against your thighs
hilly with images
moving through our word countries
writes into your flesh
you make of me.
Touching you I catch midnight
as moon fires set in my throat
I love you flesh into blossom
I made you
and take you made
June 23rd, evening of the first fireflies,
we’re walking in the cemetery down the road,
and I look up from my distracted study of whatever,
an unfocused gaze somewhere a few feet in front of my shoes,
and see that Ned has run on ahead
with the champagne plume of his tail held especially high,
his head erect,
which is often a sign that he has something he believes he is not allowed to have,
and in the gathering twilight (what is it that is gathered,
who is doing the harvesting?) I can make out that the long horizontal
between his lovely jaws is one of the four stakes planted on the slope
to indicate where the backhoe will dig a new grave.
Of course my impulse is to run after him, to replace the marker,
out of respect for the rule that we won’t desecrate the tombs,
or at least for those who knew the woman
whose name inks a placard in the rectangle claimed by the four poles
of vanishing—three poles now—and how it’s within their recollection,
their gathering, she’ll live. Evening of memory. Sparklamps in the grass.
I stand and watch him go in his wild figure eights,
I say, You run, darling, you tear up that hill.
Like nearly all women under sixty she would have deftly
avoided meeting the eyes of an unknown man—
but occasionally an exception happens by chance
and her unconscious skill at avoidance gets instantly
replaced by a human generosity which is either
inherently feminine or gender-trained, as you please;
she glanced at me exactly when I glanced at her
in the store at the mall and so she gave me
that momentary slight smile which implies
Though many men are dangerous, and I do not intend
to suggest the slightest likelihood that you and I will
meet or talk, much less make love and
much less together conceive a sweet helpless child,
still our eyes have just met and in this there is
an undeniable contact between your humanity and mine
and you are probably coping with some difficulties
of masculine humanity while I cope with those
of feminine humanity; and so I wish you well.
Her smile said this
but I did not smile back because—
because guys don’t do that—because
we are strong and separate and firm and without softness!
So then the next moment had come and we had walked apart
in our two differently inflected kinds of routine loneliness.