Found in a Volume of Shakespearean Sonnets: A Photo of My Lover's Last Love


In Shakespeare's Sonnets
I come upon your
other woman, Dark
Lady of the Sonnet, once
Mistress of our Soul --
Santa Sophia,
Hagia Sophia --
Empress of the brief smile
in time that held you two as one.
 
This book you took
to sea and the cover,
to me, seemed water
marked by salt and tear,
an ecru parched by you
within the lonely mandala of horizon
neverending, mouth of sea
pressing mouth of sun.
 
Such break of day, thought I
confusing illusion
with poetry, never
would be mortal bound in time.
But night slipped under the sky,
unseen, another mistress 'neath
The nuptial canopy, illicit and obscuring,
until the kiss of light
upon the sea receded
and even Shakespeare's sonnets
were no longer to be seined.
 
Holding my discovery
as though a prayer between
my palms, I touch
the magic of irony,
transformation's leger-
domain. Irony is watching our new born
sonnet through a window;
his breath lingers on the pane.

6/90

 
 
At the Opera
 
With silken cords
Like a costumed Soprano
The brocade curtain
Diaphragm rising --
Burdened folds, cumbersome folds --
Thrusts her bosom of stage
On the lover beneath her
Lusting but patiently waiting.
 
The start of the aria
Always is visual --
Gasp of delight
Gold swell of silence
From mouth newly parted --
Adorned and elaborate
Splendour corporeal
Rejoicing before any sound.
 
The veil of my eyelashes
Modest, discreet
My coy survey shields
Under boa feathered fan
Secret glance at my Beloved
Opera glass pan for sign
A wish to catch the rush he claims
The surge of feeling clutch his belly
Better than my hands
A wish to note the crucial moment
A wish to mark the score.
 
A true voyeur
I watch my Beloved --
Barely attend the scene --
His eyes disclose the Soprano
Mine disclose his Soul
From a place where grand things happen
In velvet and hammered leaf
Great heights soared in verse and song
Titans hefting heavy mallets
Strutting - preening - roaring - wielding
Justing and judging above.
 
My Beloved follows the tapestried drama
With my eyes I follow my Love.

12/90

 
 
 
Our Lives Are Shaped
 
Our lives are shaped
by irrevocable
moments, choices
winnowing across
the sluice of days
like small fish that
soon die and leave
marvelous labyrinths
of coral from
whose chambers we
cannot escape.
 
AND by random

brutal acts that
bludgeon through these

fossil histories

Like underwater detonations
muffled plosions
that merely surface

minor tidal waves and
low scale Richter
tremblings, soon forgotten
by all but those
internally
maimed or poisoned;
 
AND by invisible

pistols in our
bodies known as
chromosomes, waiting
to be fired, slippery

coiling plant fingers

in a rocking, ticking
red sea cradle.
 
We swim and swim, coming
Up for air again
Gills transmogrifying
Often dragging ourselves
Onto some slicing reef
We know full well
Is locked by maze
Traps underneath.
 
(Sometimes on stranded
atolls we find
another and
briefly touch, such
explorations
affirming worth.)
 
We swim and swim, drowning
In the cosmic
Aquarium
Of god's womb, navel cords
Severed too soon.
We swim and swim because
It's what we do.

Fall '85

 
 
Unexpected Memories
 
UNEXPECTED MEMORIES,
SUDDEN TORRENTS . . .
THUNDERCLAPS IN A STORM:
 

-i- (FLC)

A SINGLE AUBURN STRAND,
CAUGHT BEHIND THE FAUCET ...
TENDRIL 'ROUND AN EAR.
 

-ii- (MC)

THE INN'S RECEIPT, CRUMPLED,
MONTHS UNDER A BUCKET SEAT ...
TEARS CANNOT FILL.
 

-iii- (MC)

ANONYMOUS TICKET,
MARK ON MY CAR . . .
YOU'D FORGOTTEN THE METER.
 

-iv- (FLC)

GREEN CATS, WOODEN FATS;
QUITE A POT POURRI, NIKKI . . .
HOW YOU MADE ME LAUGH!

Early '86

 
 


Cushions
 
As we grow older we reupholster
one another's sagging frames
with a talisman of charming lies.
You look but a girl, exclaims my cohort,
expecting the same in return.
I rush to the glass in a flush
of blind wine. almost glimpsing
this witch of eternal rebirth.
I am bolstered for now or an hour
but in hoary four o'clock light
I squint into the future's lines,
scoured thread fine by northern honesty,
hints of scrubby stretch, unhushed
by mellow meads and dusky wines,
without redoubt, where there's no recovery.
 
. . . Still, I am hopeful of growing
a magnificent coat of winter fur
as I wander on this moon, my moor,
rubbing frostbitten hands
and mumbling chants of long ago.

