Says the wife to the house,
we are not together. You have no heart
at all, no percussive blunder to ruin you.
Your rooms are cool and languid,
your doors open and close,
even the knives are stacked like kindling.
You give back everything you take.
The cacti peer from their clay pots
like waterless periscopes.
Nothing in me is where it belongs
Bleecker Street, Summer
for the eternal idleness of the imagined return,
for rare flutes and bare feet, and the August bedroom
of tangled sheets and the Sunday salt, ah violin!
a month of street accordions and sprinklers
laying the dust, small shadows running from me.
ciao, Antonio, and the water-cries of children
tearing the rose-coloured sky in streams of paper;
it is dusk in the nostrils and the smell of water
down littered streets that lead you to no water,
and gathering islands and lemons in the mind.
I would undress you in the summer heat,
and laugh and dry your damp flesh if you came.
A Bronze God, or a Letter on Demand
as two sax solos from two ages across a stage, learning the languages
of kissing with your eyes closed. I like to think of you as a god
to whom I no longer pray, as a god I aspire to. I like the opening of your joined
which is like an urn where my ashes find a home. The music of your lashes;
the silent way your body wears out mine.
Mostly, I like to think of you at night when a black screen of shining dust shines
from your mines to the edge of my skin, where you are a lamp of flutters.
I remember the spectral lashes–marigold, tamarind, secret thing between your thighs,
of closed kissing eyes. At night, the possibility of you is a heavy
sculpture of heavy bronze at the side of my bed,
Circumference of Chance
When possibility whispers, treat it gently. -Tara Betts
I could not sleep in my bed
of leaves, so I moved to the dry
last night I tossed,
turned on a stone—
its smooth curve bruised
my hip, as it settled under
the small of my back.
With my aching gratitude
I kept it warm hoping
it would hatch. I whispered
the only prayer I knew
over its roundness again,
and again until I had
nearly believed, nearly formed
my religion from this
repetition. Here was my hope,
here in the dust,
pocked with grit.
I swear it cracked open
while I attempted rest
and in its place
small opportunities appeared,
I keep one in my pocket
a sparrow’s egg
I run my finger over
its circumference of chance
someone will touch
my shoulder, ask
what is that prayer
your breath, and I
touch the stone
to make sure
it’s still there.
The silk which she loves
flows against her skin,
the white silk spun
from a cocoon of words,
spun and shimmering in her dark eyes
against dark skin
which tells her who she is
and who she is not,
am I the moth inside
her mouth where words
form, silk cocoon dark skin
against the words of need
I did not say love
until which of us can tell
who is the spinner
who, the moth
who, the silk.
WHAT YOU WANTED
(You thought I didn’t know)
You wanted something
of beauty long
tall around your table
something pretty high
up on your downsizing
laughing straight line
teeth and red
something on the sofa
pretty still life
something nestled between
dazzled and charmed
shooting stars and
those granulated whispers
of hope and loss.
You wanted something
something full and wise
to show how
much of this world
you own me
in my second division
thighs spread clean
slated, penciled in
with three degrees
a butter mint
at your reception.
ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF HER FIRST MARRIAGE
had i never leapt across the yellow grasses
of that meadow near Point Reyes to the sound
of the Hallelujah chorus never wound my adulterous
legs around my flute playing lover never been so blatant
so lewd i might still be married to that boy
from high school still be small and hidden in the pocket
of his green corduroy jacket peering out at other people’s
lives had i never danced to the bongos and the setting
sun at Big Sur never almost run away with that ferryman
masseur who could transport me to the land
of naked bodies and temple whore lore had i never been
such a bitch such a floozy never danced topless
in a bar never known the lotus flower
to blossom in my own goddess body never lived alone
with three children fed them eternal
soup of the week never been apprenticed
to a witch studied spells and incantations never sat on a wooden
floor howling with what came to me out of a cave never seen yellow
bellied death sitting on my bed forcing me to face
my real life— get up wash face bring fever down stay alive
to raise the children— would i have found my place in this sweet
bed where wanton and wild are loved by a man
who has light in his eyes where tigers and lions roam yellow hills
in my dreams and both sun and moon shine upon me?
