I dance with the ghost of my sister
she is me
I am one
it is summer
and childhood again
we play catch
we play hide and hide
in seeking twilights
we laugh together at secrets
we sleep together in dreams
when I am angry at her
I cannot punish her
only I am punished
by my envy
by my only-childedness
by our tearful mother
who lives only for me
I twirl in the fates of my sister
who is featureless
and has no existence
except what I give her
I pull her after me
in homesick years
in worlds where I am a stranger
and she has outgrown me
(first pub. in Calliope, 1990)
Put me here, put me there,
lift me, place me
where you want me.
Partner me in loveless dancing,
through impassioned violin
and shadows in a rage.
Let me lure you—
to and from you,
bending to you, then away.
Lift me, twirl me
through the blending of dismay,
of have and wanting.
Never let the closing kiss
never let the eyes convey.
THE MAD GIRLS DANCE FOR SORROW
Tonight they’ll dance again the dance of pain
and twirl their dresses till their dresses tear
and loose the pins and ribbons from their hair
and flail among the shadows in the air.
It’s not so much that they are mad, or vain,
the way they love to dance with wind and rain,
and rend themselves to grief, and not explain
the ruin of stillness they leave everywhere.
It’s that they can’t remember, when they wake,
that they are not as fragile as they seem—
that they must ever resurrect a theme
that dreams of ghostly partners to forsake—
who never understand the empty ache
that they are but the remnants of a dream.
GIRL WITH STILL LIFE
(after Girl with Still Life, 1919 by Alexander Tischler)
A balancing act, this wearing of a hat as wide as a
tray on which are placed the things of the day:
reminders of toil, or the waste of time, or only
the fancied weight of flowers—
wilting now. She is poised and steady—her long
hair ribboning down her back, her face expressionless
—part of the still, a prop for the hat which almost
weighs too much.
But she supports the teetering hat with its two goblets,
three knives, three apples, and half-empty wine carafe—
Tischler’s object-meaning for the Girl with Still Life.
IN CROSS-HATCH DARKNESS
Here is a man in a scratched-out opening,
a stick figure only—but there,
in a clump of despair. How is it
he has affected me so?
I care for him—
trapped in the crosshatch darkness.
I want the artist to release him—
captive to misery—unable
to back-out of the opening
or step forward into a positive
dimension. What do I recognize
in him? Is it myself? Did I do this—
give him this hopeless suffering—why do
I linger at this page—as if only I can free him?
IN THE PRESS OF TIME
(after Rainy Night by Childe Hassam)
All we know is the rain now.
It streams over the umbrellas
into the street reflections
which splash back.
Everything is stalled.
Something has delayed
the people in the rain—
a sound maybe—
or a mass memory.
The rain pours the harder.
The umbrellas bob and tilt for space.
The creaking sound of a carriage
moves slowly through.
Someone inside the carriage
weeps silently behind curtains
The people part to let it pass.
The night encloses.
Whatever was decided this day
is not what happens. The streets
waver with upside-down umbrellas.
More and more umbrellas crowd in
among the others—
moving like an undulation of distress.
What rumor has brought them here
to stand under the relentlessly
THE SILENT POND
(After Evening Rain on Shinobazu Pond
by Shio Kasamatsu, 1938)
old blue shadows
lone figure in the rain
orange street lamp
only a revenant to memory
blue trees whisper
the small bridge crossing
the same wet night
the narrow railing
for looking into
the shimmering water
the wet umbrella
in the shrinking distance
the slow blue night
SKY PUDDLE: A PERSPECTIVE
In a puddle of water—the sky—
clouds confined to this small rain lake,
the brief flight of gulls
that do not stir the surface,
that do not seem displaced or strange
though they fly upside down;
and vertigo is not the point of this—
that such a shifting vastness
can be caught—fragmentary
and deep—if one looks down to see—
and does not break
the image with their own reflected feet.
(In slight revision from publication in Poets’ Forum Magazine, 1996)
THIS RANGE OF SEEING
I remember stars in the black night . . . but
who can count the memory of that many stars?
I use the abstract words : millions :
billions : but do not know how many this is.
I am that tiny child-speck . . . dizzy from
looking up into the sky from the sidewalk,
sounds hushed, the chanting of the other
children fading into a thin ringing of voices.
I am lifting into the sky . . . dizzy with seeing.
I am a slow twirl of wonder . . . so many stars.
WHERE WOULD I BE
Anywhere there is rain after a dry day of
long hot hours, with the slow clock
turning on its upside-down numerals,
as if time made no sense at all
and has forgotten
how to read or hold onto its private reasons
for winding around like that.
I would like to fill the town with rain,
for I like that sound,
and the wetness and the coolness,
and how it suits my thought of it
in summer, which has grown
long and tiresome, and I feel heavy as a stone
at the edge of watering, and all the
trees are dusty and whispering for rain.