Winter '85 - '86

 


Recovery, Roosevelt Island
 
WATCHING BOATS TOW

ENDLESS TIDES, I MEND
SLOWLY . . .

IN THEIR EYES, IN YOUR HAND.

Winter '86

 
 
The Morning After
 
Gauzy dawn wraps the earth in its bandage,
hastily binding night's wounds with soft light.
Blood runs black in the dark; unseen,
we cannot measure its toll; in shock,
we stumble through dim halls.
But day's scalpel soon lays bare,
with surgical precision,
those atrocities dealt in blindfold.

Jan, '86

 
 
Three Weeks in the Hospital
 
Darkest Night --so close
I can almost touch it
Between the technicolor
Faces that lurch from my
Morphine dreams. My finger-tips
Have brushed the skin of death
And watched it stretch translucent.
Behind the chromatic gauze
Of confusion I see my
Dark Lover, my animus,
For whom I write: still there,
Lucidity in Darkness,
A single moon like a
Solitaire, ascending
From a slack of tears that
Refracts the joy and sorrow.

2/87

 
 
Touchstones
 
These words: touchstones
worn smooth with use
washed against
ocean floors
of our unconscious
words smooth like glass
and deadly
shaved from cliffs with
relentless waves
words sharp as shards
and coral reefs
where we are
hurled wreckage
alone bleeding
by their traces
but mute without
these touchstones, words.

Circa '86

 
 
A.I.D.S.
 
Cavafy was lucky.
In the city of Alexandria
he caressed the genitals
of other men and writhed in his shame.
 
But Alexandria
never yielded to the Victorians
Those snakes were her soul;
she accepted them and kneeled silently
before each unsanctoned aberration.
 
In 1985
men lie dying of their longings,
the imprecations of
alum-mouthed spinsters yoked around
their bowing, caving necks.
 
In 1986
another sickness infects those
who love like Plato,
their delicious shame now public.
 
Modern lepers,
these untouchables have only one another,
the distant memory of their unholy kisses, and
the first germination of a meddling god.

Fall '86

 
 
Remembering FLC
 
HE ONCE DREW A VERSE

ON MY ARM
WITH MAGIC MARKER . . .

A LOVE TATOO.

Circa '86

 
 
Therapy
 
We are animals
whose burrs have been yanked
from the fur, tearing
clumps of flesh and
hair at the roots
Bewildered, we huddle,
healing the wounds with our
tongues, rocking . . . redundant . . .
confused . . . wondering
did the burrs matter
so much and could they
have been worse than the
howling wrench of
their removal?

Circa '86

 
 
Did I Make you Up?
 
Did I make you up?
Shape your face
With my own clay
The way I dream
The Images I need?
Was it all my own
The same as this poem
Is myself made up?

Circa '86

 
 
Janus

I run backwards into the future

like some Janus who's had his foresight

blinded by whimsy of the gods.

My how they laugh at their clever jest!

They've done it to punish my hubris --

my wanting more than just guarding the gate.

Janus, token of bright beginnings,

should see both sides: foretell the future,

recall the past; have insight, above all.

But I have none; anticipation

with deep delight are shadow-bound by

the blindfold they've placed on my face.

Yet it's I who keeps the blindfold tied,

denies myself a present tense,

nostalgia and sentiment all I face,

hands outstretched in sweet regret, appeal

to all that might have been Today,

to moments that were Once and Will Not Be.

I'm a heroine on a train caboose,

forever grabbing at the love left behind,

spending each Beloved

for the mourning of the one before.

It tires my lover, this stumbling

progression, this dragging of all my freight.

Is it too late to loose the blindfold,

catch your hand in the present state

and turn forward into the future?


Spring '86

 
 
Gone
 
The rigor of physical pain
squeezes the heart clean.
More months than a year
Lay like a ruminated curd
in my chest until
Winter's cold and the
arthritis that crept
up my back like a vine
radiating its runners
through my belly with small
darting shoots down my loins
wrung those months without
you and spread out time's
tarot for me to read:
there was nothing that my
body could assimilate;
I saw that love was gone
and let my pain wrap tighter.

Circa Winter '87

 
 
Yet Speak, And I Will Not Adore You
 
Always we are the sum

(pluses like kisses)

of what we were not now --

(minus signs bereft).

 
Life's essence is a paradox
that voids itself
like a dog pissing on its own leg
or the X that grows at its end
while the apex crosses out the summit
looking curiously like a bird
alighted or poised for flight.
 
DNA's redundancies create anew
each recoiling strand:

identical identity

while histories continue
to never quite repeat themselves.
 
