I was with a drunk and lonely friend
who bore my name like sorrow on the tongue,
who said me slowly while I poured the wine,
who used the word ‘remember’ like a game,
and always, always, said the same thing twice,
and laughter splintered forth like spilling time,
and we with so much emptiness to fill
caught all of it, caught all of it, until.
(first pub. in Quoin, 1975)
THE HOUSE SQUEAKS
The hinge on the door lets out a sound:
fear with its secret, here again—
enters and seeks you out. Oh, friend,
fear with its secret—old and thin.
The hinge on the door lets out a sound.
CONJURING UP MEMORIES
Oh, broken childhood,
full of places and fears—
tears and forgotten
and who, and who,
are these others flowing past,
you who are so small
and must go where life leads,
all the ways toward the center
past the quick
you who promised them
forever: goodbye, goodbye,
and more goodbye.
Now you spiral back
and arrive where you are:
everywhere is here,
has always been here,
moment upon moment,
hour, and year—why grieve
for what you cannot know.
A seagull appears in your dreams,
and another, and another—
those old cries.
TURNS OF FATE
And we were young and bent on suicide, but friends
dissuaded us—took our hands and ran us along the
beaches—all summer, teasing the waves and watching
the white gulls come down among us—as if they were
tame. But these are lies, of course. I need your attention.
I need you to hold me from what might have been true
if I had known you. Is that why we had no faces—
only those white masks—stark and featureless so no
one would know us, though we cried to be known; is
that how we became anonymous? Where were you
then—my imaginary one—were you on your way to
important appointments—famous and aloof—could I
have touched you?
—Cezanne, c. 1867
My body is my foe.
It’s all I know.
In my dreams I am tall.
Some women like to call
me Lover, turn to me with eyes
indiscriminate of size.
I have a handsome face,
but, oh, what I would erase
of the sadness that it shows.
But that’s the way of it—I pose
for Cezanne, my painter, my friend
and we both pretend
equality of fame.
He, my painter—I his claim.
I fit the canvas like desire,
but love is something I must hire.
TOASTING YOUR HAPPINESS
In love again
so foolish in your second happiness
sitting close enough to touch
and laughing at every glance,
you bring your news to us,
We pour the wine to toast you . . .
You do not notice our loveless eyes
our smiles that hurt
our words that come
like finished marriages
the way we touch each lifted glass
except our own.
A FROZEN SONG FROM JANUARY
You are my rusty-eyed friend.
I will let you stay
while the winter quits looking for you.
I have one bottle of wine
and a deep safe floor where you can sleep.
If you ask me, I will read poems to you.
(Yes, I write poems…shyly and forever…)
What, you are tired?
You are still weeping?
You are sorry?
You are leaving?
FOR MY FRIEND OF THE RELUCTANCE
walk to me early
in tears and stories of love
i will hold them for you
till you are no longer cold
i know how you feel, i tell you,
(and i do)
oh walk with me
in the poetic rain of bad days
when love is no good
i will walk there too
our hair wet with defiance
with our not caring
how old is beauty?
one of us will ask
and the other will nave no answer
walk with me under the wine
i will cut the cheese
and separate the crackers
i know what to do
i know what is nourishment
i will make you strong
after you have gone
i will lie on the floor and
cry for your sadness
or for the sadness of the wine
or the rain
or whatever it is i think i remember
the appointment will be kept,
i tell myself,
and the room will come down and cover me
for i will be so tired
after all that healing
THE BETTER PART OF LOVE
Muse with me while we gather light for a poem.
We will read it later—
tell each other what it means,
then reminisce awhile,
compare amazements—how much our lives
how many years
we’ve known each other,
while we confess,
let down the burden of our cares
to hold each other’s dark—
find some new/old words
to fill our many silences with explication,
whichever is needed.
Old friend, as close and separate as we are,
I muse these thoughts for you
from this old, well-worn and reliable, loving heart.
I honor the old cat
who wants to sleep on my chair . . .
who wants to be
where she wants to be . . .
I allow her
(first pub. in Poetry Now, 1997)