Sunday, December 18, 2011

Persephone (Proserpine) Prepares to go Underground for Six Months This Thursday (12/22)

—Painting by Dante Gabriel Rosetti

—Tom Goff, Carmichael


Young as a girl’s breath
breaking the gloom of the old
are you, sweet avatar of the waning days.

Sheltering here in the temple of mindful life,
you outfling your long hair, wind-deranged,
in front of your lovely face, outfling
and finger-comb it in one auburn burst:

all that soft chestnut nova between
two hands. From girl to immortal,
just like that. Then back to your disguise:
in one instant your beautiful
brown hair recoils, resuming its
mortal perfection.

Come to the one who guesses your
secret. Embrace me. Murmur the soft kiss
of your words, press your mouth to my mouth.
Love me with the thrust of your legs
and hips, the caress of your breasts.
Your love is the mist of the mountains,
bird music in the underbrush at dusk and dawn.

How easy the task of warming
an old man’s hands and shoulders,
legs, loins, and chest, for a girl who
nightly rekindles the flame of the stars.


Long ago, I wrote you those first words
of sexual rapture, trying to distill
our pleasuring joy into syllables. And these
poems left you abashed. Right you are.
Lovemaking, for all that spirit love alive
in the blood, feels intensely private, no
one’s affair beyond the yielding contour
and skin music of the joined. But think: we
who kiss and interpenetrate

merely obey universal form,
wear our selves away with each
thrust and shudder and susurrus of skin.
We become faceless Khajuraho temple
carvings. Come, little nude, posture with me
in every lithe, nervy insertion or capture
of the Kama Sutra. Be my ecstatic
partner, or become two of you. (I have
enough, and more than enough, for you
both.) Your gasps and murmurs

divide like cells, rise hot and fuse with stars.
We are tracing the amazing outlines
of dancers, dervishes, newborns, ghosts,
and gods. Our climax
is the rose of dusk sowing the fields with blush,
yet retreats into dark like the poppies.
Little blooms, folding their petals
shut upon the drug
in their seed.

III. Spanish Song

I am a village elder.
I trust effort, and wisdom, a plan.
At dawn comes a black-haired maiden,
flings me one glance and I am no man.

Sunlit face and brown eyes unbowed
by a jar of water atop,
she softly calls to me Good morning!
straight across from the door of my shop.

In her patched and plain dress she comes glowing;
slender, tall as a river-born reed.
And the knell of the church bell in my heart
tolls a summons from old man Need.

My maid smiles at the drover, beekeeper,
knife-grinder, and all she may meet
sweeping lightly by, straight calves and ankles
on two dusty but pretty bare feet.

All I knew of myself turns to question:
where’s the effort, the wisdom, the plan?
In one dawn, one soft cry of good morning,
comes a maiden, and I am no man.


I sit close to him at my lessons:
sometimes we’re almost shoulder to shoulder.

What does he want of me? He talks
of sentences, intellectual things.
He’s kinda decent; he never puts

on the moves. But there we are,
just bending together over a book, a paper,
or way too close to a Gateway screen.
I think the glow will microwave us.

When he throws back his head
in a laugh, I can’t help seeing
the hairs in his nose. (I haven’t

checked his ears for hair just yet.)
Sometimes, his words float like balloons,
I actually see them. And I think I’ve spent

my whole life with earbuds on. And the sound
that pounds through wires from the thing
at my waist is draining me from me, fast.

When I get it and he says good job
I feel the earbuds pop out and my real ears
open. Just the other day, he says something
about my work, and I’m

in the black cold salt ocean
far out from our beach,
clothes stolen for all I know,

and there goes the last of my body heat
steaming up to midnight under
no moon.


My bloom of dusk, you sow every field with blush:
what hope for me? My eyes trace you as long
as your soft shimmer can clasp its dazzle, cling
to the darkening sky-satin. But you relinquish
your hold, my rose, for petals cannot hold,
no more than palms can cup, the flaring glory.
And so you’re lost each night to a starry
lord, my Persephone of the moon-clad cold,
the void, that unbridged emptiness you’ve traveled
so countlessly many times, abandoning me.
Like Vincent Millay I ache to touch that sky,
your cloud-woman shape at my fingers’ ends: but, baffled
again!…I thank the gods of the sensual bed
you’ve caressed me, taken your rapture: only then fled.