We long for the freedom of being captive
We long for the hero enacting impossible theories of art
Knowing he cannot succeed
Knowing he cannot live
if he doesn't die that way.
 
Red Giants collapse into their own centers
Like punctured red balloons
that leave black vacuums
where they've sucked themselves
inside out into nothing.
 
Words unspoken have echoes
long and hard as poles --
And your silence is so

Heavy

I can poke holes in it
with what's unsaid.

Spring '87

 
 
 
American Gothic
 
Near the end she'd sat there drawing,
wrapped in a cocoon of shawl,
jaundiced, just drawing, lines
unraveling -- wordless, bereft.
 
Or reading Gothic novels;
she'd requested them and I'd
had to learn they they were something
other than baroque settings for those
restrained Victorians I'd met is school.
 
"Give me a Gothic Novel," she'd say,
"And Carvel Ice cream;" compliant, I'd
supplied her with whatever
she'd asked, wishing I could cleave
whole pieces of my body to
bolster her flesh which crawled back
like time stains shriveling silk.
 
But the Carvel didn't stay down;
then my brother finished what
was left and I spent hours in the
bathroom ravaging my face for
blemishes that didn't exist,
until those concerned dragged me away,
afraid I might dig holes in places
that would not heal, maybe die too,
and oh what a mess that would be,
my life become her "Gothic Novel."

Circa '86

 
 
The Key
 
Tonight he gave me back the key.
It had grown old between his fingers.
One year past it shone like a new coin
but now it was brass brown as the others
on the ring from which he'd pried it.
It had been such a trouble; he'd had
to stop on the street to complete the task.
Drunk, he'd had to lean against a wall
to wrench apart the stubborn metal circle
and I'd kept saying how I'd help him,
not wanting to help him -- please keep the key,
as long as you keep it you'll be with me.
But the trust of new love worthied the demand
and my catching hand was just a wish
he'd not become a stranger at my door.

8/87

 
 
Three Beers/Three Tequilas
 
Three Beers/three tequilas
a night's work
arrayed on the table
her sister/her son/and she
(display of three)
a year's love
distilled into an eve.
 
He'd said to her:
I want to be part
of a family some day
her mother is nice to me
(another arrangement of three)
and I so miss my own mom
I think I could love her
perhaps she would put up with me
will you still be my mistress
don't do this to us Neysie
you see that I must leave.
 
The waitress interrupts him:
the bartender's wondering
if you want the worm -- yes
call me when you do it
I've never seen anyone do it
drink the worm that is.
 
Declares he:
you will see me
and new glasses arrive for all
while the worm in his alcohol
bobs like a fetus
dangling on a cord
inside his mother's belly
belly full of tequila.
 
Still he doesn't drink it down
so she grabs the glass
hoping she won't choke
on the worm of her own bravado
gulps larva into belly
where it churns like an embryo
in some ectopic womb
and says with hubris earned:
 
I can do what you cannot
I can drink the worm.
 
Three beers/three tequilas
a night's work
arrayed on the table
her sister/her son/and she
(display of three)
a year's love
distilled into an eve.

8/87

 
 
Inwood Park, Manhattan
 
Peter Minuet once stood here.
There was no garbage then,
frying day-long in the
summer sun, strewn with picnic
disregard by those whose
pleasure is to violate:
hounds lifting legs to mark a shrub
or, greedy, defile another's.
 
Seething trash can warm a place.
It better holds the heat, the
redolence -- rather like swamp.
Peter Minuet must have worn
a coat back then -- heavy over
buckled boots and breeches --
without this stench to warm him.
 
Now I walk naked as an
Indian underneath my skirt
and shirt, all I wear save
sandals that barely guard
against the liquor bottle shards.
I walk down Indian Road
holding two dollars to trade
with the Spanish speaking grocer
for cigarettes, matches and change.
I have not smoked in many months,
rarely since I've known you.
 
I walk to the places
we walked that August night:
the cove where in early morning
hours the sculls are borne and the
only sound is the dipping oars
and the urging of coxswain gulls.
Canoes still glide these waters.
 
I stop where the bat flew
up in our faces, portent
from the netherworld, gaily
shrugged by the laughter of love.
(Did Peter see a bat, I wonder?)
 
Finally I go to the bench
where first you kissed me
and then we watched the water
and the rhythm of carlights cross
the Henry Hudson Bridge.
 
Here I smoke a cigarette
as an Indian smokes his pipe --
wise, restrained, sad, at peace --
breathe deeply of the fen
then throw the pack away.
 
Trees, columnar, like
ceremonial chalice bearers,
pass their vessel over hilltop,
spilling stain across the skies.
A climbing jet shines golden
in last light, a shooting star;
and a gull heading for the bridge
tries, or so it seems,
to follow in its wake.

5/31/88, a very hot day.  


