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There are no rules for this. Things are easier
when there’s a code of behavior. Waiting
for Saturday to pass into Sunday & Sunday
into the work week so one knows what to do
with their time. Language neither the problem
nor the cure, just something to occupy myself with.
No one taught me the softness of the quilt
against my cheek. It was something I could only
learn myself. No one taught me how to deal
with emotion. How to handle restless nights.
& so I lied when I said I didn’t know how
I got here: a series of bad mistakes & misjudgments.
A touch of idealism. Hope then disappointment.
Really I’ve traveled nowhere. Standing in the same place
for three years. Still wearing the same blue jeans,
only now a hole in the knee.
what kind of
if just two neckties,
what kind of ship,
my body yearns
and I wake
on dampened sheets—
what kind of
what kind of
is this new me
from your frets
I have chosen
you once chose.
and when I arrive
between my olive tree limbs,
his guile hanging lower
than his brawn,
what kind of
with two small hands—
what kind of
Even from the beach I could sense it—
lack of welcome, lack of abiding life,
like something in the air, a certain
lack of sound. Yesterday
there was a mountain out there.
Now it’s gone. And look
at this radio, each tube neatly
sliced in half. Blow the place up!
That was my advice.
But after the storm and the earthquake,
after the tactic of the exploding plane
and the strategy of the sinking boat, it looked
like fate and I wanted to say, “Don’t you see?
So what if you’re a famous biochemist!
Lost with all hands is an old story.”
Sure, we’re on the edge
of an important breakthrough, everyone
hearing voices, everyone falling
into caves, and you’re out
wandering through the jungle
in the middle of the night in your negligee.
Yes, we’re way out there
on the edge of science, while the rest
of the island continues to disappear until
nothing’s left except this
cliff in the middle of the ocean,
and you, in your bathing suit,
crouched behind the scuba tanks.
I’d like to tell you
not to be afraid, but I’ve lost
my voice. I’m not used to all these
legs, these claws, these feelers.
It’s the old story, predictable
as fallout—the rearrangement of molecules.
And everyone is surprised
and no one understands
why each man tries to kill
the thing he loves, when the change
comes over him. So now you know
what I never found the time to say.
Sweetheart, put down your flamethrower.
You know I always loved you.
to be alone for a month is good
I follow the bright fish of memory
falling deeper into myself
to the endless present
the child’s cry is my only clock
yet your singing echoes in corners
who clatters the red tea-pot
or opens the door with a bang
to look at the evening sky?
your typewriter lies silent
it is reproachful
I cannot make it stutter like you
I sit in the woods at dusk
listening for the sound of your singing
there are letters from a thousand miles
you wrote a week ago
like leaves from an autumn tree
they fall on the mat
it was your voice woke me
and the absent touch of your hand
Some things I have to say aren’t getting said
in this snowy, blonde, blue-eyed, gum chewing English,
dawn’s early light sifting through the persianas closed
the night before by dark-skinned girls whose words
evoke cama, aposento, suenos in nombres
from that first word I can’t translate from Spanish.
Gladys, Rosario, Altagracia—the sounds of Spanish
wash over me like warm island waters as I say
your soothing names: a child again learning the nombres
of things you point to in the world before English
turned sol, tierra, cielo, luna to vocabulary words—
sun, earth, sky, moon—language closed
like the touch-sensitive morivivir. whose leaves closed
when we kids poked them, astonished. Even Spanish
failed us when we realized how frail a word
is when faced with the thing it names. How saying
its name won’t always summon up in Spanish or English
the full blown genii from the bottled nombre.
Gladys, I summon you back with your given nombre
to open up again the house of slatted windows closed
since childhood, where palabras left behind for English
stand dusty and awkward in neglected Spanish.
Rosario, muse of el patio, sing in me and through me say
that world again, begin first with those first words
you put in my mouth as you pointed to the world—
not Adam, not God, but a country girl numbering
the stars, the blades of grass, warming the sun by saying
el sol as the dawn’s light fell through the closed
persianas from the gardens where you sang in Spanish,
Esta son las mananitas, and listening, in bed, no English
yet in my head to confuse me with translations, no English
doubling the world with synonyms, no dizzying array of words,
—the world was simple and intact in Spanish
awash with colores, luz, suenos, as if the nombres
were the outer skin of things, as if words were so close
to the world one left a mist of breath on things by saying
their names, an intimacy I now yearn for in English—
words so close to what I meant that I almost hear my Spanish
blood beating, beating inside what I say en ingles.
Somewhere in everyone’s head something points toward home,
a dashboard’s floating compass, turning all the time
to keep from turning. It doesn’t matter how we come
to be wherever we are, someplace where nothing goes
the way it went once, where nothing holds fast
to where it belongs, or what you’ve risen or fallen to.
What the bubble always points to,
whether we notice it or not, is home.
It may be true that if you move fast
everything fades away, that given time
and noise enough, every memory goes
into the blackness, and if new ones come-
small, mole-like memories that come
to live in the furry dark-they, too,
curl up and die. But Carol goes
to high school now. John works at home
what days he can to spend some time
with Sue and the kids. He drives too fast.
Ellen won’t eat her breakfast.
Your sister was going to come
but didn’t have the time.
Some mornings at one or two
or three I want you home
a lot, but then it goes.
It all goes.
Hold on fast
to thoughts of home
when they come.
They’re going to
less with time.
Forgive me that. One time it wasn’t fast.
A myth goes that when the years come
then you will, too. Me, I’ll still be home.