What is it about those largesse-spaces,
public mausoleums, Grand Centrals,
that makes me seek hidden places,
underparts, mole-tunnels, entrails?
Dizzy me with rampant rafters,
places to swing chandelier from,
ceiling fixtures I can’t fleer from,
gargoyle spouts instinct with laughters,
then I disappear from you,
burrow seventeen-mile-drives under,
where the metal taste of thunder
gongs across hurry-pools of gluey
doing with a selfie stick,
cannot reach me where I’m sick
all by myself and yet contented.
Olympic Village long cemented
feels like whalebone and whale inside;
once I shrank down to deepest downside
in Mexico’s modernist entrails,
gray with cement, frayed women’s veils.
Mound me into a hillside, swellside,
Hobbitlike in privacy,
find me sweet companionship:
someone lost as me who’ll slip
into my loamy, virusy
warm wormworld, all fantasy,
idyll times in idle places,
library on library,
ear to ear with long-dead voices…
A PHOTO OF MARY
(Mary Gleaves to composer Arnold Bax)
Is that how you see me? Am I sweet as all that?
I’m one with the grassland, balancing on a fence,
warm summer wind, hand clamped to my summer hat,
bare arms, thin frock, hot stockings I wish to dispense
with, so as to play with you in that long grass,
tumble from pinup mode onto soft sod
or into a boat, me peeled and nude, your mass
how steady strong and high above my bod.
Oh, you did persuade sad girl to sensual woman;
my funny mouth and squint now nymph or imp.
Yet only inside your lens I live beyond-human:
I fight, in deep secret, Another. I’m no simple
simpering one. I do what you want, scrawl barlines
on scores I don’t hear. And just where do I draw my war-lines?
Joy of the late year, I have a booklet now,
a chapbook my friend Geoff designed and dubbed
Twenty Two. Flung together, nothing scrubbed
on my side, just that many anyhow
poems, but good, that I could find, and they
added up to that number. Music poems,
poems about Arnold Bax, one known to say
the age of twenty-two makes up the dome
and crown of a young man’s golden years: who knew
that I could own a magic number thus?
And what did I do myself at twenty-two?
And then what of you we failed to make an us?
Why was I fated to pre-date you so?
How’d your twenty-two get past, slip by so slow?
ONE MORE CHAOS
In the raw chaos and sorrow of this world,
the morning commute adds mallecho to the brew;
dropped alongside the road, just one more strew,
a full-grown doe; only a body curled.
So curled, a Labrador deep in her sweet nap
might lie; but this gray creature, drained of will,
her force gone out in one pang, mouth slack-still,
projects a vulnerable smallness, lap-
ready as any pup, but on gravel sprawled.
What force collided by night that left exposed
her death in dawn-light scalp peeled back and raw?
Speak ruby stove-coil, or utter the old red-rose
trope that should convey leaping animal joy:
but what of her? Soft skin, tenting splintered toy.
Rilke knew it, the frustration and anguish
that help, opening himself to the Seraphic voice
while swaying in the vicious wind atop the sea-tower,
dreading the business letter he must write. Had he
not already known the Angels of openness,
piecing together the Book of Hours with Paris
digging its beak into his liver? Was he the guttering
matchflame or the self-ravaging phosphorus?
Arnold Bax too knew the Despair which groaned
again and again of Itself in letters: what it’s like,
to compose not only without joy, without
the least pleasure in his work: Joan at the stake,
in Falconetti’s aching cinematic person, could not
weep more loudly silent, keen more Irishly in words
than notes. Yet the old wood of Body at fifty
can still flare into red cinder: Bax’s “rotten” serene
Violin Concerto, Symphony Seven, his Oliver Twist
music for David Lean: no, you prodigies, Rimbauds
and Mozarts, not when everything seems just so
for composing, the cushions plump, the night perfumed,
the nautch girls dancing susurrus with sweet-sounding anklets.
No: the sorrow that quilled bereaved Johnson into Rasselas,
the misanthropic anthracite ablaze beneath Rousseau:
when there’s nothing for it but to spend, spidering your
Whitman silks into the Great Void—then, declares Bax,
and only then, does the hinge-plaintive door swing open
for the radiant Guest.
Poetry is composing for the breath.
Our thanks to today’s fine contributors, and a note that Bethanie Humphreys will be talking on Capital Public Radio's Insight program this morning from 9-10 am, about the contributions of women to Sac. Poetry Center's Tule Review from its founding to present day—including women's volunteerism, leadership, and poetry. She'll also read poems from the recent issue. That’s 90.9 FM in Sacramento; 90.5 FM Reno/Tahoe; 91.3 FM Stockton; 88.1 FM Quincy.
By the way, I hear no mention of Jane Blue in all this talk of the Tule women. It was Jane who resurrected Tule during the late ’90’s, after the journal had lain dormant for some time. She edited and I struggled with production under her steady hand for several issues. That was ‘way back in pre-Rattlesnake Press days; I learned a whole lot about editing and producing from her—you could almost say she was one of the godmothers of Rattlesnake Press. Thanks, Jane!—and of course thank you to all the other poets who've kept Tule Review going over the years.