I can’t lose the tears.
I’ve reckoned the earth.
I have lived in a tower.
I seem to remember everyone
Else’s days better than my own.
“Why deceive yourself?
Near and far are the same.”
I have broken my teeth against
The stars, thinking they were seeds.
I have flags that describe longing.
They sometimes blind me with
Their insistence. I feel your
Hands moving over my back.
Sometimes I realize
I don’t begin to understand.
Then I feel the fires still burning inside
Every season and listen to them again
In the heart. Objects begin
To abandon me. A mathematics
Cradled by desire fills my
Mouth with its precious fruit.
I am these others, these unredeemed.
I am everything that proves untrue,
Correcting the fragrances of the garden,
Calling to the beautiful moths
Who caress the night like this.
Everything is heaven. No one will
Read this and believe it.
I hear their footsteps rushing
To my door. I am half awake.
I wait upon a secret shore.
I can breathe roses.
A PAPER FACE
What? That her face was made of paper?
That my lips swam with measured
Movements to that face, that her memory
Would catch fire from joys and sorrows
And her white face would
Go up in flame as if blessing
Each shadow with an evening,
A nightingale, an inscription
Made of smoke and more shadows?
And it would return, whole once
Again, still paper and full
Of a new blood. She was everlasting.
Constantly being reborn and dying.
We loved her like we loved libraries,
Skylights, mirrors with their
Multiplications of everything but
Music and love. She was singular
To all of us. We called for
Blessings, but her face was made of paper.
We could never quite understand
An enigma caught beyond language,
In anguish, suddenly, embracing fire
As her only constant lover.
CITYSCAPE WITH SUICIDES
I bring the rope down to my shoes,
Past the room where the young
Man is watching cars on television
Go faster and faster.
They are decorated
With very bright colors.
The sound is off.
Through the window,
In the apartment
Across from yours,
There is a girl talking
On an old-fashioned telephone.
The guy down the hall
Steps outside his door
To light a cigarette,
Then ducks back
Into his room.
He wears red shoes.
A baby is crying.
There is still smoke
In the air as you pass.
If they knew about this
Empire of rope they wouldn’t
Have let you into the building.
The suicides are lining up
At the end of the hall.
Some can’t wait and jump
Anyway. They make a sound
Like a large ball of yarn
As they strike the fire
Escape four floors below.
When you finally decide to look
At your watch it isn’t any
Time at all, just a wooden painted
Bird flying high above the lake.
She said, “It’s raining.”
You looked up from the paragraph
Where they were walking back from
The lake and the evening was being described.
“That should cool things down,”
You say, because all the other
Words had already been occupied
And these sounded like they had just
Been ironed and might have
Somewhat of a jump on them.
The cat reminds her that it is
Dinner time. The sun wipes
Across the fence just outside
The window. “It sounds nice,” she says.
She sounds like a beautiful flute.
“We can go walking in the rain
After dinner.“ She slips her
“Remind me to ask Nelson
Who was killed in that thing
At the market today,”
One of you says.
She fills the large pan with water
From the faucet. It sounds like
A drum against the rain.
“If it’s still raining after dinner
It will be perfect.”
The cat jumps up to sit
On the window sill.
It watches the water
Run down the glass
Like crazy mice.
WE’RE NOT REALLY SURE
I still can sit on the edge of the bed.
The night is full in my nostrils
And then the silence begins
To come apart.
The crickets have their bit
About Summer, and the moon
Is so bright we all retreat
To our houses and look at it
Through the windows.
There is a waltz on the lips.
Night pushes against our skin.
I cannot begin to weigh the tears.
I look at my hands, remember that I
Had a job to take care of all these things.
I manage to walk toward
What once was such a perfect
Silence. Someone tries to sell
Me a car, tells me to lie down.
“Everything will be perfect,” they say.
People are staring
At their phones
Like they were consecrating
The host to become
The body of Christ.
Their phone screens glow.
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for this morning's ambrosial breakfast!