When they call out I unconsciously
Swing my hips. Even if they’re ugly
Or only fourteen. Even if I profess
Erudite aloofness, and cling tightly
To feminist things. I’m a second-waver
Perhaps, thinking hips, breasts, babies
Are a thing to sling on and champion.
Creator of the free world, Iam.
Curl to the side, exhausted, sweat easing down
Off my spine, and all I could think was, first,
What will I call her if she has grey fur and green eyes?
If the eyes are gold, what will I call her then?
Winding through the names of this place,
And ticking them off as too ordinary, or presumptive.
The names of the places I love here. At least
One name must be beautiful enough, strange enough.
Rolling over to open the window—air, noise
Of a deadened party, now just conversation.
Hair stuck to my head and drifting, now to dogwoods
From last spring that I read under, to a poem
I know well about the swinging of birches
Smiling softly at its coquettishness. I want her to be coy.
It’s supposed to rain for the next ten days
in my adopted city. The window across the way
squeaks shut at odd hours like inhuman screaming.
It doesn’t matter now that I know the person inside
wants protection, not to wake me. Now that I
hear only the fall of rain, and never my thoughts writing.
I bought the watch a new chain today,
complete with a gold skeletal key,
a stick to off-set the round,
clammed timepiece. The new chain
makes the watch rest at my navel.
It belonged to my mother’s mother’s
mother. We are chained umbilically:
womb to womb to womb to womb.
"the spanish boys"
Trying to save money so walking
down willow way toward home.
Trying desperately to count the beats
of my feet through strained inattention
to the Spanish boys behind me and
their persistent, piercing rushes of breath
like morning birds, and chants:
que bonita, London-lady, tu hables español?
(yo hablo, sure. only not to you.)
I’m too old, too old. And their taunts
only make me rethink the bright
scarf and brighter shirts I’m wearing,
stretched and pinned over the hips
of my self-skinnied jeans.
Too childish? Impish? Playful?
Studying again a meticulously cultivated image
of bohemia, loosely musical, hipster
with its own high—original.
Perhaps the creative shouts too loud its own name.
Somehow, love, if I grow my hair long
and you shave your beard off,
we can make peace with our former
selves. The selves that didn’t know—
and couldn’t love—each other yet.
I can see us, brown from the sun,
and chaining our bicycles up.
We’ll wear old shirts and paint
the walls brighter colors. This thing
that we are, you and I, can last.
It can last a long time.
"leave it all, boy"
Moma says that
but not my wonder, not my lust. I confide that knowing
the names of streets in this town has not saved me.
I’d sell it all, boy, leave it all, boy, to go home,
to go to you. I’d find a shop and leave my books,
to be sold or used. I want to sell all my shoes
but the Spanish blue ones, the nice, new ones,
because you said you like the way they photograph.
If I could board the H.M.S. Belfast this evening,
I would split the ocean wide. It’s docked
a few blocks from here, just a few blocks of neogoth
to find the
by the sea to you on Her Majesty’s Ship and it’s possible
for me to get to you. For me to get you, boy.
As a child, I thought I could see air
In the concentrated circles of bruised
blackish light, dots appearing and receding.
"what i know now"
What I know now is the sway of trains
while the heat in them stays miraculously still,
pinned on every brow by the fingers smudging,
smudging, over one eye and then the other, wiping
at the heat that doesn’t sway. If it did, it wouldn’t
be hot. This afternoon I relished loneliness,
and read a paper, creased and wedged behind the seat.
The train was hot, despite mere May, and a child was
sleeping with dangling feet.
The days lengthen like columns of ash,
grey, tipped down and smoking on the dish-edge,
carved like a glass flower face.
(I am forgetting to purposefully breathe.)
Not sad, but long, these days with no one.
I read of dictators and lovers, of the 1950s
and the 1700s. Where are the fairies?
I liken the days here to the terrifying visage of a witch,
framed in shell-pink in the corner of the cover of my fairytales,
lodged in a wooden cupboard in the top floor of my childhood home.
My father’s smoking office was next to the playroom.
It is the contrast of nothing with something
that creates meaning.
in your apartment. Cat, wet hair, coffee, school.
If I close my eyes now and ignore the TV belching
from a neighbor’s window, then my hands
start to dance (I think of your sister, and a piano.)
I can see you on the couch, holding a mug, telling me
about your grandma through tears, and how I
make you think of her for no definable reason.
The cat is on the chair back. We have moments
only to make it to the car, pour half your coffee
out into the grass, and wait for the engine to warm.
We have moments only, to climb two flights
and burst into a circle of desks, clutching poems,
coffee, sleep in my eyes. We have moments only.
It’s cold out. Why? No reason. Just that May
in this city is sometimes cold.
What did you do today? Slept. And? Read.
Why did you sleep? It’s cold, I said.
Where did you go? Nowhere. No, where?
To my yellow house on Hallmark Dr.
“Language of the Eyes”
It is I who remains an individual. They bleed
into each other with the constancy of that running
tongue, arching so swiftly that I hear no words,
nothing that might pass as an utterance,
except where it is interrupted. Emotions I hear,
and rightly, in the pitch of the voice, or see—
a hand circling madly, pointing; eyes darting, rolling,
averted, dark; lips splaying open in smiles, or clinching
to frown. Only the cat penetrates my isolation.
I realize with obsessive visual concentration,
that I am surrounded by dark-eyed men and girls,
and only this cat (nameless, called only ‘chat noir’)
has eyes as luminescent as my own, my mother’s.
(Mother,) I have not signed their contract, or rather,
no one signed it for me. I babbled differently
as a child; distinctly, I’m sure, as I was
an early-talker, in chains of consonant-vowel
combination, through fistfuls of cheerios
and toothless drool. How inspiring were my blue
eyes then? How charming were my first,
nearly indiscernible, words? How long did I point
and ask, again and again, for names of things?
Simply for the pleasure of naming things, I laughed.
Now, a girl of twenty, the youngest at the table,
my own impotence at expression is maddening.
I did not learn this. And what I know is useless.
Years of hard study and a life devoted to the nuances
of my own language, earns me nothing of interest
here, at this table of rambling minds. A poet’s
mind, in the midst of incomprehensible language,
is a tortured consciousness, turning and turning
the alien sounds to make them something gives birth
to desperate exhaustion. My own estimation of
my worth is erased here, at the Table of Babel, where I am
no better than the cat, discernable by light eyes alone.
One week without refuge from the language,
and I feel tired. When we retire to beds at night
I read with replenished voracity, trying to push
out the echoes of their constant sounds. Bizarre,
how quickly a mind begins to record and assimilate
the sounds of another language, as a kind of music,
flowing incessantly through my head. I think
that this echo of language is very much like the sensation
of methodic rocking, while laying in bed after a day
spent out on the ocean in a boat.
On the fifth day, one of my eyes goes red
gradually through a long dinner, of fruits, nuts,
duck, cheese, bread, chocolate—every sensation
lush, and more distressing for the absence of talk.
The next morning, Easter Monday, my eye waters
of its own accord at the breakfast table, over strong
coffee, croissants, and ever-present Chat Noir.
I wear my glasses.
Linguistic castration seems to have found
its amusing metaphoric counterpart in the redness
of my eyes. Eyes, after all, being the literary world’s
referent for testes, produce half of the dialogue
of human creation. Mine are watery, red, bleary
and useless…worse, agitating, for days.
For the next week of barely using my language,
my eyes burn with constancy. We go to the city,
I meet a doctor through translation, and am given
drops to wash my eyes. I can see.
Is it coincidence that only then can I communicate also?