LEDA, OUTSIDE EL PASO, TEXAS
…. another unslept night outside, the catclaw
trees, jagged shadows
the grass like knives
drawn from Dr. Caligari’s Cabinet.
I’m bleached by moonlight.
I cover myself with autobiography,
a frayed blanket, dark dissonant wind
chimes, mother’s frail sea-voice.
Nothing works so I go back to the bar
where he still sits clutching
gold rush brew nothing between us
except his salt
breath a large man like a chunk of broken off
... and suddenly we’re
in the weeds he wants me to be nothing, his
nothing, just like my father did.
He wants me like that, prime-
numbered and factored-out, wearing infinity’s
He enters me rutting, his weight pinning me
as if gravity gave him an extra dose.
I dig my nails into the hard winter
of his back, bite his leathery shoulder
….then he’s gone as I lie under the neon
I strip off to
bed, the stirred-up
dark like river dirt
in a storm rolling over and over,
writhing with nearly visible
snakes when daybreak forces
itself into my eyes
as I pull another
feather from my mouth…
THE FEAR CIRCUS
I teeter on the tightrope between
my mother’s sudden death
& my father’s last words.
flew up and came apart, all naked petals &
Father fell down
into the cow patch of black and white TV,
the once virgin land
bright noise. I miss them like the Ring Toss
misses its rings, like a jar misses its pennies,
both mud-sick & gold-unrequited.
Inside, the empty jar always there, counting
to itself, zero equals zero
equals the Quetzal-feathered serpent with his twin,
Xoloti, the dog-headed god
that guides the dead.
It was not in my act to murder them, my parents, even
though I remember screaming,
“I wish you were dead” & my father thought
back “I wish you were never born.”
My mother said “I wish you were
always being born.”
It’s difficult on the rope because it gives me the thrilling
vertigo that comes right
before suicide, its physics like
the ancient debate between The Big Bang and
intelligent design. Time
forgets about itself.
Even though my mother’s romance wants
The Strongman to catch me,
I’ve always been
my father’s contortionist, able to make love to myself,
picking up dimes with my toes and throwing
them into the open mouths of the crowd.
Published by PLUME MAGAZINE 2022
It doesn’t matter if you’re the god
of the door-to-door or if time slows down
as it gets closer to earth’s mass and you’re in a lab
trying to come up with a “moister brownie”
or if you’re waiting for the cut-glass river
to shatter so you have something to eat and love
like snow blindness afflicts you and says it will show you
a bridge of limbs that you can cross, that you can virtually feel
in this filthy November with your dimes store necklace and house of corrections clothes without ever learning how to zigzag
through a cocktail party or that simoom means a hot, poisonous wind
in Arabic or that he’s left so many times, you no longer believe
in object permanence and when you cried into his crow-
shined hair, while the moon was just a holy wafer disappearing on the sky’s tongue, you felt a coin in your gullet and someone else’s
life flashed before your eyes as if you had been a flight risk or the dark clearing its throat or a night that came in like a drunk uncle imagining he’s home for good or that you were frozen
in the crosshairs of a tornado that would make you want
to crawl back inside your mother who
sits on The New York Public Library steps
where it says for your own safety
do not climb on the lions.
----from The Stylistic Poet and PLUME MAGAZINE 2022
“Allow me to ignore that description of a room.” —André Breton
I go into the kitchen and lie down on the couch,
throw hard-boiled eggs into the fireplace.
What wall separates tossing from turning? Which room
knows enough Chinese to make the rug lie down?
This house has lost its memory. Every day when I wake
up, it has forgotten where the piano goes.
Just a minute ago, I was reading Bachelard
on the discontinuity of time. It made sense then. Now
I can’t find scissors anywhere. I need them to cut my bangs
over the computer. I open the freezer and find the TV.
Of course, it’s on CSPAN. I’m starting to get angry.
Someone said defrost anger and you get grief.
Or was that turkey and gravy? That person also folded
the blanket down on my bed in the garage.
Beech trees aren’t supposed to grow in southern California.
Two of them intertwine like vertebrates as they stand
dying in my only bathroom. Their fatal leaves fall into the toilet.
The crawl space where the praying mantises live is sometimes
the attic. This house doesn’t have an attic. So you can see
my confusion. This house has forgotten more than I can
remember, deep in the drawers, closets, dusty thin lips of
old file folders. A chair I’ve rarely paid attention to, finally
turns its back on me. The oven, ditto.
THE LAST TIME I SAW SAMUEL BECKETT
Instead of a partial object, a total object with missing parts
as in the universe
that is 80% dark matter, which we know
because of its pull on what we can see, planets and tides
and galaxy clusters
moving much faster than their weight allows, strange,
their own clichés. Dark matter which is dark yet also transparent
when I am heard, I can no longer be seen in a disguise
to a train wreck. Or if seen, being born but not asking
Father tamping light down until it learns to tamp itself.
a painted mouth, the brevity of red talking in its sleep,
a whole other existence waits for me
at the edge
of a factory that manufactures ether. Or outside
a silent but crowded ballroom. While the two men talk and disregard me:
the ragged tree—
Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.
All objects fall in the same way. If you happen
to look up.