 
 
There are bottom lines
and places of no hope
that I have known.
These have a beauty
a clarity and
perfection of their own.
These are the fields
of defeat where
one yields a bowed
head to forces greater
and welcomes the honest
sword upon the flesh
so cool so clean so
unremitting. Life is
something interrupted.

1/89

 
 
 
As once in Summer,
we took a walk
around the block.
Today was cold and
I shuffled along-
side of your stride
encumbered both by
boots and your words.
You suggested that
I found you boring.
I hardly had the strength
to object, so icy
the weather, so
relentless your speech.
 
How seasons can change as
we walk around the block.

Winter '88

 
 
 
MY BOUSTROPHEDONIC

MEMORY OF YOU . . .

A STUBBORN UNDERLINE.

Circa '89

 
 
Fantasy
 
She has lost him forever.
So many times she'd pled why
that he'd spat out his non-love
like some vile okra
his mother might try to shove
down his throat as an infant.

Smothering mothers, with vegetable love.


She has called past the point
of shame. Surely the neighbors
will complain of hourly rings,
unanswered. She listens to
his machine just for the voice,
hoping the tones will bring her
beyond the "after the beep . . . ."
No word in that message for her?
There must be -- she'll find it somewhere.

Smothering women, with honeycomb love.

 
She imagines him loving
her slowly, his saviour,
the woman with power,
their coupling abandoned,
with weeks weighing prudently
all pros and cons upon
balanced brass scales. If
anyone knows will
his pleas be dismissed?

Smothering guilts with the pressure of lust.

 
He needs to inspire her,
fire her with loin thrust,
an angry young man in
a rare Rolls Royce, cranking.
With my love you will triumph,
my child will be saved.
We two bear that future,
brief as a baby.

Smothering parents, child maybe choking.

 
Breathless, she watches her mind,
careening, unreel its script
and sees it was inevitable.

Smothering roses, who knows their name?

 

1/89

 
 
 
Prayer Gone Wrong
 
Compulsive acts begin as prayers
that lose their wings enroute to heaven
and then we become obsessed with
helping them get there, cheering them on
like banded doves we've invested a
lot of time and love in training,
wanting them to succeed: carrier
pigeons astray, homing wings broken.
 
But there are certain prayers we
must say even when we know they
won't come true, even when we risk the
danger of their owning us: vesper
bells aclamor, monks and nuns forever
fingering rosaries in the
monasteries of minds possessed,
recurring mutters that cannot fly.
 
Our flight adjustments matter little
and we know we won't reach God. It
would be foolish to believe success
and we would seem childish, sending
box tops for toys that always
disappoint, or playing superman.
 
No, we know these prayers are doomed
and their importance lies not in the
relation to actualization
or their perilous imprisoning
thrust, but in their potential
to transform as rites of passage,
rituals, with layers of meaning
hidden as rinds beneath tree bark
if only we can begin unpeeling,
thereto exposing the healing balm.
 
And just as you must continue
an uncertain quest for the child divine
within you, thus too must I repeat
my lunar mysteries with you,
without another to help me
stand alone, understand alone.

3/89

 
 
 
Corpus Collosum
 
There is this monkish quality
about me -- the urge to take
the pen and bend over lines
despite my inability
to soothe the script into Gothic
font or Italic calligraphy.
 
Hour after hour the monks stroked
their souls with their pens, aspired
their lives away on communions
of rosary and copying
carefully, the compulsive
rites salving psyches with God
and with anima obsessed,
the light of unconscious dark ages.
 
So too I write, translating
my right brain frames into left
brain signs, rocked by the movement
cross the corpus collosum --
emotion to reason,
reason back to feeling,
picture to thought --
peace made between the primitive need
in me and the rationality
of this year-of-our-lord century.
 
God spare me from a day when we may
no longer write, learning early to
type or talk to tapes that transcribe.
I crave this pen in hand, cannot
think without it, recalling
atavistically, words scratched
on stone, the walls of caves, in dirt.
I know those words by heart, murmur
them in my sleep, a caveman
discovering similes,
a monk with the Word of God,
a temporal woman possessed
and fearful of losing her pen,
the keeper of corpus collosum.

4/89

 
 
The Importance of Keeping One's Head
 
I fear you will end
up hating her for
having plucked you as
I watch you eat each
other up with eyes
with teeth with kisses
in wet places with
cunning forks and knives.
Her mouth explores your
body and knows each
hole each fold each soft
secret spot. The tongue
probes and you cannot
stop her stop the lies
the shared delusion
a meal partaken.
Too terrified to
move you belong to
her completely 'til
she is done having
cleaned your bones and then
in horror sees that
you've bitten off her
head to pick her brain.

2/89

 

 

Leftover Poems