July, 2000

“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,
his expletives,
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

Fly open.


To console them, the mind provides

Imaginary worlds

More beautiful

Than the earth, extra hours

Between the day and the night.


For these it could not be love

Without pain.

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….



Lunatic despair
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

you lunatic



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


§ 4 Responses to POEMS

  • david says:

    And never a critic shall cross this page, some of the poems are good… Damn! there I did it. I’m not to be cherished am I? But deleted

  • Franz Wright says:

    I think there is a marvelous and uninhibited nakedness to these poems–good work, and I hope you will push this impulse so far that you cross over into glory.
    I tried writing a comment about the very interesting subject of Kingsley/Martin Amis–how I think it is undeniable that Martin is a greater writer, but that he did not and could not write “Lucky Jim” Kingsley’s masterpiece, and to me one of the most delightful and fantastically funny and subversive novels in English, any period. It represents the triumph of joy, well, of happiness. Energy, which is eternal delight, as Blake put it. JOY, my God, and what is wrong with that–it’s triumph over the gray normal boredom and mediocrity we mostly settle for as our world. Franz Wright

  • Margaret Diehl says:

    Thank you, Franz.It made me very happy to read your words about my poems.

    As to Amis, the Amises, I must disagree. That joy you speak of is the greatest thing in literature; when it bubbles up, as it does even in The Old Devils, it renders all other reasons for reading moot. Martin Amis is a writer for the brain (much as he strives to render the flesh) but Kingsley is the body after the fall, heaven and hell therein.

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