New Year’s

 

 

On New Year’s Eve Morning I broke a large clear glass bowl

blundering around in the cupboard for a vessel to soak the black eyed peas.

It dismantled itself into a smaller clear glass bowl.

 

I marched with the bowls to the curb,

to the trash bin, swathed in a peach blush plush robe

and snugged in Farm and Fleet Red Boots,

crunching the thin mantle of snow.

Half way there the rim of the broken bowl

leapt to my arm, riding as a regal bracelet:

Large and clear and fearsome.

What a strange ritual this is, I thought.

No harm come to me, but could.

Yet I walk as though I’ve always done this

On New Year’s Eve.

 

On New Year’s Day Morning I broke a bit of molar

indulging in pomegranate seeds for breakfast.

Healthy Start! I hashtagged on Instagram.

Broken Tooth! I did not.

No major harm done, again.

I wasn’t hurt, just falling apart, aging.

They were so lovely, those bright pips, next to Peruvian blueberries

atop the oatmeal in my Japanese bowl,

and the white enamel shard in my hand,

the size of a seed pearl.

 

The Morning After New Year’s, I made the calls to Dentist,

Insurance, Etc. Due Diligence to start the year right.

Picked up Mrs. Dalloway at the Library,

Slogged off to the clinic for a Shingles shot.

Paisley sleeve struggled up high enough

for the nurse to get a good jab.

Afterwards got the car washed, why not?

Sunny Day, no snow in the forecast.

Queued up with the SUVs in my old Matrix.

They had Green Mountain Coffee in the waiting area.

I opened my book and watched the Cadillacs and Mercedes

froth by.

 

In London, Clarissa steps out to the kerb on Victoria Street.

She is older, but feels young.

She recalls many things,

Her mind bright and buzzing with a new day,

A love who is far away.

Big Ben sounds. “There!” Virginia Woolf writes,

“. . . . First a warning, musical;

then the hour, irrevocable.”

Irrevocable!

It cannot be called back, but how she is

calling, calling, her mind reeling, at sea

as she floats through St. James to Piccadilly.

Even the neighbor sees her as a bird,

Blue-Green like a jay.

 

Back home, I nap, visions of platelets,

White and red blood cells coursing through

Me, crashing into each other blindly,

as hooks and eyes poured into a plastic packet

tangle while some dead or dying agent skulks unseen.

 

Two nights ago Big Ben sounded

After being nearly silent for two years.

In Westminster it must have been like the start of a war,

Chiming lyrically, then the deep clangs, like calling the dead,

Twelve times.

Here, in winter, we have the owls,

Calling each other deep in the night.

A ghostly hooting as the world sleeps.

 

 

 

The Massage

Starless evening turning colder.

Young men come down the dark streets

on bicycles with Michaelmas Daisies,

armfuls of bright purple asters to say farewell.

 

At the front desk,

The masseuse has a silken mass of Yellow Dancing Lady Orchids

Cheerfully rising from a soft red ochre columnar vase.

 

The lights are low.

A faux fireplace pulsing.

The music calm,

Occasionally lush, but distant,

From another room/life/world.

As I lie face down,

the sadness comes up.

 

I let her hands move over me

almost deep through me

pushing the fascia,

the muscles twitching over bones,

coming up to the edge

and ebbing over

there there there

The back of my heart

aching, the chambers

where I’ve tried

to tuck it all away,

that endless pit

of sorrow.

Push down hard

Push it out of me!

I feel a cry though

my mouth stays still.

In my mind I hear

the names of all my lovers

run together–

All one,

all one streaming name–

A flute carried by a sonic

river over smooth stones:

Fare well fare well.

 

 

The heron lifts its weather eye

and crooks its neck to fly south.

Rain and late planting keeps the corn too green

to harvest, but the cranes dance

through the fields anyway.

 

Orion, the hunter, high above, unseen,

In the middle of the night,

In the middle of the sky somewhere,

Stretches out, spread-eagled, brightly

above the clouds.

 

I am flattened on a warm table,

Ironed out completely.

Softly above my feet

She says my name:

“Your massage is over.”

Bleary-eyed,

I see you floating there

In the haze. And

I regret your leaving.

I wished I had loved you

More and deeper.

