you hold a wet glass
of melting ice water to your
houses waver around you
a mist shrouds over the ground
you raise one arm and become
the glass shatters in the sunlight
a bird falls dead against your window
your hair blends into the sky
your face dissolves in clouds
space becomes circular
light is falling into your vertigo
your smile is cold
IN THE ICE DREAMS
In the ice dreams, one of us flew out, recreating
the cold environment, floating upward in a terrible
surrender, bearing the other’s soul within, as if love
would be the
offering. Echoes followed, wailed and repeated
our mockery of escape, writhing in a cold flight
to a semblance of heaven. But always one of us
urged the other
back. Reality was all we knew—all else was time—
broken time—twisted in the ice. The melting powers
of love would not remember us; we had nowhere to go.
(After “Ice Creatures", watercolor 1943 by Henry Miller)
For years he swam under ice
toward the one who was always
above him, encased in blue sunlight;
where he could see her, ever skimming
the other dimension, wearing a
white coat of scales that glittered,
and he knew he could reach her;
there was always the current, pulling him
in her direction—and she beckoned,
smiling—Oh, this was impossible.
It took too long for both of them.
He grew to love the grip of water,
which was deep, and deeply lonely.
She was afraid of depths, and she
loved to float on the surfaces where
down-swimming skies could touch her.
Yet, somehow they held
their legend true. Ships came and went
with the telling. All the storms
knew; and the long, caressing calms
that could wait forever.
THE LAST GOLDEN FISH
Legend says an ancient golden fish
survives in the icy moonlight
of winter in a lake as
wide and deep as lost time
where it still searches
THE LIONS IN THE SNOW
I would prefer to write
a poem for August,
but winter is now
and too far away from August,
and your calendar
is full, you say.
So I'll take down
all my cold thin words for you
and make them do.
“Silver danger,” I will say
and twang its string
and you will vibrate to the chill
that twanging makes
and turn your thoughts away.
I will think lions in the snow
and make them purr
and you will have to pass them
as you tell your sadness
on your way to find
that real and tensioned woman
made of such perfection
she will have a twilight name
and eyes that blend
with all your points of vision.
The lions in the snow
will eat the days you left for scrap
because you had so many. Later
you will have to pass them all again,
will have to step
between the paws and breathing, the
eyes that open after you.
“How did you like that winter?”
I will ask,
and you will shiver from the
different cold I mean, pull back
the icy sheets of our
and crawl between.
Ice in the moonlight—
the stars breaking like glass.
Old, cold moonlight—
old rooster of the neighborhood.
In the protesting mouth of silence,
seven words left to say :
once more stricken with eyes.
(first pub. in The New Salt Creek Reader, 1975)
MY MOTHER, OPENING COCONUT
First she would pierce the eyes
with an ice pick
the strange and colorless milk
into a jelly glass for me to drink.
Then she would crack the shell
into jagged pieces
with her small kitchen hammer
to get to the white meat
that shone like crystal—
this we would dig at
with a knife,
or scrape loose
with our teeth—
this exotic, occasional treat.
The last of the pieces
would always harden
and lose their sheen—and I
never wondered if she ever wanted
to taste the milk she gave me.
MOTHER IS OUT FEEDING THE BIRDS AGAIN
Mother is out feeding the birds again.
They have brought their quiet wings
to her noisy hand.
This time she feeds them chips of light
so they can rise, glass-winged,
and cut through night.
Mother has given them seeds and bread
and they have not given back
One time she gave them words and cries
and they left some feathers
and her rueful eyes to follow them.
They will come down for anything.
She has not emptied
the kitchen yet.
She gives them shells of eggs and olive
stones. They are the hungriest
birds she knows.
Even in winter
she gives them food—
ice cubes and rose petals she has saved.
They have yet to thank her or make
a sound, other than their breathing shadow,
grown so large it covers
both her and her little ground.
(first pub. in ARX, 1970)
UNDER THE SPELL OF AN ICE MOUNTAIN
I have been put here by repeated stories—
none of them true. I am frozen to such darkness
that light may never find me. I am under the spell
of an ice mountain through which I see terrible
illusions twisting themselves in my direction.
You never arrive to save me, though I can
see you coming toward me, full-speed, on a beast
made of hot light. How can I wait for you! My
poor mind tells dream-stories until I awaken in
a great pool of melting mirrors.
Even so, you are coming toward me with
your eyes full of tragedy—reaching everywhere
for me through merging levels. But you are no
nearer than before. Light is my distance. I am
caught in all of it—from everywhere—the
swirling light and darkness, pouring through me.
Skating on old thin ice to you
where you are circling away
toward a mood of closing gray,
I should not follow, but I do.
I part the folds of closing light
and draw back, blinded by the glare
that emanates from your cold stare
as snow turns everything to white
and everything about you blurs.
If winter wants you, you are hers.
You would not love me if you knew
how many loves have fed me ice—
how many times I’ve paid back thrice.
My burning tears have dried—
and my heart, too.
—Medusa, thanking Joyce Odam for today's delights in the Kitchen, talking about Ice, our out-going Seed of the Week. Our new SOW is fit for the season: Amber Mornings—the beginnings of Fall, when amber seems to creep across the landscape as the mornings are slower to get up—and so are we.