The Avis Trilogy
The cool blue feeling of no feeling,
breeds love as theoretical as blue,
as useless as the jet plane's trail through
its thin slip of sky, the impossible guard
of heaven, tracing a path like memory's
along the knocking heart's divide;
these veins, blue eyes meeting blue, enemies
of feeling, until love's art
sickens in the eyes of children,
something silver in the sky and passing
out of reach, unheard of, overhead, a suture
for the wound that wounds us more -- acting
as if we might open up the sky right
with enough blue to throw a whole life in the air.
(Prior pub.: Hawaii Review)
Surely as digestion begins in the
that's where your words end up.
Your words. My mouth.
What you should've eaten
I spit out. Or is it that
I've swallowed what you've spat?
Did not. Did too.
Am not. Are too.
You always say, you can only
talk about yourself.
Go ahead then, tell us what's eating you.
Start with how not even
mewling gulls, the melancholy clang of
channel buoys, fishnets draped
on lobster pots, the whole nine yards
of cheery Cape Cod kitsch could
sustain your mood of bonhomie
much longer than the time it takes
salt air to crystallize on your sunburned cheeks,
an irritable snap of the wrist brushes off.
Like the back of his hand, Dennis
since bell-bottoms and Led Zeppelin II.
I met you a few summers after that.
Neither realized in the years between
just how unhappy you'd become--
slowly demolecularizing into a ghost.
Nets and lobster pots are traps, after all;
gulls and buoys, sirens.
At Race Point, the sun sets over the Atlantic
(or rather, appears to), an innocent paradox.
Who knew to regard these things as omens?
Relaxed, amused, all agreed that winter
we'd take a trip to Egypt.
Valley of the Kings
A glossary of pharonic deities
helps guide tourists through the underworld.
In the tomb of Tuthmosis III
I watch your eyes like fickle lovers
fix on images upon the walls, then
intently shift to guidebook, back to wall.
Anubis assumes his jackal-headed guise
to ally himself with the beasts that would
devour his charges, as Plutarch said:
"to watch and guard the gods,
as dogs do mankind."
My mind returns to Provincetown.
Me, you, and Dennis.
My vain imaginings of reassembling
whatever solid that remains of you.
From Race Point's knuckle to
Long Point's crooked finger at
land's end, curling, not reaching,
to scratch the palm of its own hand.
Isis searched for her beloved
brother-husband Osiris, Seth
had dismembered and scattered
all over the countryside.
Wherever she found an organ
or a limb, she'd bury it
and erect a sepulchre, like
the pieces of yourself you left
in San Francisco, Durham, Miami,
Boston, the Rockies, back to San Diego.
You're not looking well. Spent.
Won't take your medicine
as the doctor ordered.
I suspect it was a loaded term
when I nicknamed you "Mish Mish"--
the Arabic word for apricot--sweet, succulent
flesh your sour puss and ravaged face belied.
You vaguely sensed a joke at your expense
when we introduced you to the locals,
eliciting ironic smiles. Didn't have
the heart to tell you the bank teller
winked and whispered in my ear,
"You know what means mish mish?
Cunt of woman!"
Epilogue: Sinai/New York/San Diego
Dennis writes from the beach at Dahab:
"The weather's fine. I'm playing
fetch with a dog they call Mish Mish."
I think he's tired of following you around.
You won't answer my calls, enveloped
in your cartouche three thousand miles
from NYC, writing perhaps your own
Book of the Dead. I'm still searching
for that piece of you
I have no words for, can't name.
You always say, you can only
talk about yourself.
You know, cold cereal is on the
decline . . .
Sundays filled with sky, opera, desserts empty--
Cut flowers, sunsets keep coming against my will.
Anticipation of Good morning-empty New England fall.
--of fire rockets against the lighted Niagara, apple-eating
on Broadway, grabbing breaths.
Take me aback and carry with me
because you and all are not perfect day and day.
Each syrup reflex open eye, hands over legs intertwine
knees bent of mist, in waking the virgin lift of raising one leg,
makes one wish on this soft blanket, soaking edge pressing white cotton in,
even with water as it warms on skin.
Open petals will lean, become part laurel,
perhaps maple this time; much too common to break bread.
Would you think the laurel branch thin keep covered young women?
The river turn roots leaves blew over occupied shells at low tide,
climbing down sea-grass from steel.
Wish for memories to crash in all angles, Gabriel,
like tireless waves commanding the salt tide closer, closer.
