Tea, tea, butter, the structure.
We were discussing the death
of iambic pentameter,
though we didn't know it.
She said with the notch
above her lips
I have a perfect ass
and I thought the thing about asses
is they're not perfect,
they have a kind of fatal flaw,
but I wasn't going to argue
with such a proud collection
of stumbling convergences.
I wanted to say, can I stick
my eyes down your throat?
but what emerged
was those eyebrows,
are they for rent?
How are they tragic?
By announcing a mountainlessness
that aches for its climbers,
a brow that needs
lips that shift
as mapped by insomnia,
one hidden rippling
bone that can never.
A patio floated by.
About us a Cambridge was revolving.
Somewhere marriage was discussing
a couple flattened
by the new gravity of summer,
but it wasn't us, we were refusing
to cross that most glorious
breed of slowness.
I vow I will touch you
always more distant stranger.
THE ARTIST MUST INCLINE HIS HEAD JUST SO
Often I have an idea and say it immediately.
If people praise me I wear the world
shyly on top of my head.
At times I'm compelled
like a fever to float
without any distinctions,
a sea of tin cans, love letters and greed.
The world is good for my pleasure and consumption.
I admire it totally, it stands
like a mountain inside and outside me.
Some art may be good, some dishonest.
There's no pressing need for conscription or liberty,
though a carful of people rides down the highway
too fast, clouded in song.
My lack of compassion astounds me,
and must not come to know itself.
It's true, I've never done anything
quite like striking you across the face.
There is of course the question of fate,
and whether it can be angered.
Example: when not overpowered by grief
there are proper and improper ways to mourn.
In such cases my gestures are shadows
cast far from myself
by one who crawls through the library,
touching the books that she touched.
I have dream after dream and forget each one.
I GO OUT TO MEET THEM
on my shoulders
unbuilt by the gold claws
logic and lightning,
speak the last word,
rewrite me. Dead bird
passing me like a friend,
dead bird frozen
in snow I was frozen
in happiness you're so beautiful.
With tiny golden claws you built
the painted book
afternoon stared into.
You said the world must have a border.
You renounced the borderless world.
You said the world
must have two claws,
one frozen in happiness,
one lit with gold laughter
past me gliding,
a bicycle under a friend.
A man coughs
the end of the world.
Therefore down alleys
that do not yet exist
I resolve to greet
each person more sadly.
To put music
back in a drawer.
To remove it
only when it needs me.
What kind of music
pins my sleep
with gold thread among the elms?
in my hand as I prune them,
you can't win election,
you can't prosecute night
though we all heard it chuckling
idea of love.
Idea of love
in a white dress bewildered,
I'd prefer each friday
not be so sundown.
I'd prefer my memory
dizzy from dancing
for the memory
of dancing for soldiers.
Light and wind
put me down in this room.
Night has only one use for me.
Branches come closer,
bringing snow to my bedside.
how to remember mounts up
to a lake
knew in the stars.
WHOEVER YOU ARE
As the wayward satellite believes its rescuers
will come with white and weightless hands,
and the rescuers turning and floating believe
in their tethers and all those uninspected latches,
as madness believes in the organizing principle,
and allows it to strap her down on the gurney,
and the tiny island believes the sound
of a harp will arrive on the wings of a gull,
as the olive believes it is filled with light,
and its oil will someday grace a god's tongue,
as my arms flail outwards and strike my forehead
in belief of a vestigial prayer process,
and I believe to allow them such historical pleasure
is hardly harmless from time to time,
as the transistor radio hears the woman
muttering and believes she requests
she be buried in the front yard with only her knitting
far from her husband the master of stratagems,
and weeping daughters once believed
their father had coated each grassblade with poison
and woke one morning to some twigs on the lawn
to believe they were dead starlings,
as the mountain believed it could stay hollow
long enough to return the tunnellers home,
and their wives believed in trying to believe
that rumble through clear skies was thunder,
I believe that is not what you wanted,
for you are only a guardian
geared to one particular moment
conjectured in no saintly book of apocrypha
when slowly at last the trucks will pull
into a warehouse shot through with shadows
and wherever I am I will see candles floating
on the ritual arms of two dark canals
and you will allow me to step I believe
into the mechanism
and tear off your wings
Throughout the era of the tiny blemish
to the left of her eyebrow
I wandered clumsy
as a high school in late afternoon,
locked around glowing
cylinders of dust,
construction paper logic,
echoes of correct answers suppressed.
a room can snap
your heart like a limb,
and not because there's anything in it.
For them, my seascape
of dresses impervious
and young careless hiding
search for care under brims,
I revealed behind my lecture on refusal,
but never myself
believed myself saying
lips live best
among the slow drape of hair,
Time of winter
like correspondence delayed
I did not yet remember
how on the counter your hands would sleep
unessential as summer,
while overhead the churning
away and away from description
surveying our impasse
with one eye pretending
the other's not glass,
the car stolen and returned
unnoticed except for the jangle
of hey those aren't my glasses,
of the utterly faked confession,
or the intimate public
pleasure of glances
down the eyes of young mothers.
