Putting words together
In a yellow childhood night-
gown, on the cold tile floor
of the locked hotel bathroom.
Playing the funny game again
Called night. Or, death.
Sweet, intoxicating song,
Small white dream, unfurling.
Curled up on the tile floor, she sees a light beyond
the outside door (where soon the night will turn
to rose then rise beneath the stitched
graffiti of her clothes) she pulls the yellow gown
around her neck, shamelessly unsound and unable
to remember an important story—–the lack
and trick of it—–where she forgets
to come back to the living, where onstage
an ice skater, blonde, sixteen, concerns her,
sure to skate straight through her, surer still to
lure her with her small white hands unfurling
like a lover’s. Doctor, doctor, please prescribe
the cause of the unauthorized time she watched
as Cousin Greylegs skittered up the wall. Had
it been said this very night a beast would steal
the flower from her mouth, what could she have done?
Take off the sheared
The pale pink
Stockings, and soft
Wash the miraculous
Off: cream matte
Powder, liner, silver,
Remove the crystal
And French barrettes that hold
The dirty blonde hair back.
Light the Italian
Take the triple-layered
Lemon cream cake
From the box.
And the bottles from the cupboards
Filled with fine red substance.
Set the needle back
On the spinning black
Vinyl and let the breaking
Gutters of clutter and chaos
Stream back into me.
In the Woods (Again)
Put away the talk and take
it out of practice, use
the game to justify using shame
to purify pushing
back, the fact’s her fault—–the faucet, moon
is out, it’s not enough.
The art is in the act
of drowning, taking in, a matter not how close
she gets, just how real it feels.
Some things that were close:
(things that were real) the moon, for one,
although it could not fill
the promise (whatever that is)
against which she held fast.
Her heart was not
in it, face it, doesn’t
matter what she says she ends
up trying to climb the side
of violent disregard, a hollow
thing held high in shame. She owns
these things were done.
Things happened to—–
at will. In response. Despite.
Doesn’t matter what
she says. Is the moon full?
Cool youth, played cruel, what did she say at 3:
loose faith, lose heart? Heart-stopping
overdose, what stopped it—–
sadness from the badness?
Her heart’s not in it, face it:
when will the disappointment
hit, how hard?
Yes, that is when the trouble starts.
Was it a promise, a full moon, a pact,
A promise against which she held fast?
One night, one time, she stepped
into the ring on wobbly knees, and
slipped into a space canoe, glided
eiders, guillemots, space particles,
dust. Was there a full moon, a promise,
a pact (with sterling sides)
to which she held fast?
To the halfway ragged hanging point.
To see what impact her impact had.
To bring it back to something…what?
To bring it back to something pure
which is to say—–not
desired except she liked
the way it made her feel.
The mind rescinds atrocity,
she doesn’t need
a declaration. Please.
Instability’s the probability this year,
this hour, this property of moonlight.
Nabokovian pallet of little girl colours,
bright kingdom of cakes—–
in stacks on silver shimmering platters.
Sweet desire’s crimson siren, and yet,
I can’t unravel
The clean clear thread
That binds me.
Its sings to me in its own boy-
Like language. Small god,
It leads me
Everywhere but never
And when she woke it rained.
And she thought that she had died in her sleep.
And the coming wind did roar more loud.
And the rain poured down from one black cloud.
The moon was at its edge.
Awake it was already raining.
She had the idea in a dream.
The idea was a ghost.
The idea was an angel, though
it was not an angel yet.
It lived inside her belly. Large
and round and raw the steaming
terra cotta earth cotta
cotta clay cotta colour
of the deer leg someone had found
and flayed and strung
across the branches of the crêpe myrtle.
Since the idea wasn’t, yet,
the doctors sewed her up instead.
They sewed up every orifice—–
nose and eyes and ears.
And she was blind and deaf.
Everyday she lay in bed.
And she lost the desire to leave the place
where sleep no longer came.
Once she learned to starve herself.
And as she disappeared the air
filled up with mist and the water rose
above her waist. Yet she was
unafraid. For she knew
that she would feed on cake and sit
upon a throne of grass and reign
across the waxy realm of the hard
living room floor.
Then she was on the back of a boat.
How did she get to the back of the boat?
What are the three rivers of Pittsburgh?
The Allegheny, the Ohio, the Monangahela,
a brand of prohibition Rye, the whiskey
she drank with her grandfather on the eve
of her wedding, drank with sweet
Cigarellos on the veranda of the big house.
The taste was electric.
The taste was bitter, screaming:
How did she get to the back of the boat?
In the bathroom, in the dream
of the boat, she is baffled by a tangle
in the line of her IV and cannot seem
to close the curtain around her bed.
Enter then the doctors all,
so chaste and smooth she starts
to flail. But this is something she can’t do.
Because her limbs are knotted tight,
laced up with coarse black hair.
They take her by the back of the neck.
They take her not in the way
of a mother cat, but with all the nerve
of a young EMT—–his first heroic rescue,
hand over hand, hauling himself
over a crevice to save the life
of an avalanche victim. Under
bright lights spiked with stars,
they dissect her body parts,
remove the stitches one by one.
Each stitch means seven lives
(says the man going to St. Ives:
one each for Seven Brothers’
Seven Wives. Each wife
with Seven Sacks. Each sack
with Seven Cats), leave her lying
on a shroud. Cold red bed-sheet
hung for the crowd, then
oh, but for the grace of God she goes, and oh
there goes her idea, too.
And when she woke it was raining.
She thought that she had died in her sleep.
She was awake and she saw that it was raining.
She saw the idea had become an angel.
She saw its wet wings fret
against the flooded windowsill.