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When you show yourself to the woman
you love, you don’t know your fear
is not fear, itself. You have never been good,
but now you are so good,
who are you? Is it the liquidity of her skin
that bathes the world for you,
or her face, captured like a she-lion
in your own flesh?
This summerbed is soft with ring upon ring
upon ring of wedding, the kind
that doesn’t clink upon contact, the kind
with no contract,
the kind in which the gold is only (only!) light.
There is no pleasure like leaving
before dawn in last night’s clothes.
Light snow or thick dew in the grass—
no one’s passed this way before.
The note you left needed only a few words,
no explanation where lies could creep in.
Your eyes, blinked clear, won’t squint or glance off,
it’s the stars that turn their faces away.
He or she is or is not the one you love
and you cannot stay. The dark
turns to mist and the mist cannot stay
but for once there’s no need for alarm.
You’re getting a good head start.
Maybe the world isn’t made of dust.
Maybe you won’t make another mistake.
You’re as young as you’ll ever be.
That’s how we can distinguish a man from a woman, or from ourselves: only in a moment
of embrace. Judgment on bodies has already passed, they say that we are like any
other, cock is a breast, balls another pair that swings like hands
of a clock. Our stories have no listener; our stories are like any other.
We misunderstand each other, our bodies the only proof of intimacy, a repetition
of bodies coming together as we move on top or under each other,
we fill each other with ourselves in the moment of embrace,
an imago stretching its wings out, two bodies connected by an embrace.
“Hush,” you say, “I love your body,” “I get hard only for you,” “I am yours only.”
You say that sex is another word for how we leave the body, or how, like the Whirling
Dervishes, we seek the eternal in the embrace, in the moment of unveiling
the white so much like a butterfly, or ourselves. You hold your cock, you release
come like a magician releasing the doves. They land on my stomach, they stay there
until they dry like scabs over wound.
“Love is another way to say how unoriginal we are,” or “You and I are separated
by a word, a mere word.” Love is a division, it is a barrier that makes us who we are,
another word for how repetition becomes the way we part from each other, over
and over again, love is another way of saying, Your face in this light is how I want to remember
you, a face only a few steps away from death, this is when I like you the best.
You call it Shoah, the unrepeatable. Here’s a picture: soldiers burning books,
another picture: soldiers dragging an old man who held the Torah as if it were
his child, or God. Let us move thirty years ahead: here’s a picture of students burning
books, another of students pushing an old man clutching the Classics.
The faces of these boys are so many years before any partings they can understand,
their bodies taut with how little years they have. Pictures are repeatable, so are events.
God loves innocence and children, but two are not the same.
I say that the Holocaust is an image of bodies ahead of all partings.
The souls have already forgotten the rib cages, the backbones that protrude like a broken
violin. A picture: bodies after bodies thrown into a ditch. The only thing
separating a man from a woman is by how their sacks are carelessly placed:
here is a man, his balls have shriveled down to the size of a large pea; there, a woman,
where her breasts once were, two broken pendulums that no longer tell time hang.
I want to say, the shaved heads tell all: holocaust is the debasement of bodies,
where bodies turn into grotesque universality. In this picture, a woman lies on top
of two men, their mouths open as if almost a kiss.
The proof is the body, not in words: you lie on your stomach, slowly rocking yourself
to sleep as if the bed is another body you can ease yourself into. I lie
next to you, my thighs slightly open like a window, or a door, anyone can look
in, even you. But we have stopped our movements already. In the early morning, words are bodies
heaped up high, each body imprinted with past, they are remembrance. But we have already turned
our eyes inward, we do not hear. Each come-cry hides in the cave of the mouth,
stays inside of us like doves in a magician’s pockets, waiting for the signal they’ve been
trained to recognize.
I don’t know why I love you.
I don’t know why you leave me
whenever I am faced with my own body.
In my loose clothes and walk, you say
“secret” and “muscle.” Outside the dumpsters
are lifted and emptied. I slide the white shirt
over my head. Last night I had
the coward dream again, the airport,
Santa Fe, gun shots echo off
the women’s bodies. I stand
in the line of men who have to watch.
We all love you to begin with.
