Tuesday, December 29, 2009
love cave around her face. Return and return again.
How when the lamplight was lowered she pressed against
him, twining her fingers in his. Return and return again.
How their legs swam together like dolphins and their toes
played like little tunnies. Return and return again.
How she sat beside him cross-legged, telling him stories of
her childhood. Return and return again.
How she closed her eyes when his were open, how they
breathed together, breathing each other. Return and return again.
How they fell into slumber, their bodies curled together like
two spoons. Return and return again.
How they went together to Otherwhere, the fairest land they
had ever seen. Return and return again.
O best of all nights, return and return again.
Monday, December 21, 2009
you are completely screwed, because
the next question is How Much?,
and then it is hundreds of hours later,
and you are still hunched over
your flowcharts and abacus,
trying to decide if you have gotten enough.
This is the loneliest job in the world:
to be an accountant of the heart.
It is late at night. You are by yourself,
and all around you, you can hear
the sounds of people moving
in and out of love,
pushing the turnstiles, putting
their coins in the slots,
paying the price which is asked,
which constantly changes.
No one knows why.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,
dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
becomes for a moment fragmented,
then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can't imagine
how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,
this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;
I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard, I want
to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.
Monday, November 23, 2009
If the trees must, let them silently toss;
No bird is singing now, and if there is,
Be it my loss.
It will be long ere the marshes resume,
It will be long ere the earliest bird:
So close the windows and not hear the wind,
But see all wind-stirred.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
in disobedience to the instruction he
would have received if he had asked,
the old man got up from his bed,
dressed, and went to the barn.
The bare branches of winter had emerged
through the last leaf-colors of fall,
the loveliest of all, browns and yellows
delicate and nameless in the gray light
and the sifting rain. He put feed
in the troughs for eighteen ewe lambs,
sent the dog for them, and she
brought them. They came eager
to their feed, and he who felt
their hunger was by their feeding
eased. From no place in the time
of present places, within no boundary
nameable in human thought,
they had gathered once again,
the shepherd, his sheep, and his dog
with all the known and the unknown
round about to the heavens' limit.
Was this his stubbornness or bravado?
No. Only an ordinary act
of profoundest intimacy in a day
that might have been better. Still
the world persisted in its beauty,
he in his gratitude, and for this
he had most earnestly prayed
My dearest Eliza,
… I wish indeed I could feel worthy of your affection — my reason, if not my imagination, is getting to believe you when you whisper to me that I have it, but as somebody says in Miss Austen, 'I do not at all mind having what is too good for me'; my delight is at times intense. You must not suppose because I tell you of the wild, burning pain which I have felt, and at times …still feel, that my love for you has ever been mere suffering. Even at the worst there was a wild, delicious excitement which I would not have lost for the world. … the feeling has been too eager not to have a good deal of pain in it, and the tension of mind has really been very great at times, still the time that I have known and loved you is immensely the happiest I have ever known.
Walter Bagehot was once identified as "The Greatest Victorian," though was demoted by later generations in favor of his contemporaries Charles Darwin and Karl Marx. He founded the National Review, and he eventually took over as editor-in-chief of The Economist. Bagehot strengthened the magazine's influence on government policy-making. He helped expand the publication's focus to include coverage of political issues as well as economic ones, and to analyze closely events happening in America (then in its Civil War and Reconstruction era).
Monday, November 9, 2009
You've got to find Eurydice on your own,
To find the small crack
between here and everywhere else all by yourself.
How could it be otherwise?
Everyone's gone away, the houses are all empty,
And overcast starts to fill the sky like soiled insulation.
a sacred place
and the students fidgeted and shrank
in their chairs, the most serious of them all
said it was his car,
being in it alone, his tape deck playing
things he'd chosen, and others knew the truth
had been spoken
and began speaking about their rooms,
their hiding places, but the car kept coming up,
the car in motion,
music filling it, and sometimes one other person
who understood the bright altar of the dashboard
and how far away
a car could take him from the need
to speak, or to answer, the key
in having a key
and putting it in, and going.