 

 

I fear getting up,

That I’ll howl,

But I don’t,

I only move slowly

Pulling on clothes

Over lemon and lavender

Lotioned skin.

She greets me with water

In a cup

And smiles like a mother

As I walk into the night

Soft

and still.

 

When we saw the light change on the Turner

I was telling you about

the impossibility of boxwood in Chicago

when some appeared next to some lanky hydrangea

that hadn’t bloomed in the usual poms,

but rather in spindly fronds

with washed out petals.

The shrubs hadn’t wintered over well,

scrubby and brown in bits,

but still standing in neat rows

lining a slim green space that led to the lake.

 

Boxwoods were European, I thought,

somewhat tropical.

Green Park, I said:

Walking from Mayfair after tea

deeply warm and languid,

suffused with jasmine and little sweets,

a splash of rosy champagne–

How pleasant a stroll on boxwood-lined

paths skirting lawns populated with

Hawthorns and Planes.

So foreign to me, too, was the scent

of those shrubs as I brushed along them,

softly acrid, faintly decaying,

like overripe mangoes

somehow woven in all that

tight green mesh.

 

And here, in Chicago–

If this were London, we would see window boxes

overflowing with bright begonias,

not these endless rows of dead glass and blank stone.

Depends on the neighborhood, you replied,

Brixton, you know, is a bit grim.

I didn’t, but I liked the name,

liked the way my tongue pushed it against

the roof of my mouth,

something bristling in it as we walked closer to the water.

The boxwoods were blurring

with thoughts of bobbing begonias all afloat

on the edge of Lake Michigan.

 

The light changed then,

as we were sat quietly in the face of a wave,

brownish with white tufts.

The sun came and a bronze light

shown from the depths

as though we were riding that swell ourselves.

No one needed cry out,

none were heard,

nothing but our own breath,

drawn as one.

 

 

 

Etiolation

ForcedGreenhouse

 

Sitting in the thin winter sun,

dilute and amorphous,

the white expanse

under slanted panes,

you show me the rows of bulbs you’re forcing:

All the lovely blossoming

rising above blue shaded glass

whose lips I touch while gauging

the disparity between the smooth

surface and the beveled edge.

 

Ornate hyacinth bells shyly

trumpet lost coordinates,

unsheathing a heavy scent.

Some papery mauve flowers

tower up.

Mallow or hibiscus, I think,

Paw Paw you say~~

Thin and creased

like crepe lanterns rising,

fluttery and tenuous

as I.

 

You stand in a veil of linden and lemon

powdery and bright.

I feel my throat tighten,

muddy and baroque,

etiolated and

drowning in tangled roots.

 

I lean down

to set a brace of luminous

votives adrift on a passing rill

in rafts of origami,

an offering,

some ritual farewell pyre,

or prayer,

a murmured blessing.

They float away,

as distant birds wing

freely near dusk.

 

 

you just have to fold

Introduction:  I just learned that my college advisor passed away.  He was a huge influence on my life, especially of my life as a writer.  I was looking through my poems and found this:

 

She prefers Rachmaninov to Wagner and I think, “Good Girl!”

the girl who is a little mad for the Beatles

and looks lovely and shy, in barrettes,

falling in love . . . perhaps . . .

But she states her preferences, she does have that.

I’ve gotten sucked into something that’s not me, not my life.

I’m ungrounded and wandering full of longing,

unspeakable,

because obsessions are ungodly that way

and make people hate you after awhile;

even your best friends can’t stand to listen to you.

 

I pin Marlboro ads of glossy horses

all around my high, four-poster bed fitted with white chenille

and tear through Barbara Cartland Romances

Guiltily

It’s not right.  It’s not right.

But I don’t know what else to do.

There is the lonely high desert beauty of the wild horses

And the sweet young innocents and their bodices,

to be sacrificed to love, the beauty of it,

the stiff mount of the paramour,

if it could just be so on this hill,

this golden mesa.

 

A plate of haddock and chips

and a pint and a half of Guinness later,

we finally got around to men.

What did we want.

I feel high and flirty suddenly.

I dismiss the men at the end of the bar as too old, but then, the one with glasses . . .

And salt and pepper hair, perhaps . . . a somber aspect, vinegary.

Just like us, two friends out for a drink on a holiday night.

On a holiday, you just have to fold your hand, my friend said.

