Space, this implosion—like a word
with its walls giving way.
[Mise en Scene.]
- Which face to choose?
- Start in the left-hand corner—and speak to it
- as if to a flock of birds
- deserting men in their famished quarters.
- Like doodling, the idea,
the need, is to have a beautiful shape,
- a skull that cups the hand …
- Or start with shoes. In boxes, in graves,
the left one only;
- one at a time the flowered sandals of children.
- Or hands, severed, with the wrist hairs
- lightly bristling.
- Or simply nail the box shut and
- the hand is inside
- (You cannot speak to hands;
- you touch them.
- Shoes, you crowd out.)
- Children tell the hours until the light
- swings bad at vespers.
- Winter opens the air. Each banal instruction
- —Go to the end of the line
- and wait till I count to ten—
- is clear, a knife in water—below,
- the playground’s bitter primary colors,
- bright tubes and slides.
- The children’s voices
- grow shriller, filling
- the spaces between branches
- in the abandoned acacia …
- and you feel
- you could speak to them,
- that they would even understand
- the language of birds.
[But they ignore you.
They pour across the concrete like pestilence,
coiled mufflers unpeeled in a wink,
although it will be weeks before
the windows begin to drip,
lose their waxen resignation.]
- It is true that in winter
- their cries are sharper.
- Start with the face before morning.
- Kissed off. Crisscrossed with sleep.
- Lids puffed with dreams.
- The plum lip cheesy in corners.
- (This is how we come to ourselves:
- first the splash
- then the body,
- the first gulp of coffee
- straightening us into humanity)
- By the way of the Middle Passage
- I have grown wings.
- By way of the Trail of Tears
- I have turned pale overnight.
- By way of sale of a twelve-year-old in marriage to pay a drinking debt
- I came along: medium tall, medium dark.
- The face I put on mornings:
- smudged orchid petal, crème de cacao,
- fragrant dust.
- Fingernails gilded, heraldic.
- Everything by design.
- I want only the paint:
- swirled ridges, crusts of pigment
- curling off the lip of the knife.
- I want my life to be
- the story of paint, concrete color:
- a flying fish so orange, it’s a medallion
- cast into ashes. Now I will stop biting
- my cuticles and my back will stop aching
- so I can paint until the sun comes up;
- then I’ll take a cup of sherry to bed
- to calm down. I want to lick the canvas,
- grow buoyant on turpentine, make love
- to every year between eighteen and twenty-five
- and paint each in its own color—
- reddening branch, emerald caduceus of leaves
- traveling fast over the garden wall.
- I want the cerise of the poisoned berry
- and the blue eel and the gray of the pebble
- you must moisten with your tongue
- to bring out its platinum sheen.
- I want you to be that pebble.
- I want to put you in my mouth.
[Dissolve, and: Pan.]
- I know the silence behind a smile,
- the milky introductions, friendships of embarrassment
- that exhaust the mind: I mean the mind
- either slithers to a stop or veers
- toward violins and cocoa.
- This is the way of the managerial universe.
- I know how to walk there, sweep into a dimlit room
- and locate the hubs of power before
- my coat has been taken.
- Ah, rectitude.
- There is something to be said for a flaking croissant,
- the contentment of fresh preserves and the correct
- temperature of
café au lait
- . Such happiness
- lasts longer than most pleasures.
- Hugo von Hofmannsthal said,
How we feel is how we want to be heard
- . I wish
- I had said that. I wish I could say that, now.
[Bird’s Eye View.]
- Step onto the ancient veldt:
- kicked-up dust teasing the nostrils
- with a gingery whiff of drought.
- The melancholic call of the blue-crowned Trogon
- who sings only when she sits on her nest.
- Is this what’s meant by the sublime—
- a skimming that shakes the soul to its depths,
- a mesh of elegant solitudes?
- Everywhere, the invisible.
- Is it sweat or a tear which explodes,
- darkens my walking shoe’s filigree imprint?
- But there’s no skill to memory: Cry out
- and Echo answers.