Shut your ears tight against this blarneying Irish liar and actor. Read no more of his letters. He will fill his fountain pen with your heart's blood, and sell your most sacred emotions on the stage. … He is treacherous as only an Irishman can be: he adores you with one eye and sees you with the other as a calculated utility. He has been recklessly trying to please you, to delight you, to persuade you to carry him up to heaven for a moment (he is trying to do it now); and when you have done it, he will run away and give it all to the mob. … Oh dont, dont, DONT fall in love with him; but dont grudge him the joy he finds in being in love with you, and writing all sorts of wild but heartfelt exquisite lies — lies, lies, lies, lies — to you, his adoredest.
Friday, November 6, 2009
He liked to hang around
With other beautiful people.
He liked to get intoxicated with them,
Have sex with them, make money
With them. Among them,
He found, one did not have to strain.
Wanted to hang around with them
And came bearing gifts,
A little something. (These
Gift-bearers were a lot like
Politics itself is, "Showbiz
For ugly people.") In this world
If anything went wrong there
Was always enough money around
To cover it. After he was through
With this crowd he started hanging
Out with a bunch of academic
Gangsters. These were
A different crew altogether:
Smart, on the main, but mean
And eaten alive by resentment.
They never had enough money
And were bitter beyond belief,
To a troupe of electricians.
Freud said somewhere
In our unconscious
We are always 23.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Beside the orchard into the after-light
Of the cold evening, the ash gold owls come sailing
Close to the branches, gliding across the arbor
Where the bare grapevines ripen only shadows
In the dead of winter, and at the end of a garden
Suddenly flare their wings, hover,
And swerve, claws first, down to the grass together.
Friday, October 30, 2009
her body and put on the nightgown she'd worn
as a bride and lay down with a .38 in her right hand.
Before she did the thing, she went over her life.
She started at the beginning and recalled everything—
all the shame, sorrow, regret and loss.
This took her a long time into the night
and a long time crying out in rage and grief and disbelief—
until sleep captured her and bore her down.
She dreamed of a green pasture and a green oak tree.
She dreamed of cows. She dreamed she stood
under the tree and the brown and white cows
came slowly up from the pond and stood near her.
Some butted her gently and they licked her bare arms
with their great coarse drooling tongues. Their eyes, wet as
shining water, regarded her. They came closer and began to
press their warm flanks against her, and as they pressed
an almost unendurable joy came over her and
lifted her like a warm wind and she could fly.
She flew over the tree and she flew over the field and
she flew with the cows.
When the woman woke, she rose and went to the mirror.
She looked a long time at her living self.
Then she went down to the kitchen which the sun had made all
yellow, and she made tea. She drank it at the table, slowly,
all the while touching her arms where the cows had licked.
Friday, October 23, 2009
nothing and water just runs right onto the ground in the
crawl space underneath the house and then trickles out
into the stream that passes through the backyard. It turns
out that the house is not really attached to the ground but
sits atop a few loose concrete blocks all held in place by
gravity, which, as I understand it, means "seriousness." Well,
this is serious enough. If you look into it further you will
discover that the water is not attached to anything either
and that perhaps the rocks and the trees are not all that
firmly in place. The world is a stage. But don't try to move
anything. You might hurt yourself, besides that's a job for
the stagehands and union rules are strict. You are merely a
player about to deliver a soliloquy on the septic system to a
couple dozen popple trees and a patch of pale blue sky.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
wider than one
natives in their
a place with
its own harvests.
Or that in
from the genuine
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
artichokes in New Jersey, my father
planted the seeds and they grew one magnificent
artichoke, late-season, long after the squash,
tomatoes, and zucchini.
It was the derelict in my father's garden,
little Buddha of a vegetable, pinecone gone awry.
It was as strange as a bony-plated armadillo.
My mother prepared the artichoke as if preparing
a miracle. She snipped the bronzy winter-kissed tips
mashed breadcrumbs, oregano, parmesan, garlic,
and lemon, stuffed the mush between the leaves,
baked, then placed the artichoke on the table.
This, she said, was food we could eat with our fingers.
When I hesitated, my father spoke of beautiful Cynara,
who'd loved her mother more than she'd loved Zeus.
In anger, the god transformed her
into an artichoke. And in 1949 Marilyn Monroe
had been crowned California's first Artichoke Queen.
I peeled off a leaf like my father did,
dipped it in melted butter, and with my teeth
scraped and sucked the nut-flavored slimy stuff.
