Friday, September 28, 2012
Coup de Foudre
“Somehow I outlived a stormy night with snow on my eyelids”
You fell around me & into every palpable
thing—rhododendron, cracked sidewalk. The
world became stranger. You fell around me and
each time it was slightly different, a glitter of ice
on boots, the hush as under an elevated train,
white noise breeding silence, an under-
ground life, furtive, quickening like prey
in gun-sight. And often as if from another life,
a picture of walking through and around
the blue chambers of longing which folded
in on themselves like chambers of the
nautilus, which wills itself to sink down into
the pink sand of the bottom, whatever is
untrammeled, virgin. Once on a circular
stair, I stopped before a small round peephole
a vision of sky in which I glimpsed you, winking
even-star, ice planet, space-that-never-was,
untenable and quick-vanishing as snow.
Poem for a Birthday
Don’t say a word, just breathe on the window
and trace a shape. If it is a branch may it flower,
weighted with the green globes of
pears. If it is a bird
let it rest on the tallest branch, breathe in a
more crystal air.
Let it flap its wings, ascending through
the layers until
it feels a stranger to itself. Let
if fly home. Let it be the rabbit whose quick
heart pulses in the tall grass.
Let it run and past
the window and into the white
world, and the moon in the morning, and the stars
which no one can see.
For John Keats
You wait for the last carriage or
it has arrived—horse breath,
chestnuts in bloom, a circle of
white. A spot spreads on a cloth—
crest of the red poll—thin
stripped poppy—a brightness you
could not help but love. I cannot
be mistaken in that color, you
said. This is arterial blood and I
must die. In a heaviness of night,
I wake confused, my left arm burns,
nerves throbbing, and I touch it
to cool plaster. You kept walking,
I am sure of it—descending Maida
Vale to Marleybone, a pallor
of skies, the tap rooms, stables,
a linden in new leaf in which
you struggled to read the fortitude
it takes to love. A critic writes that
your poems, until almost the last,
are never about despair—the self
collapsing inward, but always a
scaling a space that unreels
to silk. In my night room—the
pitted walls, I grow afraid a day
will come when I cannot picture
the lark ascent—blues ineffable
as taste. Bitter and uneasy in mind.
Yet at the end you tried to comfort
your friend—you said, for you had
seen it before, Death is coming.
It will not be so terrible. Poor Severn.
Paso Del Norte
There would have been a reason to settle
here, perhaps when the river rose,
the rows of concrete-poured houses
plaster saints, Christmas lights. At the edge
tarmac roads decline to dirt, beyond
the chalked squares of developments,
stalled by recession, scrub, mesquite.
Above the bridge by Fort Bliss: It’s a good day
to be a soldier. The legends of desert battle:
the men who marched off into nowhere.
In Flaubert’s story St. Julian I’Hospitalier
the boy who wishes to be great murders a
mouse, and this small death ignites a blood
hunger so acute, every day the boy rides out
driving his horse until its mouth turns white.
He slaughters the foxes, the water birds, the
stags in the deep woods, pushing a whole herd
into a small river; and the red of the water pleases
him, he loves it as he loves no person, scheming to
kill the wife who has betrayed him, until, cursed,
he murders both his parents instead--his sword
pushing through his mother’s white shawl.
This is the valley of bones where nothing
can grow. Blood-strain dimming behind his eyes,
he redeems himself, carries a leper through high waters,
pressing the man’s open wounds against his
own. A story about hunger and its slow slaughter.
Behind the gates of Fort Bliss, the young boys
with shaved heads wait for their transport to
a desert much like this one. The same spit
in their mouths, tang of dust, blood-rust,
longing—the red of the water, the stags leaping.
The Saint of Hospitality is the murderous
boy. He becomes the host who carries us all
across. I would not stop him from passing through this
city: Passage of the North where the migrants
slide across the dessicated river, abandoning
names and shoes. On the corner walking past us
like ghosts, and we touch them, even when we
do not touch them—not even with our eyes.