The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot, cannot go.
The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow.
And the storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.
Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing dear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.
I know what my heart is like
Since your love died:
It is like a hollow ledge
Holding a little pool
Left there by the tide,
A little tepid pool,
Drying inward from the edge.
The cicada dies and remains
clutched to my upstairs screen window,
At dawn it glows gold,
lit from within
wings shedding needles of light
to thread the windy leaves.
At noon it burns blue,
folding the sky in its wings.
trill for its return,
but it remains
loyal to its death.
At night it is a black heart
no longer fearing the cat.
In Summer it remembers
the last cry of its wings.
The storm comes, quickening the shadows,
tormenting the screen,
but still it clutches,
whirling with the earth.
In Winter, winds
turn trees to claws,
but still it clings, waiting,
into a diamond of ice.
In Spring it is gone.
Finally, I can leave this house
on my grandmother’s tombstone
a cicada shell broken and free.
to Miguel Ángel Flores
poets go astray
on the streets
like chicks fallen
from their nest
they bump into
light posts that
cross their path
courteous as ever
they ask empty
for permission to sit
not even they
why wings sprout
on their shoulders
maybe one day
they’ll finally use
that key they carry
forever in their pocket
Courtesy of S.L.K; from the Poetry Magazine archives
I have studied the tight curls on the back of your neck
moving away from me
beyond anger or failure
your face in the evening schools of longing
through mornings of wish and ripen
we were always saying goodbye
in the blood in the bone over coffee
before dashing for elevators going
in opposite directions
Do not remember me as a bridge nor a roof
as the maker of legends
nor as a trap
door to that world
where black and white clericals
hang on the edge of beauty in five oclock elevators
twitching their shoulders to avoid other flesh
there is someone to speak for them
moving away from me into tomorrows
morning of wish and ripen
your goodbye is a promise of lightning
in the last angels hand
unwelcome and warning
the sands have run out against us
we were rewarded by journeys
away from each other
into mornings alone
where excuse and endurance mingle
Do not remember me
nor as the keeper of secrets
I am a fellow rider in the cattle cars
you move slowly out of my bed
saying we cannot waste time
I drift into the sound of wind,
how small my life must be
to fit into his palm like that, holly
leaf, bluejay feather, milkweed fluff,
pin straw or sycamore pod, resembling
scraps of light. The world
slips through these fingers
so easily, there’s so much
to miss: the sociable bones
linked up in supple rows, mineral
seams just under the skin. I hold
my palm against the sun and don’t see
palm or sun, don’t hold anything
in either hand. I look up, look
away (what’s that?), I trip
and stumble (fall
again), find myself face down
in duff, a foam of fallen live oak
leaves, with only
this life, mine at times.
You whom I could not save
Listen to me.
Try to understand this simple speech as I would be ashamed of another.
I swear, there is in me no wizardry of words.
I speak to you with silence like a cloud or a tree.
What strengthened me, for you was lethal.
You mixed up farewell to an epoch with the beginning of a new one,
Inspiration of hatred with lyrical beauty,
Blind force with accomplished shape.
Here is the valley of shallow Polish rivers. And an immense bridge
Going into white fog. Here is a broken city,
And the wind throws the screams of gulls on your grave
When I am talking with you.
What is poetry which does not save
Nations or people?
A connivance with official lies,
A song of drunkards whose throats will be cut in a moment,
Readings for sophomore girls.
That I wanted good poetry without knowing it,
That I discovered, late, its salutary aim,
In this and only this I find salvation.
They used to pour millet on graves or poppy seeds
To feed the dead who would come disguised as birds.
I put this book here for you, who once lived
So that you should visit us no more.