We piled up the inedible parts, skeletons
of leaves and purple prickles.
Piece by piece, the artichoke came apart,
the way we would in 1959, the year the flowerbuds
of the artichokes in my father's garden bloomed
without him, their blossoms seven inches wide
and violet-blue as bruises.
But first we had that miracle on our table.
We peeled and peeled, a vegetable striptease,
and worked our way deeper and deeper,
down to the small filet of delectable heart.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
The day is waiting for winter
Without a sound.
Everything is waiting—
Broken-down cars in the dead weeds.
The weeds themselves.
Is in no hurry and stays
For a long time
On each cornstalk.
Blackbirds are silent
And sit in piles.
From a distance
They look like
Spilled on the road.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
found a job waitressing babysitting
even though I have three degrees
a temporary fix
while you finished school
near mountains where you climb
I wish I'd known you
when you didn't know what you wanted
then maybe you would've followed me to the Peg
I could never live in Manitoba you said
would feel bad if I gave up
anything for you
so you ended it
even so you couldn't stay away
visited me every summer
until she moved in
after graduation you went up north
how's that better than Winnipeg
you work 20 days on
fly down to her on days off
it could be me
Friday, October 9, 2009
I climbed into the cab of a semi.
The Aussie trucker pointed with his thumb
to the compartment behind him.
Get some sleep. I don't remember
if he was old or young.
His face was so plain
it left no impression.
I climbed into the narrow space,
closed my eyes, my body vibrating
to the hum of eighteen rolling tires.
Hours later, when I woke, the dashboard
glowed like a field of lightning bugs.
I flipped through his eight-tracks,
surprised to find familiar songs - Johnny Cash,
Willie and Waylon.
We sang Six Days on the Road,
over and over.
He taught me what it's like to keep moving.
Towns flew by our windows,
stoplights, billboards, traffic signs
became a blur. On the open road,
miles of white line and fence
separated gravel from the grass.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
in back of the orchestra may be exceedingly beautiful, it's hard to know
from here, just as I, to her, may be gorgeous myself and the day, in
retrospect, divine, as all the past loves of my life have been, and that boring
evening in County Derry as well, oh yes, they are all beautiful, now, when
I look back upon them, as, no doubt, my life will seem from some calm
and beautiful distance, some rapturous perspective, but here in the here
and now let me say that it's midafternoon, my lover is on her way over,
it's been a long chilly day in Budapest, what I thought was a herniated disc
is not, after all, a herniated disc, Mozart's 250th is behind us, as is the 60th
anniversary of Bartók's death, and it is only James Taylor on the stereo—
sweet, sentimental James—and I don't give a damn what anyone thinks
of my taste or emotional proclivities, I only know it's Thursday and in
an hour I'll be making love, and, looking up at me from the pillow,
my lover may or may not consider me beautiful, or even desirable,
but the deed will be already done, the evening before us, there
are roasted red peppers and goat cheese in the refrigerator, I'll be
as far from death as a man can be, oh can you imagine that?
Friday, August 28, 2009
The quickened sky is mercury, it slithers
across the horizon. Against that liquid silence,
a V of birds crosses-sudden and silver.
They tilt, becoming white light as they turn, glitter
like shooting stars arcing slow motion out of the abyss,
Now they look like chips of flint,
the arrow broken.
I think, This isn't myth-
they are not signs, not souls.
again, they're ordinary ducks or maybe
Canada geese. Veering away they shoot
into the west, too far for my eyes, aching
as they do.
Never mind what I said
before. Those birds took my breath. I knew what it meant.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Wheat and tobacco. A little sorghum. It's not dramatic terrain
with ocean waves crashing against the cliffs. It's mostly gently
rolling plains. Long stretches of prairie. You know you've entered
it when the signs along the highway begin telling you what God
wants you to do. Those who live here regard it as their duty to
make these things known. Otherwise the rest of the country
would be left in the dark. The bibles in this region are larger than
elsewhere. Most weigh over a hundred pounds. It takes two strong
men to lift them into a pickup truck to haul off to church. All the
women dress up on Sundays. And all the white men shake hands.
