Tuesday, March 18

keep this record of who we've been

keep this record of who we've been,
muscle-memory, touch response,
flesh molded into shapes and then pushed down again,

dresses i don't fit into anymore,
relationships that went downhill,
bodies we shed like skin.
keep this record of who we've been.

hairstyles we've sprayed on and washed out;
dress up sessions in the bedroom, makeup smeared on pillowcases and cheeks;
emotions that don't really stick.

things we thought were permanent and things we knew were not.
the look in your eyes, the glow within.
keep this record of who we've been.

purses i've transferred my things to
and out again, to make way for the new.
keep this reminder that you weren't always you
and I wasn't always me, but
to change is not a sin.
keep this record of who we have been.

Thursday, March 13

the illusion of rain

leaving that place down the metal stair
even in the day, the black metal is slick and the hallway air smells of rain-
but back out into the wide pavement river
or a sweet but costly dream, from which i wake
thirsty-mouthed, dirtied and gaping
and your heart in my throat to cut off the air and water
which i remember somehow wanting

never here or there; always parched but never quite dry
eyes rolling back ecstatic or
(beg for rain, for chlorine, sea, soot or sky)

(Clifton, July 2011)

Wednesday, March 12

maria of the water

maria of the water, in a perpetual state
of almost-engagement. at lunch, the ladies
laid their knives upon the china plates and chattered,
"She'll tell us, right? We'll see the ring.
Maria loves us. She can't hide anything."

maria was just like me. a year older, perhaps
and she fell asleep on his couch half
the weekdays; he had some insurance job
far away and maria had a red dress.
that's how things were supposed to happen, right?
i guess.

a deeper trust I can't remember now-
out on the water, how i squinted
(as much as these lashes would allow) across the pier,
past her red form. the lake was flat

i had a bicycle and no fear of death
yet no embrace of it. i rode
from stretch to stretch. if danger arose
i just had to face it. that's the way it was.

in my dreams i am often paralyzed.
amidst east coast breezes;
i realize now, i should not have lied-
"Maria can't hide from us"-
She shut her mouth, from disdain or to be demure.
(And the ladies at the table pay their way out of danger,
Some invisible bribe built on why they're insecure.)

Look, that's a worse fate.
Look, I'll be crushed before I remember who I am.
You can go ahead and hide behind your rings,
Tricked into thinking they deflect bullets, but I don't believe those things.
I have great ribs to scatter before the sky, bird-bones to hollow out,
I want my chance to fly. I will leave St. Vincent's, with sure knowledge when
I will return to that pavement pyre, to rest, and come to life again.

Tuesday, March 11

song against it

The lake is a desperate thing, but what am I?
It freezes over, but I turn in bed, I squeeze shut my eye.
I turn my bed, a bouncing boat,
Thinking of the winter lake. Her blue-grey coat
Spreads out like I so long to do.
I toss and flip, away and facing you.

I am not one to sing the song against it
that's for sure-- you're the one
with value, precious and demure.
I've been trampled, true. You are the one to choose
And I am not as pure- but certainly
I did not think I had anything to lose.
I still do not think it is a thing to lose.

What do you want from me? Squeeze gold
From my flesh, press
Me like skin until lemon oil flows?
Gag sunshine from my mouth?
Make springtime from between my thighs?
What do you want me to do?

I have thrown fits, and thrown myself
Here and there. It's not a lot. I don't despair-
The lake throws herself at jagged rocks
But emerges quite repaired. I place such faith in the thought
That I'm the fountain that renews.
You might, with ink more permanent, write
So you are the one to choose.

This is a song against it, now,
So screams my every dream, but I don't hear.
This is a song against it but still I stand,
Ice-eyed, lake-mouthed, rock-handed, without fear.

Monday, December 10

Mid Ohio (pt. II)

It is Our Year.
I could see it from afar, from the sidewalk
in winter, lined with yellow berries and bare forsythia,
ice creeping up the driveway, the big
sky stretched over blue mailboxes--

It is ours. Fate happens automatically, a clockwork
precision, the colors get bolder. Especially the golds.
Flashing utility lights, caution tape, streetlamps' halos
spreading out though December mists. Headlights
in a parade, solemn, humming, carrying double-lanterns East.

Monday, November 5

mid ohio

grace is useless, so i've given up on grace;
okay, for now, as a weird gravity-ball of fat and thigh.
it works, so why strive higher?
thicker lashes, longer hair,
made of sparks and autumn air
clean and sad and light and high.

it's a nervous sick dream, as Lowell said
she could be The Atlantic Ocean On My Head
but the only waves i get are nausea. Driving through M-A-
cities cling to sides of hills like I cling to the steering wheel,
a sweaty mess, and cry.

and my stumbling nights I hold close to my chest
like illegible cards. come here, my mirror,
my madman, despite how we're out of time,
come back together in white sheets and curtains, linen-pure.
i am your mermaid, ever absurd, ever demure.

this immortal heart stuff is stupid; even if my body
never aged, things still get different: the window of congratulation
is done, certain chances have been skipped, and six
years of regret have made me unfit
for those snowy cotton mornings i had wished for.

still maybe, still maybe, I tell myself
at sixty or seventy even, i could run my hands
along a pale bedskirt, beside your creaking bones,
heart in my throat again, & your jaw
like the rind of an orange, permanent, mixed
with thunderstorm air. give up, give up,
prepare for winter, prepare.