Then something happens. We become
a mother who races down concrete steps
to cover our daughter, riding her bike
topless, with a plaid blanket. All these years
you have been my skin though I am afraid
to say sometimes I don’t love you at all.
Sometimes, it is a man I love.
In the beginning was the word and the word
knows us. We don’t always return the gesture.
This is not morning. There is a nastiness
slowing your shoes, something you shouldn’t step in.
It’s shattered beads, stomped flowers, vomit-
such stupid beauty,
beauty you can stick a manicured finger
into and through, beauty that doesn’t rely
on any sentence the sun chants, it’s whiskey
swelter blown scarlet.
Call this something else. Last night it had a name,
a name wedged between an organ’s teeth, a name
pumping a virgin unawares, a curse word.
Wail it, regardless.
Weak light, bleakly triumphant, will unveil scabs,
snippets of filth music, cars on collapsed veins.
The whole of gray doubt slithers on solemn skin.
Call her New Orleans.
Each day she wavers, not knowing how long she
can stomach the introduction of needles,
the brash, boozed warbling of bums with neon crowns,
She tries on her voice, which sounds like cigarettes,
pubic sweat, brown spittle lining a sax bell
the broken heel on a drag queen’s scarlet slings.
Your kind of singing.
Weirdly in love, you rhumba her edges, drink
fuming concoctions, lick your lukewarm breakfast
directly from her crust. Go on, admit it.
You are addicted
to her brick hips, the thick swerve she elicits,
the way she kisses you, her lies wide open.
She prefers alleys, crevices, basement floors.
Hell, let her woo you.
This kind of romance dims the worth of soldiers,
bends and breaks the back, sips manna from muscle,
tells you Leave your life. Pack your little suitcase,
flee what is rigid
and duly prescribed. Let her touch that raw space
between cock and calm, the place that scripts such jazz.
Let her pen letters addressed to your asking.
New Orleans, p-please. Don’t. Blue is the color
stunning your tongue. At least the city pretends
to remember to be listening.
She grins with glint tooth,
wiping your mind blind of the wife, the children.
the numb ritual of job and garden plot.
Gently, she leads you out into the darkness
and makes you drink rain.
Jeanne, I have spent days arranging
this bowl of fruit, all for you,
knowing how much you love fruit
(not to eat, of course, but to examine),
and I’ve been careful to make sure
the bananas are the shape of bananas,
that the oranges rhyme with oranges,
and for your pleasure I’ve included
a lone pear, which may signify
something to you I haven’t intended,
which is my intention.
No doubt you’ve begun to question
why the quince and the apple
are so close together, and (knowing you)
if there might be a worm
in the apple, whether this gift
is a gift at all. And perhaps it’s true
that I’ve covered up the worm hole
with putty, painted over it perfectly,
though this would be a mystery
that only can be solved
by cutting open or biting into,
letting the juices run down the sides
of your mouth, or onto your hands.
It would be the kind of bold probing
I would love for you to love, the final
messiness of theory, still life breaking open
into live, the discovery that the secret worm,
if real, will not permit you any distance.
But surely by now you’ve come to realize
there is no worm, only this bowl of fruit
made of words, only these seductions.
I took the Metro to Cité. I walked past Notre-Dame and thought of the hunchback Quasimodo swinging his misshapen body across the bell-ropes of love for Esmerelda. Quasimodo was a deaf mute. Cupid is blind. Freud called love an ‘overestimation of the object.’ But I would swing through the ringing world for you.
After our fierce loving
in the brief time we found to be together,
you lay in the half light
with your face turned sideways on the pillow
and I traced the exquisite
line of your profile, dark against the white,
delicate and lovely as a child’s.
you will cease to love me.
or we may be consumed in the holocaust,
but I keep, against the ice and the fire,
the memory of your profile on the pillow.
What if love is no more than
a tangle of muscles
aching to be untied
by knowing fingers?
What if love is made and nothing else -
asked Narcissus, leaning over the green iris of water.
cried Echo from the green cochlea of the woods.
And they were both right.
And they were both lonely.
Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.
Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.
Would I live my life over again?
Make the same unforgiveable mistakes?
Yes, given half a chance. Yes.