It takes so long to tighten it up, to straighten things, you just have to fold.

Too old.  I think again.  Then not knowing what age means.

How old am I?

I just want someone who likes me, my friend says.

Huh, I snort.  But she’s right.

If only someone would be pleasant, nice.

“I’m the nice guy who every girl says she wants, but really doesn’t.”

Gah, who wants to deal with that massive annoyance.

I shut the dating site down with the snap of the laptop.  No one.  No one there for me.

 

Desire.

She tells me that I don’t want a mirror of myself

after I tell her that I do.

The glasses behind the bar shine and I smile.

My mother picked the difficult one.  She wanted a challenge!

I pick younger.  She wants older.

Alright, then, we aren’t conjoined twins,

although sympathetic and invested in this friendship.

I feel bad for having scoffed at her interest in knitting.

Just because I’m that sort, to judge it as what Old Women Do:

Baby their pets and Knit and Cry

sniffling audibly at movies or in public on buses.

And I’m NOT OLD!

Why shouldn’t she churn out loads of knotted patterns?

What am I doing with myself?   Drawing.

I start to sketch the bottle of grenadine and an imagined crème

with stars and stylized sunflowers like a schoolgirl.

How could I be in love with someone

who didn’t like Crème Anglaise?

It’s her turn to snort.

I had practiced that one.  I knew she would get it.

Crème Anglaise.

I draw my spoon in paisleys through it,

press the embossed sterling beads to my lips,

inhaling the mix of vanilla and metal

like buttons,

And the tweed, the cedary tweed.

 

I think of the boy who smelled like a linden tree.

And so thin, a lovely trunk and limbs.

I wrapped around him like a vine.

Green and urgent

And the way his hair curled to a small fascinating delta

On the nape of his neck.

I sigh.

 

The Mississippi of him

The long dark warmth

The river at night

So dangerous and vibrant with a play of moonlight

Lapping.

 

That was my year of twenty-one year olds.

He was the brightest, really.

Though he inevitably slipped me a stone.

He smiled at me with his hand holding Rilke

And said I had to come home with him.

And I did.

 

A smile.  If only.

He’s a lawyer now.  I found him online.

I can only shake my head.  He wanted to help people, he said.

I wish I could see him again.  But he has probably gone all soft and the flame gone out.

Men don’t seem to age well.

Have I?

I can’t tell.  Sometimes it seems that I barely know anything about myself.

I have to have dreams to talk sense into me.

I can’t seem to trust my desires in daylight.

That’s it.  Trust.

It has been broken.  Over and over.

 

 

Like a good girl myself,

I listen to Beethoven in the morning.

Sucking in papery woodbine and downing coffee.

Stamping through the garden in black ink peignoir and coral Happi coat,

flushing out Japanese Beetles from wrinkled pink bonicas

and the golden raspberries,

drowning them in soap bubbles,

The dew washing my feet

The waffle iron is smoking, too.

Brahms is what I want, I think.

Something soothing.

 

What do I want?

 

When my professor asked me in Pyatigorsk,

I lied.  I wanted him.  I wanted him to hold me.

To love me.  I wanted him not to have feet of clay.

I wanted him to be my perfect mentor, my father, my teacher.

But I asked for my friends.  I was very drunk on Georgian Champagne and very homesick.

I wanted love, but I couldn’t trust those words.

He sat and let me cry.  That was a great gift.  I didn’t know it then, but it was a gift.

Not to try and fix me, but to let me be.  To let the backwater of my heart unstop and flow

in quiet tears.  As he stood guard, smoking like a dragon, folded at the end of my bed, still as Buddha.

 

Weep, then, little one, weep.

 

 

for those who navigate these meshes

She sits on the bed, slowly laying out cards
on her cherry lapboard.
A glass of Vinho Verde shines on the half moon bedside table,
Something sweet and baroque twists from the clock radio.
She’s lovely, in her way, in midnight blue palazzo pants
dotted with little stars.  I get lost in their drape
that butterflies down her legs, crossed at her ankles.
There’s a fussy buzz of some winged creature
caught in the milk white lamp globe, fusing with the lute and harp.
The faint scent of blooms she picked floats my way—
lily-like Hosta blossoms, white and trumpeting,
a cluster of butter yellow bell-shaped flowers that grow in the yard,
some herbaceous Bee Balm in plummy spikes. 

