I’ve said that he and I had been crazy
for each other, but maybe my ex and I were not
crazy for each other. Maybe we
were sane for each other, as if our desire
was almost not even personal—
it was personal, but that hardly mattered, since there
seemed to be no other woman
or man in the world. Maybe it was
an arranged marriage, air and water and
earth had planned us for each other—and fire,
a fire of pleasure like a violence
of kindness. To enter those vaults together, like a
solemn or laughing couple in formal
step or writhing hair and cry, seemed to
me like the earth’s and moon’s paths,
inevitable, and even, in a way,
shy—enclosed in a shyness together,
equal in it. But maybe I
was crazy about him—it is true that I saw
that light around his head when I’d arrive second
at a restaurant—oh for God’s sake,
I was besotted with him. Meanwhile the planets
orbited each other, the morning and the evening
came. And maybe what he had for me
was unconditional, temporary
affection and trust, without romance,
though with fondness—with mortal fondness. There was no
tragedy, for us, there was
the slow-revealed comedy
of ideal and error. What precision of action
it had taken, for the bodies to hurtle through
the sky for so long without harming each other.
All these months
I’ve lived in a rain forest
climbing the walls of trees
like a vanilla vine.
On top of each tree
was another tree.
I thought my umbrella
was the sun.
Taking long steps to meet you
in my yellow slicker.
I allow myself
the luxury of breakfast
(I am no nun, for Christ’s sake).
Charmed as I am
by the sputter of bacon,
and the eye-opening properties
it’s the coffee
that’s really sacramental.
In the old days,
I spread fires and floods and pestilence
on my toast.
Nowadays, I’m more selective,
I only read my horoscope
by the quiet glow of the marmalade.
It’s just five, but it’s light like six.
It’s lighter than we think.
Mind and day are out of sync.
The dog is restless.
The dog’s owner is sleeping and dreaming of Elvis.
The treetops should be dark purple,
but they’re pink.
Here and now. Here and now.
The sun shakes off an hour.
The sun assumes its pre-calendrical power.
(It is, though, only what we make it seem.)
Now in the dog-owner’s dream,
the dog replaces Elvis and grows bigger
than that big tower
in Singapore, and keeps on growing until
he arrives at a size
with which only the planets can empathize.
He sprints down the ecliptic’s plane,
chased by his owner Jane
(that’s not really her name), who yells at him
to come back and synchronize.
(Park Chan-Wook, 2003)
If one rainy night you find yourself
leaving a phone booth, and you meet a man
with a lavender umbrella, resist
your desire to follow him, to seek
shelter from the night in his solace.
Later, don’t fall victim to the Hypnotist’s
narcotic of clarity, which proves
a curare for the heart; her salve
is merely a bandage, under which memories
pulse. Resist the taste for something still
alive for your first meal; resist the craving
for the touch of a hand from your past.
We live some memories,
and some memories are planted. There’s
only so much space for the truth
and the fabrications to spread out
in one’s mind. When there’s no more
space, we grow desperate. You’ll ask
if practicing love for years in your mind,
prepares you for the moment,
if practicing to defend one’s life
is the same as living? You’ll
hole up, captive, in a hotel room
for fifteen years and learn to find
a man within you, which will prove
a painful introduction to the trance
into which you were born. Better
to stay under the spell of your guilt,
than to forget; you’ve already released
your pain onto the world; don’t believe
there’s some joy in forgetting.
There’s no joy in the struggle to forget.
And what appears as an endless verdant field,
only spreads across a building’s rooftop;
your peaceful sleep could be a fetal position,
which secures you in a suitcase in this field.
A bell rings, and you fall out of this luggage
like clothes you no longer fit. Now what to do?
You remember when you were the man
who fit those clothes, but you’ve forgotten this
world. Even forgotten scenes from your life,
leave shadows of the memory,
haunting your spirit
until, within a moment’s glance,
strangers passing you on the street,
observe history in your eyes. Experience
lingers through acts of forgetting,
small acts of love or trauma
falling from the same place. Whether
memory comes in the form of a stone
or a grain of sand, they both sink in water.
A tongue—even if it were, say, sworn
to secrecy; or if it were cut from one’s mouth;
yes, even without a mouth to envelop
its truth—the tongue continues to confess.
Millie was in the backyard hanging the laundry. I was watching her from the kitchen window. Why does this give me so much pleasure? Because I love her in a million ways, and because I love the idea of clean laundry flapping in the wind. It’s timeless, a new beginning, a promise of tomorrow. Clothespins! God, I love clothespins. We should stock up on them. Some day they may stop making them, and then what? If I were a painter, I would paint Millie hanging the laundry. That would be a painting that would make you happy, and break your heart. You would never know what was in her mind, big thoughts, little thoughts, no thoughts. Did she see the hawk circling overhead? Did she hate hanging laundry? Was she going to run away with a sailor? The sheets billowing like sails on an ancient skiff, the socks waving goodbye. Millie, O Millie, do you remember me? The man who traveled with cloth napkins and loved you in the great storm.
What if I didn’t shoot the old lady
running away from our patrol,
or the old man in the back of the head,
or the boy in the marketplace?
Or what if the boy—but he didn’t
have a grenade, and the woman in Hue
didn’t lie in the rain in a mortar pit
with seven Marines just for food,
Gaffney didn’t get hit in the knee,
Ames didn’t die in the river, Ski
didn’t die in a medevac chopper
between Con Thien and Da Nang.
In Vietnamese, Con Thien means
place of angels. What if it really was
instead of the place of rotting sandbags,
incoming heavy artillery, rats and mud.
What if the angels were Ames and Ski,
or the lady, the man, and the boy,
and they lifted Gaffney out of the mud
and healed his shattered knee?
What if none of it happened the way I said?
Would it all be a lie?
Would the wreckage be suddenly beautiful?
Would the dead rise up and walk?