After a painting by Kathrine Lemke Waste
A certain rage
like words upon a page—
ceramic blue—real peach,
the nothing we can reach.
Rumple the cloth around
the last confining sound
that rustles in the light
and makes the dark too tight
for self-hate or self-pride
revealing what we hide:
the art so poor
that it cannot endure;
the center’s dark surprise,
that wounds the opened eyes;
the canvas we destroy,
the tantrum we enjoy;
the efforts we abuse
for all the art we lose,
like words upon a page
torn by a certain rage.
A GLUT OF ANGELS
I enter the house of angels and
am at once given a halo to carry
with me as I browse and admire.
The power of love is everywhere
in elegance and simplicity
and I am in the influence. I am
reduced to surprise of humility
I want to soar through my own heart
like a reunion; I want my eyes
to preserve everything they see
in my symbolic need of angels.
The aisles narrow. . .angels balance
on shelves. . . crystal-bodied angels
sparkle from glass enclosures . . .
a cloy of angels fastens to the
walls. . .they overlap. . .they are
too many. . .they become one. . .
I am overwhelmed. . .I buy nothing. . .
I go out the door, still holding on
to my wire and glitter halo.
(first pub. in CFCP Winning Poems
Booklet, 1997 and Hayden’s
IF WE COULD TOUCH COLOR,
what would we feel—
what new sensation
for lack of feeling . . .
what does numbness know of touch,
what not to trust of the brightest red,
the hottest yellow, the saddest blue . . .
how could we not bruise
the softest pastel,
the subtle fading against all texture,
the quietness of white . . .
and how not be overwhelmed by
the heaviest of tones that are almost black,
that throb in backgrounds
and cut against edges of completion—
as against frames . . .
why would we enter
such a strange unknown,
some need that is never satisfied:
the wanting to blend—
become part of that which thrills us . . .
(After “Love” by May Sarton)
It was only love, and I was its failed student,
always looking out the window
into some daydream . . .
I mistrusted it, thinking its edges over-
powered its center
that was too far away, and deep . . .
I struggled with it—wanting it to be
to equal my perfect illusion of it . . .
I could never learn my way
through all its disappointments.
It was love—a changeling—ungraspable . . .
Even now, I call it—censure it—challenge it
again—willing to soften my terms—
if only it will love me past my harsh resistance . . .
THIS SIMILE… THESE SIMILES…
Propped Against Stripped Wall :
Ruin against ruin ,
what will survive here ,
among words ,
broken into sentences
thrown against walls in little shouts
and whimperings . . .
how long will it take—life against death
—survival against destruction ?
Weeds or flowers in their own struggles
and surrender . . . Oh, that I can lose myself .
Oh, that I should
turn against myself like that—
in such confusion and desire—
in all the ways of self-destruction.
Who will help me . . . ?
Here we are hidden in white,
a surrender of mercy and fear—
that we will be found
trembling beyond description—
our own cries for help
that even we ignore .
It is the whole of it—
the entire arrangement : words
on white page , the description
struggling to be known by any other way .
sweet mouths of flowers
sweet eyes of flowers
innocent and loved
entering and entering
this harsh existence
of life and its welcome
oh, and oh, how fragile
Each sad little death bears such burdens
of regret . How can we bear them all ?
They haunt us : each fallen bird and
dying flower , given this small tribute of words
the moiré of darkness,
lying in wait .
Someone I Loved :
Whose face is this ,
staring out of the darkness—
whose memoried face , eyes hidden,
mouth in a tight silence—
still not revealed through this dim memory ?
is to go where . . . ?
It is you—
so full of shreds
and blurs—its dark receding .
(After Re-Arrangements: A Book
of Wall Flowers Photographed by
TO WAKEN AN OLD MEMORY
Old love is
sheltered in the
and the tempered now.
Rose-colored by time
how loyal it stays
to all that it
It makes its own
conditions of give
old love that still belongs
the comfort of time
and knows no failure.
(Balboa, California, 1940s)
The small sea-house grew musty in winter
with its dark wood
and its just-so window shades,
All the tourist noise was gone,
and the days endured themselves,
and the nights,
and the sea rolled in and out of time
with a certain patience.
The quiet light seemed almost blue
when the day closed down
and the sea-sounds muffled against the air
like a lamentation.
The house would creak and brace itself
against whatever force
was set against it.
To live by the sea in winter
is a lonely waiting:
too cold to stroll by day—
too gray its colorless dimension.
I was too young to love it then.
That would come later.
Tonight I think of that small house
with a sweet remember;
the safe domestic hum
as I bided my time to be gone from there;
the quiet rustling of the rooms;
the restless way I stared out into the night
from the gaze-back window.
The esteemed poet stands in a marsh of
swirling words that settle around him
like a homing of white birds;
he can have his pick of them
but only stands there—
stunned to silence
by the sheer whiteness,
of the words—
blinded by them, even,
when he contemplates
more than another—
wanting to capture them, somehow,
in immortal poems,
when all he can do is watch them
in their shining presence,
and become their poem.
—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce Odam, who will be undergoing hip surgery Dec. 12. Keep her in your thoughts!