The eyes of young mothers
clutching a hairbrush.
So many times I hypothesized
you actually standing
before this painting
of blue time choosing
at last from wherever
into my foot.
And I'm glad to have it.
It was probably lonelier than me.
I swear I won't doctor you,
or make you better, or even good.
You can contact your friends
if you have them
in whatever manner,
I fumble downstairs like some old early riser
who has just dreamed of mowing the lawn with his cane.
One glass, some water and a tea bag
may be the forgotten alchemy of destruction.
The sea has withdrawn from the kitchen,
leaving one small whale which moans on the floor.
Spiders congregate on the dark wall, whispering
Have you heard about the insomniac dyslexic atheist?
The children's book who went to the marriage counselor?
The olive stuck on a desert island with a fan?
Alas, what is forbidden?
The sun rose while I was pouring.
I must have hit the switch.
Tomorrow, the dew will be a little colder,
and a few more leaves will creep through the mail slot.
The sun is a good conversationalist, if a little relentless,
and inclined to peer into my desk drawer, but it knows
the appropriate moment to go feed the morning glories.
I've laid out a compass, the porcelain boxes,
some colored chalk, a few photographs
of diving birds, and an atlas of mineral behavior.
Look, here's the future of Asia Major.
There are several rivers in need of a washing.
See what happens
after forty years of moonlight?
No eclipses until my thumb stops this talking.
After zero and equal there were thoughts.
All I had to do was create the world.
How I wish I didn't know what endless preparations
go on in that houseboat
beached at the end of the cul-de-sac.
For a long time I have felt a cloud in my pocket,
where I keep a promise, but I don't know why.
BEFORE THE POEM
Morning plays a fine false tune in the crook of the tree.
I get up to dance, I sit down.
Each leaf is a possible ending.
Great events are taking place in the house across the street.
Four actors rehearse a play I have written and left on their threshold.
Their shadows move from window to window, disappearing and reappearing.
I could shrink the world into a clouded watchglass, this is proven.
No matter which way I swivel my head,
there is light on the edge of the teacup.
I turn back
from a great abyss.
MIND THE GAP
A little portrait of me lies in the flowerbed,
making allusions, watching her comb her hair.
She sings into the shattered mirror:
"But you will last as long as the rose,
as long as the glass, glass tulips ..."
A can opener smiles on the night table.
I remember she loved and feared the dark.
Whenever the horses broke loose
her heart trembled under my hand like a bat.
We'd huddle all night in bed, counting.
The horses filled us with the ineffable grandeur
of their silent pounding, or something like that.
Mostly I liked not knowing what to expect.
The sun looms angrily, high above, stranded.
She walks, or rather meanders towards my portrait chanting
"Phillip, your green thumbs, the envy of All Wales."
Each wisp of her hair grows larger, they wave and shine
like snakes you can see through. How strange. She bends
over me, blocking the sun.
VIEW ONTO THE BALCONY
The conductor shuffles his scores in the din
as the orchestra conjures and tunes.
A boatman stares down at the water. Reflected,
a few gulls cry and draw the name of a place.
Chin to her chest, she wears a slumped necklace of bone.
The rest of space hangs a blue cape on her shoulders.
She rocks, half in the boat and half in her chair.
The orchestra clatters to one long roaring tone,
dying out into the cavern which stands
silent before the great action.
We rise and applaud, madly, the musicians puzzled,
ready to begin their obliteration.
The auditorium is quiet again, except for wind
opening a glass door onto the balcony.
Two pigeons keep their eggs hidden in a pile of droppings and feathers.
Dark hills in the background rise up over the black railing.
Who will hear moss creep down the slope
over the child's knucklebone lost in the grass?
The music, as quiet as it was, could only begin to fill up the hall
with the name we forget, already perfect beyond recognition.
The day is wearing a white lab coat.
It is experimenting on us,
which is funny until you stop thinking about it.
Today I am going to drive my car
up into the mountain of distraction
where with my cat, Helix, I shall picnic.
Towards him I feel only slightly parental.
Only enough to feed him tiny
slivers of moral instruction
which he devours daintily without blinking.
Helix doesn't have a twin.
He is grey, and his left front paw
hurts him, though he has never spoken of it.
Past the blankness of his irises
is a lake of sadness, from which he was torn
many months ago, his mouth and tongue
frozen in a repetition of searching.
His mother was a sofa, a whole
neighborhood of comfort, support,
understanding, doors left unlocked,
kick the can, let's leave the neighbors
with the kids without even
formally informing them and drive
a car of distraction along the vanished town
of Calico up into the mountains
where we shall picnic. His father
was a cloud, as are all the fathers
of cats. Try to find one. The trail leads
through wet grasses down
to the culvert where I taught
myself to smoke like a wet idea
from which I have just withdrawn,
leaving only the tenderness.
There was a girl named Holly.
We knew each other in the park.
We were pineys.