“Don’t love me.
I’ll only make you unhappy
when I sleep with other women.”
“Why did you say that
at precisely this moment?”
“To wake you up.”
What I had begun to tell him–
light in my body, new territory.
Spears of grass
mist clinging to the earth.
The deep blue, almost denim, of the sky.
No people yet, nor houses.
The air wavering
as if stroked by a hand from the other side….
By the end of the conversation
we’re having phone sex. His voice on the cell
breaking up. I savor how he
fragments. His wedding ring,
the glisten on his cock.
Anger: a lion leaping in the chest.
Its color is red.
Move it through the body, wise men say,
it will devour itself.
Yet speak it too, let it be known.
The king is angry with his soldiers
who refuse to go into battle,
or a man with a woman who turns away
from his touch,
brushing her hair until sparks fly.
The soldiers are angry that they are not the king,
and don’t believe in the king,
that they might lose the green earth.
The woman would like to say that the man
is not her idea of a man.
“You are not what I wanted, or what I want.
You are far less than my desire.
Even in an imperfect world,
I could do much better….”
The king is angry because it is hard to be a king.
To make decisions is hard,
and not to love his elevation
excessively is very hard.
Sometimes he sees his soldiers as toy soldiers
on a bedroom rug; who can blame him?
The mind moves as it pleases.
The man does not know what it takes to be a man.
He feels his given self
ought to be enough–that and his body
which is male and complete.
The woman feels compassion.
She wants to console and take back her words
which now seem to be cruel,
and more about her,
her lack of something….
The stalemate of centuries, from which we distract ourselves
by dying, and reading history.
Even the half-wise say
there is no cure for the human condition,
that tiny blanket we can’t lose….
When I am angry at you
I can keep it in the jar of my body
and work it, but only partly.
What is born is a wine that gets me drunk
with love…yes, yes, things could be worse….
If I speak it, terror disjoints me.
I am sliding down the pelt of darkness
limbs unhinged from each other
though in motion in the same direction,
and the darkness has its softness,
like sleep–No I will not sleep–
the terror and the terror of terror
which is a cauldron in which the oil
heats imperceptibly, the demons
not yet visible, only voices,
not quite audible, but I remember them,
I’ve been boiled before–
I thought in service to a greater good–
The kingdom lay in slumber and then
the argument started again.
“This is not wanted,
or what I want.”
You have a different story
in which you are the central character
striving for what was denied you.
It makes me angry.
It is also true
that terror is flaked off by time
which desires to strip me of madness–
which results in a stripping–
leaving only memory
as image, sadness
with which we begin
The Heaven of Lovers (after James Dickey)
If they have been apart,
They are apart.
If they loved only sometimes
It is always sometimes.
The pillows of her bed clutch his scent.
Having no future, they have come
Helplessly, to wherever will hold them.
Her desperate passion unfurls
Again; his dark eyes
To console them, the mind provides
Than the earth, extra hours
Between the day and the night.
For these it could not be love
They hurt, as they have done
So often, but more perfectly.
The wounds remain fresh for centuries.
If they have been apart
If they have loved only sometimes
To console them, the mind
His dark eyes fly open
When I sit with a friend chatting
you’ re the one at the table
who longs to speak
whose emotions roil the air
until we’re still.
“I feel her here.”
“Wouldn’t she have loved today?”
You knew about today.
Trying to force yourself in it,
fearing you never could.
“I’m so lonely,” you wrote
in your big scribble,
then a description of the cat
bringing her cold nose toward you
over the rug. I have your journals.
The fine brush of your tenderness.
The iron skillet of your dreams.
Anxiety, and how you escaped it,
when you did,
by looking more carefully at things.
A bridge, a river, a face.
A man, a woman, the past.
No, not the past…a teapot
and a spoon, sun dappling leaves….
My dead friend didn’t visit, apparition or dream,
with words of advice.
Should I flee from him?
I thought she’d know. He was her brother.
After love-making he described being alone
one summer, lying on his back
with his legs up, jerking off
so he came in his own mouth.
Snake eating its tail.
A hoop I could dive through.
I know how he tastes: salty.
He said, You’re under your own spell.
How frail she was,
How much she needed to keep hidden.
How gently he brushed her light brown hair.
Her love that will not be repeated. ..
God be with you, he said as we got out of bed
In that voice of cracked sweetness.
And with you.
Swinging me by the ankle
over icy abyss—
what’s your desire?
Praise beyond measure
a king’s ransom or a king?
The sky forever blue
and more ferociously blue
no chance to escape that blue
The poorer we get,
the more I belong to my mother.
Her eyes float in the darkness above my bed
as the thirsty cattle float through the withered fields.
I have been hungry before, she says.
At dawn, after a spoonful of tea,
she lifts my hair off my neck,
adorns it with the white jade comb
my father gave her on their wedding day.
He died in the river; I left offerings of rice.
She said, Look, the ants come.
Now she bends my gangly torso
into an old dress, Not too small
sits me on a cloth outside the door
where men can see.
Once, when I was nine,
as we worked kneading bread dough,
she told me of a king and queen
eating sugared fruit
in shady gardens. Of a dear princess
wrapped in silk, only her feet
showing, little white feet
wet with tears.
And when I was six,
playing in the green hills,
a caterpillar climbed onto my wrist,
O furry brightness, careful one–
Waiting to be bought, I fall asleep.
She jerks my head up.
The pinch of her fingernails
travels from my skull to the seam
of sweetness where the man,
if there is a man,
(When they drive by in trucks, grinning, disturbing
the cinnamon dust, I close my eyes)
will split me into the thing called
and whatever is left over.
My mother says, Not enough