Friday, August 7, 2009
those adolescent dreams of great, of greater,
or of greatest loving, let alone
the crumbly personal kind—compared with, say,
the public good or harder thoughts of death
obliterating thoughts of love, or after-
thoughts of love outgrown or love undone;
and not to be ironic either, not
to forget we come into the world alone
and leave it so; and not to be claiming more
than you can give, uncertain as I am
what I require: something like love, I guess,
whatever it is we've done without so long,
so faithfully and with such tenderness.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Some in their wealth, some in their body's force;
Some in their garments, though new-fangled ill;
Some in their hawks and hounds, some in their horse;
And every humour hath his adjunct pleasure,
Wherein it finds a joy above the rest:
But these particulars are not my measure;
All these I better in one general best.
Thy love is better than high birth to me,
Richer than wealth, prouder than garments' cost,
Of more delight than hawks or horses be;
And having thee, of all men's pride I boast:
Wretched in this alone, that thou mayst take
All this away, and me most wretched make
Monday, July 6, 2009
are blooming only for them, there where the air
by the formal beds is layered with the scent
of roses. From deep in their flushed and darkening hearts
pour odors of lemons and pepper, apricots, honey,
vanilla and myrrh and musk and semen, apples and quince,
raspberries and wine and ocean, the faint
scent of blood and the fragrance of death and the breath
of the life we are living now, in this place
where the roses are blooming for each of us, alone.
somehow I missed it, the moment when everything reached
the peak of ripeness. It wasn't at the solstice; that was only
the time of the longest light. It was sometime after that, when
the plants had absorbed all that sun, had taken it into themselves
for food and swelled to the height of fullness. It was in July,
in a dizzy blaze of heat and fog, when on some nights
it was too hot to sleep, and the restaurants set half their tables
on the sidewalks; outside the city, down the coast,
the Milky Way floated overhead, and shooting stars
fell from the sky over the ocean. One day the garden
was almost overwhelmed with fruition:
My sweet peas struggled out of the raised bed onto the mulch
of laurel leaves and bark and pods, their brilliantly colored
sunbonnets of rose and stippled pink, magenta and deep purple
pouring out a perfume that was almost oriental. Black-eyed Susans
stared from the flower borders, the orange cherry tomatoes
were sweet as candy, the fruit fattened in its swaths of silk,
hummingbirds spiraled by in pairs, the bees gave up
and decided to live in the lavender. At the market,
surrounded by black plums and rosy plums and sugar prunes
and white-fleshed peaches and nectarines, perfumey melons
and mangos, purple figs in green plastic baskets,
clusters of tiny Champagne grapes and piles of red-black cherries
and apricots freckled and streaked with rose, I felt tears
come into my eyes, absurdly, because I knew
that summer had peaked and was already passing
away. I felt very close then to understanding
the mystery; it seemed to me that I almost knew
what it meant to be alive, as if my life had swelled
to some high moment of response, as if I could
reach out and touch the season, as if I were inside
its body, surrounded by sweet pulp and juice,
shimmering veins and ripened skin.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
words and blades and cheddar cheese. Eschew
whatever's heavy, fast, and cumbersome:
meteorites, rumbly truck and stinky bus,
hockey players, falling vaults, and buffalo.
Steer clear of headlines, bank advices,
legal language, papal bulls, and grocery ads.
Every morning, listen to baroque divertimenti,
romantic operas, Hildegarde von Bingen hymns.
Evenings, read some lines from Shakespeare's comedies;
do a page of algebra; study shapes of clouds
and alchemy; make fun of your husbands feet.
Practice listening like a doe at the edge
of the earth's deep woods, but learn to disregard
most everything you hear (especially your father
and father-in-law). Learn some Indian lullabies;
speak with magic stones beneath your tongue.
Finally, I wish, avoid all tears—except
that the world and time will have their way
and weep we must. Perhaps enough is said
of grief and happiness to realize
that any child of yours will live a lifetime
utterly beguiled (as my child is)
by your bright smile, your wild and Irish laugh.
Monday, June 22, 2009
easy and lazy, even,
until you stand up to the plate
and see the fastball sailing inside,
an inch from your chin,
or circle in the outfield
straining to get a bead
on a small black dot
a city block or more high,
a dark star that could fall
on your head like a leaden meteor.
