Teeth of light bite into me like regret;
we are caught in light like prisms.
How can I not tell this to you—
you who break apart like glitters of death.
I am stabbed by your beauty; your screams
are silent to my ears. Or are you laughing?
You are no longer real. Shattering birds
of light fly into their own illusions—
windows everywhere opening to receive them
—sky cages closing behind them.
THE BIRD OF LIFE
Somewhere in time a gold bird explodes.
It is all covered with fire.
It is falling into our burning eyes.
We can hear its bright wings screaming.
We respond with our mouths open and answering.
We can see its white eyes bore through crimson skies.
The clouds catch fire
and the cindered stars are reeling.
We stand in the color of this sight.
We have come together to celebrate this mourning.
Our hands are at our throats.
We can feel our pulses pounding in our fingertips.
We can see the great self
of the bird burn away, and we can see
what life is made of in its mysterious center.
The sky has caught fire.
We ignite in the infinite color.
The bird has been falling forever.
Every glinting fragment of it falls
into our rapidly beating hearts.
(first pub. in Galley Sail Review, 1967)
all over himself.
I keep punching
here and there.
they are so
with explosive pain,
but I don’t know
else to touch him.
THIS ABSTRACT PAINTING
various tones of beige
a field of near-white
in suspended swirl
a frozen leap of line
in vague direction
balanced right side up
like an important act
the eye understands
what the mind
tries to know
art is art
framed for itself
to adorn some wall
but the happenstance of
and deliberate choice of color
of anything asked
that requires no answer
THE KEPT MIRROR
This is the mirror my husband shot
when he was careless, or angry, or thought
perhaps I had betrayed him and caught
my image in his sights and wrought
symbolic vengeance there. I don’t know what
to say of it—why we keep it—surely not
my obsession with this torn glass. It’s got
so I love to look in it; I ought
to pull my face away. We never fought
after that—just bore the silent, hot
look of his stare, and my stare back—an old plot:
what he delivered—what I never bought.
He likes to stand behind me. There’s a lot
more to this than this small, round dot
in the center of this mirror that my husband shot.
MAKING THE BED
A woman is making the bed in the sunny room.
She is picking up the slivers of glass from the broken
window. They dazzle her fingertips till they bleed.
She holds a wad of Kleenex in her hand. She is
weeping. Her tears are cutting her cheeks. The
sheets are white with red rosebuds on them. The
diamond of her ring makes angry slashing motions
in the light.
She is fascinated by this ritual. She feels as if she
is in the center of all the world’s mirrors, performing
for them. She is going to stay here until the bed is
smooth and safe again, even if nighttime comes, even
if time tears itself into little pieces. This is a thing she
Every time she thinks she has it all, another piece
of glass flicks her attention to it. They are getting
smaller now. She licks her finger and touches it to the
glass. The sunlight is warm in the room. She doesn’t
know why she cannot stop weeping. It all happened
too long ago to keep remembering it now. Why does
it take so long to do? Is the window through breaking?
MY LIFE IN THE MIRROR
Available in stone,
this pure intention,
my life in the mirror,
changing as I change,
this daydream made of mind-want,
this day that is about gone:
the long line of sleep—
the complication of dream-tangles.
Oh, that I want it—
want all its anger and danger—
its little pools of hope
that I stare into.
How else do I get through
one after another tyranny
how else shall I regard you
with my glass heart and sharp eyes?—
you are my own, as I am yours
in our singular existence.
I HAVE WALKED IN RED DRESSES
I have walked in red dresses through colorless times.
I have risen from sleep into the cold path of moonbeams.
I celebrate my own feeling against cloth.
Even though my body is not young and fair, I wear nothing
under my dresses. Times I go barefoot are few. I wear
sandals. I do not paint my toenails, though I mean to.
I have given up cosmetics, but not incense.
I still wear my rings. I always close curtains—
I cannot stand bright air. I have walked in red dresses
in mute and colorless times of eloquent deep stare—I am
too loud for the mirrors. Even though I have covered my scars
with mending eyes—Love, oh staring Love, they are all yours.
ON ASTERISKS FOR A TITLE
A boat ride through
the long rock walls of the jetty.
Flashlights. Who is it?
Flashings of thought.
Here and then.
Stubbornness of time.
Full of faces, mine among them.
Yes. Wrong direction.
Glossy wet gleam.
Seagulls, white and graceful,
bringing themselves back
Sun going down.
City after city ago.
Weariness of time.
Regrets and absolutions.
This morning I heard birds.
Windows open in October.