She glances at me, checking to see how disrupted I am
from my own pursuit in a book, brushing her hair back
from where it’s fallen across her black crop top.
I was in the hills above Sarajevo, looking down on red roofs and stone streets,
fingering my Browning, but I find myself moving closer to her,
brushing against the small swath of skin on her belly. 
Feeling the luxury and warmth of it, of her,
Believing that she spells out joy for me
in a mysterious tattoo beneath my touch,
as she stretches her legs out to greet mine.

La Passeggiata

I know from experience that one can’t go walking one’s beloved dogs forever.  Not off the edge of the earth.  Not, perhaps, even for a few stolen minutes at sunset.  I found that out yesterday.

Yesterday was Sunday and overcast, threatening to rain, but never delivering.  I spent the day alone, mostly.  Sporadically weeding, doing laundry, dead-heading the washed out pale pink Bonica roses and golden Stella D’oro lilies, turning from one thing to another and never quite completing anything.  The dogs alternated lounging on small rugs and beds to watching for bunnies in the front yard, eyeing the mulberry tree for squirrels, worrying the base of the lilac for moles.  After supper I sat on the back lawn, relaxed on a faded blue-green canvas recliner, reading.  Dogs found spots nearby on the patio to lie down and yet keep a sly watch for movement from me, or any errant creature.  The evening was quiet, amazingly so.  I heard no neighbors, no motors (only some quite distant).  I was reading Jean Rhys’ “Good Morning, Midnight” about a woman set adrift in Paris.  And though it was peppered with French phrases, I could parse them out well enough:  What is she doing here?  That old woman?  And I felt for the protagonist, alone, without purpose, a bit damaged, and trying to stay alive, to move through this life quietly, invisibly, if possible.

I took a small break from reading, breathing in the wonder of the quiet, to see that the sky had opened up, the smudgy haze had broken apart to reveal pale blue expanses marked with puffing pink and orange tipped cumulonimbus clouds billowing up.  I decided to talk the dogs for a walk.

We walked down to the creek, which is our usual route.  The streets were silent, but away from our house the wind was picking up and clearing out the sky into more high thunderclouds, both pinker and more orange, to the north and east (and thus, not coming towards us).  The light was turning golden as we came nearer the water.  The creek was full, but still.  Here and there a bullfrog sounded a thick, waterlogged twang from the banks.  A night heron flitted from between some locust trees.  We moved through patches of midges, which clouded around my face, but didn’t deter the dogs, which were busily sniffing the edges of tree roots and mown burdock along the rises of newly blooming elderberry bushes showing sprays of white dots in the darkening green.  Our movement also stirred up the mosquitoes, which began to light on my arms.  I pulled the dogs along, away from the water and up to the grassy park.  The cottonwoods were shimmering with the breeze, each leaf applauding into one another so ecstatically it seemed.  I rejoiced a little with them and wondered how long I could walk like this, in this lush twilight.  I thought of how no one else was out.  I passed houses where I saw televisions on, a man with his laptop parked on a couch.  I thought about how romantic it was to stroll the street at dusk, the freshness of the air, the show of the clouds, the holy silence of the earth.  I thought about being in Italy and how the evening brought the promenade, the walking around the piazza, before supper, being out amongst others, being a community, flirting, seeing and being seen.   Suddenly I felt tired, and I realized that this golden hour held only a few moments of splendor for me before I turned, pulling dogs with me, to go home.

You got married

It seemed obvious once I said it,
yet, I couldn’t picture it clearly at all,
the wedding, your bride . . . 

Waiting at the checkout,
those in front of me all seemed to have
complicated transactions—
vouchers, exemptions.
They looked rather well-fed and well-to-do.
Then all the cashiers walked out.
I was irate.
What was this country coming to?
What happened to good service?
Or any service at all?
I wanted to yell at somebody.
No one was listening. 
The President had resigned.
Didn’t I know?
Was the First Lady a lesbian?
Someone asked.

And so, some sort of coup
happened while I was getting groceries.
The spring sun was warm 
and everyone poured into the streets.
Water slowly trickled, melting off.
I felt it,
Cool on the yellow walls
Vibrant on the pavement.
I brushed my hand against the stucco
and tried to make sense of it,
to feel what was real,
if anything,
but it was all so distant,
any danger/chaos/bloodshed,
a fog above a thawing pond.
I could see two or three dogs
rambling down the street,
fighting amiably.