The sand is not hot.
The amber flame separates the wine as feasts continue through twilight,
virgins tender to trees dissolving wishes back to where they came.
An unsteady brush throwing apples off arms, sway
and miss targets, a bow to press on night and night,
affluent and overabundant, littoral drifts keeping the balance of revolution: earth
Having sunrise and count: man words. Countless sound-to-word, equal.
Arise and pull the ocean center circling sub-poles
plucked from the first questions uttered.
Is each life a kingdom eddying common off shore?
If the ferry ride realized? Chinese Christmas turkey eaten?
What would I do without our wastepaper basket?
Endless summer showers constructing dreams
fall from a nova at Ellen's feet. So will then her love, Emerson believed,
dawn upon, become a dove, the favorite spot.
Pain sentence and push thorns or newly born.
Gardens around corners whistle all seasons.
Still time calm and swirling, wanted the neap tide let,
finding ways, shaking the mangrove root, and moving flora moving to light.
And us, we keep waking up over and over,
caramelizing the cortex of voluntary hearts beating,
open again, out of bed again.
Hands inside the rain or moonrise drifts, crossing infant groins,
water moves and some light goes on, an apron drifts.
Still time not from the sun, from turbines making devotion,
a new distant axiom rises until the falls
generate enough crash fashion.
Drowning in someone's opinion, someone's direction,
you lose yourself and ambition.
The sun will likely rise before or after in love,
a most brilliant time,
stepping beyond shadows and ginkgo trees,
below clouds coming down.
When was all this that I never forgot what is now no more?
Quid sum miser tuc
Quem patronum rogaturus,
cum vix justus sit securus?*
If god not the concept, then god
would weep for all,
in whole, and lost rings into each other,
trimming fingertips humble silence, note heaven.
How so, it would be woman,
a vacant feather corruptible from consummate wisdom
long after the marble shall moulder to dust.
Oh woman, if love not defined by man, you would be . . . god;
steady the spires and dove receptivity
across standing names, names above the stepping maze,
lining death in all men, twisting felled trees and trampled crumbs.
In this creased forest, flesh wilderness,
all men are whores, leaning a raven aberration
through long tunnels aching for good cunt, hairy,
most high cunt, tight with labor.
It is here to belong, the verge
stolen by young girls looking over young boys,
harrowing their unsolitary beautiful, fruitful, gentle, releasing,
flinging themselves together and not together,
out of opera, of chaos, in and out of flesh.
How many answer the call or doorway passed through?
How many hills have slowly pushed deeper down surface,
narrowing back to shadow like snake contractions,
sending all past stars into white?
on our lips, chrysanthemums still white,
hold their understanding of you,
to not let them down into the helplessness of your self.
Is it the languor I see, or the sophistry in your heart,
where you vow only to your god,
creating the form as to bury myself over?
To take pleasure in helplessness, my open
brightness burn up.
(Thinking he could have brought her rejoice . . . )
The presence of his unknown and
unknowable self; riding over arms and fig oil,
cursed with deathless beauty,
step in vertical wondering letting exit the pistol.
Bloodless, I cut the peacock plume,
and in my hands,
gave to you like van Gogh gave his ear,
stuffed and swallowed whole when sun light pushed the right of trees,
falling over the wheelbarrow left behind a Connecticut shed.
Then how, for one who has loved so, feel less
than the common passer-by or buying flowers on the corner?
How so, it would be. Our lips, chrysanthemums still white,
giving in miracle unawareness, flattening meaning.
We are home there, terrified and
turning over the wail, rotating the inner void.
Who speaks our name in moonlight,
weeping over fate in twilight of heel eternal?
Fires burn out too quickly,
accelerating the pulse of vital on velvet living plasma,
cutting down shadow.
How do you separate the flesh?
Oh April come, make your way over
sycamore still stone-like.
Direct golden, charging horses, horrific and strike the dead be dead
across long fields fading you as they can.
Let poet let loose the palm, releasing the star to its place beyond him.
Then was morning, the moon led along,
separating flesh at sunrise, hyacinth glowing bright off tidal mud.
Equal for a single time with the coming horizon, magnates stack,
and geese have got back enough, pay homage, bending to the lark, who
bleeding from its mouth, cocks, screams god and woman.
How purple leaks from the peal, two
steps closer from water.