The grass, the dirt, the deadly hops
between your feet and overeager glove:
football can be learned,
and basketball finessed, but
there is no hiding from baseball
the fact that some are chosen
and some are not—those whose mitts
feel too left-handed,
who are scared at third base
of the pulled line drive,
and at first base are scared
of the shortstop's wild throw
that stretches you out like a gutted deer.
There is nowhere to hide when the ball's
spotlight swivels your way,
and the chatter around you falls still,
and the mothers on the sidelines,
your own among them, hold their breaths,
and you whiff on a terrible pitch
or in the infield achieve
something with the ball so
ridiculous you blush for years.
It's easy to do. Baseball was
invented in America, where beneath
the good cheer and sly jazz the chance
of failure is everybody's right,
beginning with baseball.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
the mountains when first seen by hunters
and traders and settlers were covered
with peavines. How could every cove
and clearing, old field, every
opening in the woods and even
understories of deep woods
be laced with vines and blossoms in
June? They say the flowers were so thick
the fumes were smothering. They tell
of shining fogs of bees above
the sprawling mess and every bush
and sapling tangled with tender
curls and tresses. I don't see how
it was possible for wild peas
to take the woods in shade and deep
hollows and spread over cliffs in
hanging gardens and choke out other
flowers. It's hard to believe the creek
banks and high ledges were that bright.
But hardest of all is to see
how such profusion, such overwhelming
lushness and lavish could vanish,
so completely disappear that
you must look through several valleys
to find a sprig or strand of wild
peavine curling on a weedstalk
like some word from a lost language
once flourishing on every tongue.
Friday, June 19, 2009
in love with only one woman
in a sea of women, all the others mere half-naked
swimmers and floaters, and if that one woman
therefore is clad in radiance
while the mere others are burdened by their bikinis,
then what does he do with a world
suddenly so small, the once unbiased sun
shining solely on her? And if that afternoon
turns dark, fat clouds like critics dampening
the already wet sea, does the man run—
he normally would—for cover, or does he dive
deeper in, get so wet he is beyond wetness
in all underworld utterly hers? And when
he comes up for air, as he must,
when he dries off and dresses up, as he must,
how will the pedestrian streets feel?
What will the street lamps illuminate? How exactly
will he hold her so that everyone can see
she doesn't belong to him, and he won't let go?
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
would I have consented
to be born? Next question.
When it comes time to go
will I go forlorn or
contented? Ask again.
Anything in between
should be easier. O
K, what made up my mind
to come to Carleton? Work.
My kind of work was not
easy to come by, I
came by it at Carleton;
it was simple as that
and lucky, plain lucky.
I cannot account for luck
but I can be grateful.
What was my kind of work?
whatever that may be.
Teaching is a kind of
learning, much like loving,
both doing each to each;
life itself, you might say.
Whatever teaching is
did I enjoy it? Yes.
Am I glad to leave it?
Even of life itself
enough is enough. Good-
bye Dow's Lake, goodbye Tower,
essays, papers, exams,
you I can bear to leave.
Bur how shall I improve
the swiftly-dimming hour?
I shall deteriorate
amid bucolic dreams
and gather in my fate;
there's lots worse ways than that.
Goodbye good friends. Alas,
some goodbyes are like death;
they bring the heart to earth
and teach it how to die.
Earth, here we come again,
we're going our to grass.
Think of us now and then,
we'll think of you. Goodbye.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and pink and blue
and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and
cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put
the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how
he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and
then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to
say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him
down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like
mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."
Friday, June 5, 2009
in front, four wings blurring the light;
butterscotch-colored female anchored to his tail.
They careen into grass stalks,
then explode across vast distances.
The lightness of their bodies, heaviness of my own.
Their ballet singes the air with red wheeling fire
as his abdomen curls back to hers
to fertilize mid-flight—a snake eating its tail.
Now they skitter from safe harbor to safe harbor,
touching down beneath piers of bent grass.
Her tail dimples the pond, dispatching eggs.
I want wings to lift me above these waters of regret.
I want sunlight charged with electricity—
in my eyes, the dew reflects a hundred you's.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Mom threw a potted plant,
smashed the TV set, banged
her head against the wall.
When I got there I saw the deep
bruise on her forehead.
She could barely speak so we sat
mute for some minutes.
I watched her slide to the side
of the couch as she scratched
her arms, pulled at her hair.
