THE CRUEL HEART
She came to the place of surrender with a ragged
gift that she had carried over the long and difficult
distance of herself. She could not remember what
was in it, only that she must lay it at some mysterious
altar and wait quietly while it was being received.
She felt the disdain awaiting her. She wondered if
she could say the words. She wanted to mean them,
but something was in her heart, cruel and lonely and
jealous of her intention. It vowed to deceive her,
whispering inwardly where she could hear. But the
path was there, and she was upon it, smoothing its
stones with her slowness. Every little detour de-
lighted her, and she followed many, but that was
before now. Now was now and made of a great
ringing, so maybe it was her silence she must sur-
render. She howled and her cruel heart answered.
FROM THE TRAVELS
Faded signs would never name the towns. It always
rained, and there was no one to give directions. The
sole café was sad—like in the movies—or in the
A child always stood in the road behind us, bouncing
a red ball in the shadows between the few thin trees
that stretched toward each other across the lane.
A woman always appeared in an open doorway,
watching us leave.
(first pub. in Parting Gifts, 1998-99 and Peripherals
Prose Poems, Rattlesnake Press, 2009)
Lipstick would never
stay on my mouth,
as soon as applied—
even the liquid
of the 1940’s
that went on like nail polish.
I never learned to smoke,
so could not be
leaving my lip-prints
on smoldering white cigarettes.
STILL LIFE FOR A PIECE OF CAKE
a piece of cake
left on the table
on a plate
with a wet
in thin strips of
a floated napkin
rippled under it
and under the napkin
the paper plate
held down by the
pale dry white
of the dried-out cake
by the crusty drizzle
of sickly frosting
near flight of the
the tea bag
I don’t know why
(first pub. in Urban Voices That Matter, 1996)
ONE FOR THE KITCHEN
to amount to
Like each day happening
without a death.
Putting the plates
on the table.
And the food.
The quick consuming.
with or without
Wiping the stove
and the counter.
to the refrigerator
the future hunger.
(first pub. in Legend, 1972)
HEART TO HEART
Tongue-in-cheek, you understood—it was
about the little things—it was the insignificant,
the unimportant things—that darkened the mind.
You somberly agreed. We faced the night
full of our darkness. We noted the absence
of stars, the pollute of color that still hung.
We sucked the old wounds clean with our
continuance of words. Our laughs were harsh
upon the harshness of each other. Our broken hearts
poured and poured their love upon the floor.
We stood in bloody shadows of commiseration
holding each other in our cynical desperation.
(Plate 9. Group of Artists, Marie Laurencin’s painting of
Appolinaire, Picasso, herself and their circle. The Cubist
Poets in Paris, 1995, University of Nebraska Press)
We are the desired realities here.
Just because we ‘stare out’ does not mean
we see you; just because we sit ‘hesitated’
does not mean we do not flow with existence.
Our pretty names are spoken on your tongues.
We rhyme with ourselves.
We are assembled in this proof of our reality.
Name us whom you please, we are personifications.
Our shoulders touch and our garments flow together
in a blend of lyrical arrangement.
We cannot help our beauty.
We are as curious as you, and as removed.
We look at you. Let us be unknown. Let us be
known when it becomes compelling to know us.
Let not our unreality surprise or frighten you.
We are as you, but fragments of a landscape—
life or non-life—art or its supposition—
all that is substitution for the real thing.
IN THE BLUE HEART OF DREAM
A bird winds slowly skyward
lifting a bronze shadow out of the murk.
It is heavy and lonely,
the last thought of a dying dreamer
who has heard the faint call outward.
What follows is grief, freed of weeping,
though it is heavy too
and folding like a weariness,
too much effort needed
to be free of truth and imagination.
A fan closes as if by itself, ending
the escape. The sky goes dark again.
Or stays bright. Who can say?
The delicate art is saved from eyes.
Everything moves in relation
to everything else, even the stillness
which must breathe and wait.
A word is being offered to the silence.
A listener must make a choice.
Who am I to grieve over such things?
A dream cannot live without the sleep.
Let the bird go.
It is only your thought of it.
If it loved you, you will know.
A THEME OF RED
After Four Darks in Red by Mark Rothko
dragging red behind him all his life:
His blood? His love?
All his rage and effort?
Now he stands
at a blank frame of ending;
everything behind him
is a hum of memory.
He does not turn to look.
He puts his hand against a wall
that was always there,
waiting for his handprint.
Oh, The Heart Knows Sorrow,
and the stone
knows no mercy—
not the rain with its glossiness,
nor the hour with its emptiness.
I, who am hearing and seeing
what the mind recalls,
am in the limbo of regret.
I become part of the rain,
the wet sound of it—
the shadowed light
that does not know where to settle.
None of this matters
to the cat
who curls into a circle of sleep.
Oh, sleeping cat,
alone in your own world—
life is a mystery,
and we are a tiny part of it.
WASHING DISHES THE
out the window,
hands deep in sudsy water,
always seemed to give
lingering sense of pleasure.
A big thank-you to Joyce Odam for her takes on our ekphrastic Seed of the Week—see the photo at the right of this column. Joyce went with the broken (about to be cut-up!) heart, but also with the plate and even the scissors—and dishwashing!
Our new Seed of the Week is Harvest. There are lots of ways to "harvest" (as ye sow. . .). Send your poems, photos & artwork about this (or any other) subject to email@example.com. No deadline on SOWs, though, and for a peek at our past ones, click on “Calliope’s Closet”, the link at the top of this column, for plenty of others to choose from.
The El Dorado Hills version of Poetry Off-the-Shelves meets tonight from 5-7pm in the El Dorado Hills library on Silva Valley Parkway, this week in the main section of the library. And a note that tomorrow (Weds.), there will be a reading at University of the Pacific in Stockton from Sixteen River Press’s new anthology, America, We Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience by selected famous/infamous/unknown poets. That's in the Wendell Phillips Center, 1000 W. Stadium Dr. at UOP, 7-9pm. Free. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.
Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.