THE LAST TIME I SAW ANTONIN ARTAUD
I fell in love with your face or maybe not your face
but the lack of delirium in your eyes in the film Napoleon,
your jaw so beautiful it should have been breaking news or maybe
not news but something setting off bells, an alarm that portended
the pitch of your lecture on the Plague which was not a lecture
but an enactment of someone coming down with the Plague,
a flesh-caught mannequin and his visionary muse, who made the theatre
not only find its double but its cannibal or maybe not its cannibal but its
voraciousness like an undercurrent that pulled
down Icarus and his burnt wings.
You, who as a teenager were stabbed in the back by a pimp in Paris
for no reason, whose somnambulism woke other sleepers fumbling
in their beds or maybe not their beds but their army cots and then
the sanitarium where you remembered you owned the twisted
walking stick that belonged not only to Jesus and Lucifer but to
St. Patrick and you tried to return it to Ireland where
you were put in a straightjacket. Or maybe not a straitjacket but
a closer-fitting suit, a bespoke suit, or maybe a costume
you’d wear for the rest of your life, while you dragged the sun
and litmus paper moon on stage, both visible in the same hour or
maybe not an hour but an intermittent infinity, found in the soft spot
of your madness, your godless mouth full with scatological oaths
and screams, the hissing of snakes and glossolalia after the camera
flickered over your skin, shimmering as you played Marat
or maybe not your skin but a fiery field from which you can’t
escape or maybe not escape but enter the room
where you died, sitting at the foot of the bed,
holding your shoe.
THE LAST TIME I SAW DELPHINE SEYRIG
No one will give you a map. Little flutter-by,
your elbow bent, hand resting
on your shoulder near the ropes of the neck,
resting like a wing not beating.
Didn’t I meet you last year in the garden
where humans cast shadows
but objects don’t?
You glide around the same corners as if
the reappearance of a familiar
corridor newly traversed were a precipice.
Didn’t I meet you last year at the Gestalt convention
where we all stood in for each other? My breath
trapped in its paper cage. You, at the Grand Ball,
wearing your Chanel hoard-of-blooms,
white as a fossil. Your body more vassal than vessel.
Even as the barometer dropped and we rushed
outside where the wind was just a start-up business,
and the sculptures were doomed to re-anoint themselves
with last season’s light, didn’t I meet you on the balcony’s
blank page, last year like now, no real past or present,
just an almost-between-us?
The secret is to rise early.
Listen to liturgical collisions in the jazz riffs.
See how that square of sunlight foreshadows
a bigger radiance in the day.
Drink strong tea. Get up and sing
a lively song. Or re-enact Galileo's discovery
of a heliocentric universe. Sorry, I meant
Copernicus. Then peel hard-boiled
eggs that roll wildly around the plate
reminding you vaguely of dating.
Slice the eggs so you're surprised
by the gold coin yolk and how painterly
they look on the blue Fiestaware
next to the Early Girl tomato. Now
you might begin to suspect that
some duty needs to be discharged--phone calls
made, bills paid, or perhaps a fresh
elucidation of Oliver Wendell Holmes' aphorism
"We will twist the tail of the cosmos 'til it squeaks."
But resist these mandates. Just laugh,
like some Republicans at welfare.
Sit down at your desk. Whack the pinata of childhood
until something ugly flies out. If you can't
find a subject, stare out the window.
Wait for an image to announce itself, or the mail-
person, whichever comes first. Or use
a phrase from another writer's poem to get going.
For example: "The secret is to rise early."
ARTS AND CRAFTS: A WARNING
An instant jumped out of me
as if I were giving birth to time. I realized
the past was gone and what remained?
Only salvage, a ghost-clutch
of fresh asphalt, steamy after summer rain,
love's jump-start engine, and the coyote's compromise-the look
of a kind dog-who-is-not-a-dog, like a lover I had
who smelled of goodness, who brought loaves
and fishes, change from other countries
that spilled across my dresser,
who decorated me with
silver tracery, but who practiced
the piano on other women,
until my body flayed out and became
a table of musical triads.
I read an article that said once you used
it lodged in the floorboards, the rugs,
tracked everywhere in the house,
years later you'd still find a tiny skin-glint.
You can never get rid of it.
I wake suddenly from a small red sleep
as if the darkness were oil rising up to my eyes.
I'd give almost anything to go back.
Even dream the one about the lost wallet,
the forgotten locker combination, teeth falling out,--
even the hanged woman, my double,
with her blue sash noose, her Raggedy Ann dress.
Entombed in my bed,
the sheets like marble in moonlight
my rebellious heart beats too fast,
an adolescent fist
dipped in red sealing wax.
I can sleep late, I tell myself,
because I have no children.
Only dust and the sly, early-morning furniture.
I have no husband
but the black mountain from whose shoulders
I can see the river shining like tin.
What kind of offering can I make to you, Sleep?
Haven't I already given you more than I have given anyone?
He left the room, assured of his immortality--
or was it just his cologne?
I once wanted his money--not really his money,
but the freshly minted coins of reason.
His hands smelling like prime numbers.
I once wanted his swagger, his fame
but without the dental work.
I'm reminded that my destiny was
to stand reflected in the infinity-inducing
mirrors with other women in restaurant
bathrooms who pat their hair, make that little
moue with their lips;
who return to the tables of men,
their hands wet, body hairs galvanized
like filaments of iron. Strange how
everything is orderly even in dissipation
when leaves blizzard the pavement.
I don't see them land but their fall,
the event of it, is still present, almost invisible.