Naomi Ruth Lowinsky
We Have So Little Time
I understand what it means to turn
Back into stone,
The elephant’s huge eye closing…
I wanted to be the first breath on the first skin,
The air wild there.
A china cup on the motorway.
New blood striding out of my heart.
Look at me when you say that.
Look at me. One wet red petal in a marble bowl,
O the fate of my name sliding
In your throat.
The way a sky looks
For you. The way a widow
Looks for you. I climbed stone, wild
& stunned as rose. I was a revolution
At midnight, I went man to man lighting towns
On fire. I let them come
With their engines, their declarations.
I went inland with spices
In my hair. I gave up like a tide. I built
Boats for the children, animals,
The telegraph machine, the cinemas,
The sidewalks. I sent them all away so I could finally be
Alone, a tree in a field burning
Through its ringed wet heart.
It rained forever the day
You arrived. How the spade twisted down, down,
And I, like a country, began.
I do not. Snow piles up outside the kitchen window. Feta cheese.
Cucumber, sliced thinly. Olive oil. Pita. Get on a plane. Visit me. From
France, Italy, New Mexico. A lover warned me once to be more patient. I
emailed my doctor this morning. My left ankle swells at night. Doesn’t
throb though. Ibuprofen. Some water. Lukewarm. I might have married
once if not for bells and cellos and leashes. And affairs. There’s something
lost in the transcription of beauty. Trust. Champagne. The average person
shrugs forty times a day. Let’s travel. Everything turns up straw. How
much I want you. How much a boat. How much a box, a mouth. A tongue-
tied jester. How much I eat when I close my eyes. How much you are gone
now and I’m not. How much bread I really need. A blue pillow where I rest
my head. At night. And in the morning I think how I’ll sell my blood to pay
the rent, how I’ll pull my hair and trade it to the wind.
Says the wife to the house,
Take Me To Church, Sinead O’Connor
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Snowy Owl Goddess
Loudell, in a loose cotton dress
the color of delphiniums,
her hair, owl-feathered and quiet
as her naked toes in their pale sandals
is a friend from this harvest part
of our lives,
a Minerva woman
of herbs and salsas, hellebore, trumpet vines
and heirloom tomatoes. She glides
among us all,
as if we too might be
Almost in a trance from the heady
August evening, and perhaps from the corner
of my indolent eye, more absorbing the murmur
than watching, I registered
this Snowy Owl of a woman
as she stripped an olive through her raptor’s mouth,
then delicately flung the pit
into the narrow garden verge next
to her deck chair.
Usually fastidious as a pharmacist
she surprised me in this seeming-act
of littering, until I realized “oh, the pit might take root,
grow!” It was her planter’s instinct/
give every seed a place.
Sipping her chardonnay and, with one hand cracking
some pistachios to neatly deposit
their shells in a bowl with pits from olives
the rest of us had eaten,
she reminds me that even
there need not be waste.
Every day the image, planted in the hull of
twilight conversation, visits me: A Snowy Owl
suddenly spreading her 10-foot wingspan
to cover this sacred earth,
its arcing motion, her arm unfolding into air
with the olive pit
How hard it is to take September
straight—not as a harbinger
of something harder.
Merely like suds in the air, cool scent
scrubbed clean of meaning—or innocent
of the cold thing coldly meant.
How hard the heart tugs at the end
of summer, and longs to haul it in
when it flies out of hand
at the prompting of the first mild breeze.
It leaves us by degrees
only, but for one who sees
summer as an absolute,
Pure State of Light and Heat, the height
to which one cannot raise a doubt,
as soon as one leaf’s off the tree
no day following can fall free
of the drift of melancholy.
Mary Jo Salter