I sat on the curb
and you settled next to me
as I slowly caressed the rue
that was growing up,
pale and new,
through the cracks,
and the detritus—
Yellow bits
of discarded sponges.
and crumpled plastic cups.

You started to speak
And I pretended to understand:
Destiny, dynasty,
It all meant nothing to me.

You choked on “rococo”
And your voice went up
Like a bird
To a high branch,
And I saw
The whitened bones of a steer
Resting there,
Gently draped
As if asleep.

And you, too,
Incongruent,
Washed up by some long ago flood,
And now here beside me,
Black and white
In your lace trimmed
hounds tooth.
Your hands
Anchored so easily
Between my legs.
As we watched
The people and
The dogs,
The smoke rising in the distance,
And the thinning sun,
Setting.

You knelt closer
And I felt
Some cool murmur,
the smooth
dark lining
Of your heart,
and the coming night.


loveletter

The silent fold of paper
that curved into shadows,
the sly light shining
from your emerald ring.
You think that I’ve forgotten.
Or you’ve forgotten
Me.
Once, we wandered 
into shops,
felt the icy wonder
of jewels caught
in nets of silver.
I saw how you blossomed
away from the crowd;
warm petals of your hidden
in those worn aisles,
sweet cardamom cream.
On the street again
to grey cobbles
in darkness,
I whisper your name,
And realize
it’s no longer true.
Still, I will 
repeat it over and over,
trying to conjure
that plush weft
of your London suit
green like the water
melding moor to sea,
green like my heart, of course,
pulled into your kitchen
where you coyly mashed
the tight pearls of jasmine tea,
the copper patina
against the deep red
oriental patterened rugs,
and later with olives
eagerly dispensing their fleshy coats
under our teeth.
I thought you were a fierce adept
of birds and vines,
so natural in your breathless flow.
Damselflies floated 
on the walls
behind the gloss
of your haloed hair.
I ranged your library,
seeking out in which volumes
you might have secreted 
childhood violets.
The scent of their decay
leading me on.
I felt a glass of sherry
in my hand,
catching some last light
of Sunday,
when we’d let that Fado
recording spin and
cover our unspoken
Always.
Do the campions still bravely wave
rosy greetings 
this late
in the season?
Hello, Hello
Farewell
as we trail
away,
tracing 
the night
air.

Where Beauty Rhymes with Vulnerability

He touched the ice rimming his plate of oysters, those poor little crystals, slowly deteriorating.  In his mind he saw her with her coat collar pulled up, framing her face, so indistinct, yet seemingly so warm and inviting, as little snowflakes graced her hair.  How sentimental he had become about her already, not knowing her at all, but letting himself muse on the delight of snowflakes caught in some grassy wave of her hair.  He smiled.  Oh, maybe it was the alcohol, but there was no harm in it either way.  Does thinking make it so?   How would it matter?  Thoughts swam in and out constantly.  Which stuck?  Which set up shop, as it were? 
He brought his fingers to his lips.  Suddenly a strong perfume of hyacinth so pungent and feminine startled him.  He looked around to see if someone had slipped up beside him unbeknownst, but he sat alone at the bar.  Where had he been, then?  He had gone to get some groceries after his trip to the hardware store.  What had he touched?  Fish, cream, coffee, a pack of mushrooms, a tin of tea.  The cashier?  He couldn’t picture her just yet.  Some dumpy woman, with dark strings of hair.  Were her hands slathered with such a strong scent?  Had they touched his?  A receipt passed between them.  That was all.
What scent would she wear?  His blue-robed oyster princess in the snow?  He brought his fingers back to his nose.  It was almost choking thick and sweet as a hothouse in spring:  now jasmine, now lilies.  He pulled back a little.  Just a touch here on his fingers could make him nostalgic for something as yet unknown, a swing of silk in a hallway.  But a whole pasture of it, a whole swath of a woman dripping in such scent—one wouldn’t be able to breathe.  His happy reverie was broken.  He had dark thoughts again.  Women were difficult.   He returned his attention to the oysters and ordered another drink.