I needed to bring her back
so I told the story of
our Saturday excursions,
searching for the perfect
the futility of finding
something immaculate like that,
something slim-fitting and neat,
able to match any pair of pants
or skirt we wore.
We never found it
of course but kept searching
as we watched other women
more glamorous than we were.
When I asked if she
remembered that, she laughed
and said, "oh yes."
I looked around the room
into the distant faces,
haunted hair, blank stares.
"Time for lunch," a nurse yelled.
I walked Mom to her chair,
watched the aides tie
bibs around the residents’ necks,
leaned to kiss
Mom gently good-bye on her cheek,
trying not to notice
she no longer smelled like
She had taken on the scent
of the urine-ammonia halls
and the talc caked heavy
on her body.
I walked out, then felt
like a voice without words
tell me to return so I ran
to where she sat, her hands
on her lap.
They were the same hands,
so I squeezed them tight,
kissed her for a second time.
Only this time I hugged
took her all in.
Ohdeargod, this made me tear up at work.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Death is patient as a dead cat.
Death is a doorknob made of flesh.
Death is that angelic farm girl
gored by the bull on her way home
from school, crossing the pasture
for a shortcut. In the seventh grade
she couldn't read or write. She wasn't a virgin.
She was "simpleminded," we all said.
It was May, a time of lilacs and shooting stars.
She's lived in my memory for sixty years.
Death steals everything except our stories.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
their own bodies
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
the long tapers
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
Monday, April 20, 2009
without the advantage or disadvantage of any prior acquaintance,
the other party very often says to you,
Tell me about yourself, I want to know all about you,
what's your story? And you think maybe they really and truly do
sincerely want to know your life story, and so you light up
a cigarette and begin to tell it to them, the two of you
lying together in completely relaxed positions
like a pair of rag dolls a bored child dropped on a bed.
You tell them your story, or as much of your story
as time or a fair degree of prudence allows, and they say,
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
each time a little more faintly, until the oh
is just an audible breath, and then of course
there's some interruption. Slow room service comes up
with a bowl of melting ice cubes, or one of you rises to pee
and gaze at himself with mild astonishment in the bathroom mirror.
And then, the first thing you know, before you've had time
to pick up where you left off with your enthralling life story,
they're telling you their life story, exactly as they'd intended to all
and you're saying, Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
each time a little more faintly, the vowel at last becoming
no more than an audible sigh,
as the elevator, halfway down the corridor and a turn to the left,
draws one last, long, deep breath of exhaustion
and stops breathing forever. Then?
Well, one of you falls asleep
and the other one does likewise with a lighted cigarette in his mouth,
and that's how people burn to death in hotel rooms.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
our nakedness became a form of gray;
then the rain came bursting,
and we were sheltered, blessed,
upheld in a world of elements
that held us justified.
In all the love I had felt for you before,
in all that love,
there was no love
like that I felt when the rain began:
dim room, enveloping rush,
the slenderness of your throat,
the blessèd slenderness.
It's the birthday of John Updike, (books by this author) born in Shillington, Pennsylvania (1932). He was an only child, and he said, "I'm sure that my capacity to fantasize and to make coherent fantasies, to have the patience to sit down day after day and to whittle a fantasy out of paper, all that relates to being an only child."
His father lost his job during the Great Depression, and the family moved into a farm house 11 miles out of town. So Updike spent much of his childhood alone, reading or living in a dream world. He read The New Yorker magazine every week, and while he was still in high school, he began sending his cartoons, poems, and stories to The New Yorker. Even though everything was rejected, he kept submitting to them. He won a scholarship to Harvard, and when he was a senior, The New Yorker finally accepted his work, and after he graduated the magazine offered him a job.
But he didn't enjoy living in New York City, and he realized that he was a small-town boy. So he moved with his wife to a small town outside of Boston, and he supported his family by writing short stories about middle-class, white Protestant families. He said that his early stories "were written on a manual typewriter ... in a one-room office ... between a lawyer and a beautician, above a cozy corner restaurant. ... My only duty was to describe reality as it had come to me to give the mundane its beautiful due."
He wrote in detail about the love lives of his characters. Other writers, like Henry Miller or D.H. Lawrence, had written explicitly about sex, but they wrote mostly about bohemian characters. Updike wrote about the sex lives of ordinary suburban Americans.