Is there heat enough for the ones we love? Scraping all sides of copper,
groping empty spaces, fingering wet lips above the ground you stood,
still grasping after the hollow gone.
Tell me we both matter so with no
Whisper the end of science.
Our children are whores, love in them life in unfamiliar forms.
The circling crows maintain the distance between earth and heaven,
throwing your shoes into the lake off the surface of things--
just say it once:
'If god had a name, it would be me.'
Say it just once.
What shall I, a wretch, say then? / To which protector shall I appeal /
even the just man is barely safe? (Transl.: TD)]
Outside the Ranch
The farmer came to us about eating
while we collapsed masks, like the greatest myth,
making too much country noise,
unaligning the flow at Brenton Falls.
"Hold on, Belle. The streets are
and I don't know which corner to turn."
Branches bow with wanting wrens,
finches, sparrows, cardinals flying over snow,
crows on the ground,
to stream through wild barley fields.
Slanted cloves grow shorter life in some shadow kept in forests
where the howl of water rushing silenced airplanes and motorcars.
"Let us stay, take that trail
to Gem Lake.
just one small cloud, trembling stop-action,
flash hills beyond this place,
given back to land after the storm reached through.
Hedgerows, above the waist, climb,
raveling the child in-feminine
eating warmth from the bowl of a monk,
cheap and disposable, coil the body."
Like the garden, the city has forgotten
Let us stay cheap and disposable,
looking for the mask no one knows.
But next door, Fischer Boys drink of the healing jar,
no strength to wonder near red-trimmed dolls
sitting upright in corners,
who smile no matter who crosses them.
It would be sweet to surrender to them.
And the use of magic falls onto flat glass.
"Remember the storm, dear cousin.
It was snowing sublime.
Saint Nicholas fell to chaos--all those coats waiting for trains."
( . . . of parting veins on frozen bathwater, body-altering clothes)
"It's not that I don't care for you.
It just seems as though
you need things I can't provide."
It has become outside flesh.
It is this I cannot see.
Take comfort in the droppings from
onto bellies of clouds leaning back,
saying good night to walnut boxes, closing shaded linen.
And if I took a look away this evening,
could I claim it mine where thoughts soften in?
Something to velvet, swirling like carnival lions.
Had I the heart to catechize this
. . .
Poor little hero, I pluck
nervously at my sleeve, restless
and everywhere refusing to meet me.
And crowds are needed to witness
that sound craze in line and revolution,
on points of needles beneath the way water comes
and rock shapes separate, from one who may leap to fire.
Listen, when you're small time, you
replaced all your life.
Are these organic species norms beyond
bouncing off red armchairs, cutting down the reach,
It is the making of what is not
that changes every physical moment.
The barrel is not red.
Giving ourselves away to
needed crowds and heavy hands.
Watching, are the scientists attempting.
There is no mystery in being a man.
They were cast out of Eden,
looking through primary colors.
And when he came inside the woman,
the old man cried,
being just another witch doctor.
And many times, all three in one, gazed a black-casted line.
How fooled the one you thought last,
played by jugglers- and empire-builders-to-be.
Only in the acts of life the realized
nature of life is.
Only the smallest of percentages on top are.
Against the coming-back to still
gather farther down-from onto shoulders of startled elk
that rise to the yawp of running hounds let go by Napoleon
as the nightingale passed,
feeling conscience burn
and the sunlight shadowed.
Because we are not perfect day by
I would pain sentence and push thorns
or newly born to be with you.
Can't bring myself to stay.
Can't bring myself to ask.
I am glad we are not friends.
If hunting is what youíre after.
If hunger leads you to hunt.
If Iím a deer with a heart in my throat.
If my fine legs and willing white
are willing are white or fine.
If scent is faithful to its source.
If only this can unite us.
I am in the break, trembling,
true to my blood. Here,
Iíll hand you the rifle.
a thermos for the cold wait,
the taxidermistís jars,
a bonesaw for venison cuts.
I am in the flick of your lash,
a print of the forest in stipple.
Behind me the trees
arenít trees but a pleating of air,
silver, green, unbreathed. Before me
what was the stillness for you
but a waiting for my rapt thrall,
my side-to-side and flleet gait
the clearing in its living pause.
And you could not afterwards--
with my hooves lashed together,
slung on your shoulder, my limp head
nodding "yes, yes," against your thigh--
alter, describe (what good
was I to you now,
scattered to use?) or keep
what first had set you on my trail.
(Prior pub.: Rattapallax)