His novels got mixed reviews many critics objected to the explicit sexual descriptions. He said: "The artistic challenge to me, as I saw it in the late '50s and mid-'60s, was to try to describe sex honestly as a human transaction, as a human event, and try to place it on the continuum of the personality, to write about it freely but not necessarily as an endorsement of sex. I don't think sex really needs an endorsement."
He published more than 20 novels, and more than 20 collections of short stories. He is best known for his Rabbit books: Rabbit, Run (1960), Rabbit Redux (1971), Rabbit Is Rich (1981), and Rabbit at Rest (1990). Rabbit is Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, a former high school basketball star who becomes a used car salesman.
John Updike died just a couple of months ago from lung cancer, on January 27, 2009. He was 76 years old.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Periodically he pulls out a handkerchief
and blows his nose. I worry
about germs, but appreciate how he shares
the armrest, especially
considering his sizetoo large
to lay the tray over his lap.
His seatbelt barely buckles. At least
he doesn't have to ask for an extender
for which I imagine him grateful. Our upper arms
press against each other, like apricots growing
from the same node. My arm is warm
where his touches it. I close my eyes.
In the chilly, oxygen-poor air, I am glad
to be close to his breathing mass.
We want our own species. We want
to lie down next to our own kind.
Even here in this metal encumbrance, hurtling
improbably 30,000 feet above the earth,
with all this civilization, down
to the chicken-or-lasagna in their
even as the woman behind me is swiping
her credit card on the phone embedded
in my headrest and the folks in first
are watching their individual movies
on personal screens, I lean
into this stranger, seeking primitive comfort
heat, touch, breathas we slip
into the ancient vulnerability of sleep.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
In the dull pasture where I strolled
Was something I could not believe.
Dead grass appeared to slide and heave,
Though still too frozen-flat to stir,
And rocks to twitch, and all to blur.
What was this rippling of the land?
Was matter getting out of hand
And making free with natural law?
I stopped and blinked, and then I saw
A fact as eerie as a dream,
There was a subtle flood of steam
Moving upon the face of things.
It came from standing pools and springs
And what of snow was still around;
It came of winter's giving ground
So that the freeze was coming out,
As when a set mind, blessed by doubt,
Relaxes into mother-wit.
Flowers, I said, will come of it.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Night and day. In the night and in the day
wet from heat and the chill of the wind
on it. Muzzle to water, snorting, head swinging
and the taste of bay in the shadowed air.
The dignity of being. They slept that way,
knowing each other always.
Withers quivering for a moment,
fetlock and the proud rise at the base of the tail,
width of back. The volume of them, and each other's weight.
Fences were nothing compared to that.
People were nothing. They slept standing,
their throats curved against the other's rump.
They breathed against each other,
whinnied and stomped.
There are things they did that I do not know.
The privacy of them had a river in it.
Had our universe in it. And the way
its border looks back at us with its light.
This was finally their freedom.
The freedom an oak tree knows.
That is built at night by stars.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
confiningly few sides.
There is the left,
the right, the back, the belly, and tempting
in-betweens, northeasts and northwests,
that tip the heart and soon pinch circulation
in one or another arm.
Yet we turn each time
with fresh hope, believing that sleep
will visit us here, descending like an angel
down the angle our flesh's sextant sets,
tilted toward that unreachable star
hung in the night between our eyebrows, whence
dreams and good luck flow.
your ankles. Unclench your philosophy.
This bed was invented by others; know we go
to sleep less to rest than to participate
in the twists of another world.
This churning is our journey.
can only end, around a corner
we do not know
we are turning.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
on the husky, late-night flavor
of your first girlfriend's voice
along the wires of the telephone
what else to do but steal
your father's El Dorado from the drive,
and cruise out to the park on Driscoll Hill?
Then climb the county water tower
and aerosol her name in spraycan orange
a hundred feet above the town?
Because only the letters of that word,
DORIS, next door to yours,
in yard-high, iridescent script,
are amplified enough to tell the world
who's playing lead guitar
in the rock band of your blood.
You don't consider for a moment
the shock in store for you in 10 A.D.,
a decade after Doris, when,
out for a drive on your visit home,
you take the Smallville Road, look up
and see RON LOVES DORIS
still scorched upon the reservoir.
This is how history catches up
by holding still until you
bump into yourself.
What makes you blush, and shove
the pedal of the Mustang
almost through the floor
as if you wanted to spray gravel
across the features of the past,
or accelerate into oblivion?
Are you so out of love that you
can't move fast enough away?
But if desire is acceleration,
experience is circular as any
Indianapolis. We keep coming back
to what we areeach time older,
more freaked out, or less afraid.
And you are older now.
You should stop today.
In the name of Doris, stop.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
as if around a clock whose hands swept time
and again back to the hour we'd started from,
that high noon in midsummer years before
when I in white had marched straight to my place
beside you and was married and your face
held in it all the hours I hoped to live.
Now, as we talked in circles, grim, accusing,
we watched the green trees turning too and losing
one by one every leaf, those bleeding hearts.
And when they all had fallen, to be trod
and crumbled underfoot, when flaming red
had dulled again to dun, to ash, to air,
when we had seen the other's hurts perfected
and magnified like barren boughs reflected
upside-down in water, then the clouds
massed overhead and muffled us in snow,
answered the rippling lake and stopped the O
of its nightmare scream. The pantomime
went on all winter, nights without a word
or thoughts to fit one, days when all we heard
was the ticking crunch of snowboots on the track
around the lake, the clock we thought we either
were winding up or running down or neither.
Spring came unexpected. We thought the cold
might last forever, or that despite the thaw
nothing would grow again from us; foresaw
no butter-yellow buds, no birds, no path
outward into a seasoned innocence.
When the circle broke at last it wasn't silence
or speech that helped us, neither faith nor will
nor anything that people do at all;
love made us green for no sure cause on earth
and grew, like our children, from a miracle.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
His fingers sometimes find it hard to bend.
He often can't find the name to go with a face.
Sometimes he doesn't hear but decides to pretend.
Weekends, week by week, are closer together.
Sometimes he has to sit down to put on his pants.
No lady seems to mind if he calls her Honey,
never grins nor even throws a glance.
Sometimes he's told himself what all this means.
"Every year some more of me is dead,
but there's a lot of stuff still left to collapse."
He started to laugh but talked to himself instead.
"Think of yourself as a plumbing system, a clock.
As soon as you're done, you start to come undone.
It's almost interesting when you pay attention,
how working parts stop working, one by one.
So now you've asked me the oldest question of all.
You want to know how I'm doing. I told you before,
I'm dying. Been at it for years. Still, I think
I could hang a few more calendars on the door."
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Of the uncertainty after all, that we may be deluded,
That may-be reliance and hope are but speculations after all,
That may-be identity beyond the grave is a beautiful fable
May-be the things I perceive, the animals, plants, men, hills,
shining and flowing waters,
The skies of day and night, colors, densities, forms, may-be
these are (as doubtless they are) only apparitions, and
the real something has yet to be known,
(How often they dart out of themselves as if to confound me
and mock me!
How often I think neither I know, nor any man knows,
aught of them,)
May-be seeming to me what they are (as doubtless they
indeed but seem) as from my present point of view, and
might prove (as of course they would) nought of what
they appear, or nought anyhow, from entirely changed
points of view;
To me these and the like of these are curiously answer'd by
my lovers, my dear friends,
When he whom I love travels with me or sits a long while
holding me by the hand,
When the subtle air, the impalpable, the sense that words and
reason hold not, surround us and pervade us,
Then I am charged with untold and untellable wisdom, I am
silent, I require nothing further,
I cannot answer the question of appearances or that of
identity beyond the grave,
But I walk or sit indifferent, I am satisfied,
He ahold of my hand has completely satisfied me.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
whom we have lost irrevocably
who have married insurance salesmen
and moved to Topeka
and never think of us at all.
We fly planes & design buildings
and write poems
that all say Sally I love you
I'll never love anyone else
Why didn't you know I was going to be a poet?
The walks to school, the kisses in the snow
gather as we dream backwards, sweetness with age:
our legs are young again, our voices
strong and happy, we're not afraid.
We don't know enough to be afraid.
we hold (hidden, hopeless) the hope
that some day
she may fly in our plane
enter our building read our poem
And that night, deep in her dream,
Sally, far in darkness, in Topeka,
with the salesman lying beside her,
will cry out
our unfamiliar name.