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Monday, October 15, 2007

Fugue (Joy Manesiotis)

Sometimes I was in the body of the young boy.
Blond. Small. The King and Queen were with us. Cups,
lady slipper cups, our boat, deep red, and the membrane
sliding back, something moving toward me.


I saw the young Asian boy in the maroon Toyota. I saw
him push himself back in his seat, arm straight,
hand tightening on the wheel, trying on his future.
I saw the tension in his neck, the angle. I knew
he was going to hit me. I moved away. I saw the window,
its shape cut in the air, slide back: a clear membrane, it slid back
and the form advanced toward me, colorless, dense,
invisible, with volume, edges, a shape drawing steadily
toward me, my future approaching my present. I saw him
shift in his seat: I knew he would hit me. It was raining.
The rain was a choir. I steered my silver car
to another lane but he nosed in behind me.


Sometimes I was in the body of the young boy. We were
on the river. We were in the boat of lady slipper cups,
flat red fiberglass pontoons between us. We all faced
forward in our cups, pedalling, below the surface. The King
and the Queen were with us. The other boy was a man, dark,
maybe my brother. The Queen wore red velvet, her bodice tight
in red velvet, her black hair piled high on her head.
Head up, she sat still, facing forward. We moved down the river.
I was in the body of the young boy. Blond. An entourage
of vessels trailed us. The dark boy and I detached.
We pedalled out own cups, we shot through the rapids,
white water churning, and slid against black rocks
that leapt out of receding water. We tried
to knock each other over, vaulting
through the rapids, oars overhead.


I saw the red Toyota behind me. It was raining. The rain
was wind in the trees, white water. It was a set
of deep voices, drumming across the vocal chords
of wind and asphalt. It blurred the concrete, the cars
on all sides. I braked. The red Toyota didn’t.
The clear membrane slid open, the shape bore down,
It rocked to a halt, it hulked on my chest.


Sometimes I was in the body of the young boy.

Villanelle for D.G.B. (Marilyn Hacker)

Every day our bodies separate,
exploded torn and dazed.
Not understanding what we celebrate

we grope through languages and hesitate
and touch each other, speechless and amazed;
and every day our bodies separate

us farther from our planned, deliberate
ironic lives. I am afraid, disphased,
not understanding what we celebrate

when our fused limbs and lips communicate
the unlettered power we have raised.
Every day our bodies' separate

routines are harder to perpetuate.
In wordless darkness we learn wordless praise,
not understanding what we celebrate;

wake to ourselves, exhausted, in the late
morning as the wind tears off the haze,
not understanding how we celebrate
our bodies. Every day we separate.

Song (Brigit Pegeen Kelly)

Listen: there was a goat’s head hanging by ropes in a tree.
All night it hung there and sang. And those who heard it
Felt a hurt in their hearts and thought they were hearing
The song of a night bird. They sat up in their beds, and then
They lay back down again. In the night wind, the goat’s head
Swayed back and forth, and from far off it shone faintly
The way the moonlight shone on the train track miles away
Beside which the goat’s headless body lay. Some boys
Had hacked its head off. It was harder work than they had imagined.
The goat cried like a man and struggled hard. But they
Finished the job. They hung the bleeding head by the school
And then ran off into the darkness that seems to hide everything.
The head hung in the tree. The body lay by the tracks.
The head called to the body. The body to the head.
They missed each other. The missing grew large between them,
Until it pulled the heart right out of the body, until
The drawn heart flew toward the head, flew as a bird flies
Back to its cage and the familiar perch from which it trills.
Then the heart sang in the head, softly at first and then louder,
Sang long and low until the morning light came up over
The school and over the tree, and then the singing stopped….
The goat had belonged to a small girl. She named
The goat Broken Thorn Sweet Blackberry, named it after
The night’s bush of stars, because the goat’s silky hair
Was dark as well water, because it had eyes like wild fruit.
The girl lived near a high railroad track. At night
She heard the trains passing, the sweet sound of the train’s horn
Pouring softly over her bed, and each morning she woke
To give the bleating goat his pail of warm milk. She sang
Him songs about girls with ropes and cooks in boats.
She brushed him with a stiff brush. She dreamed daily
That he grew bigger, and he did. She thought her dreaming
Made it so. But one night the girl didn’t hear the train’s horn,
And the next morning she woke to an empty yard. The goat
Was gone. Everything looked strange. It was as if a storm
Had passed through while she slept, wind and stones, rain
Stripping the branches of fruit. She knew that someone
Had stolen the goat and that he had come to harm. She called
To him. All morning and into the afternoon, she called
And called. She walked and walked. In her chest a bad feeling
Like the feeling of the stones gauging the soft undersides
Of her bare feet. Then somebody found the goat’s body
By the high tracks, the flies already filling their soft bottles
At the goat’s torn neck. Then somebody found the head
Hanging in a tree by the school. They hurried to take
These things away so that the girl would not see them.
They hurried to raise money to buy the girl another goat.
They hurried to find the boys who had done this, to hear
Them say it was a joke, a joke, it was nothing but a joke….
But listen: here is the point. The boys thought to have
Their fun and be done with it. It was harder work than they
Had imagined, this silly sacrifice, but they finished the job,
Whistling as they washed their large hands in the dark.
What they didn’t know was that the goat’s head was already
Singing behind them in the tree. What they didn’t know
Was that the goat’s head would go on singing, just for them,
Long after the ropes were down, and that they would learn to listen,
Pail after pail, stroke after patient stroke. They would
Wake in the night thinking they heard the wind in the trees
Or a night bird, but their hearts beating harder. There
Would be a whistle, a hum, a high murmur, and, at last, a song,
The low song a lost boy sings remembering his mother’s call.
Not a cruel song, no, no, not cruel at all. This song
Is sweet. It is sweet. The heart dies of this sweetness.

Elegy (Vijay Seshadri)

The ambulance is gone. The squall’s
ragged edge fingers
the fresh green stitchings on the alder trees.
Its belly cracks open and pours

through the timbered swale in back of the house
where, with the lights lit early,
the dangerous hours

of a slowly imploding
spring evening circle
the person left behind to answer the calls.

Friend, you’re in the hands of professionals now—
shaved and scoured,
black life mask strapped to your mouth,

ampules of glycerin, plasma
by the quart, blossoming in the branches
of your temporary yard, your eyes
reflecting the oscillating lines—

and your heart’s plush chambers fibrillate,
in distention darken and swell
three times their size,

swelling in one perpendicular
effort until they
collapse at last.
Friend, it grieves me that you’re breaking

your promise to take me hunting.
This fall, you said, on opening day,
when the alders

are nervous with change,
you’d come to my door and we’d drive
the Upper Bay Road to the blind.

The Uses of Sorrow (Mary Oliver)

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

Butter (by Linda Pastan)

You held the butter-
cup to my chin
and laughed: “get thee
to a buttery,”
chewing on a dandelion stem,
then tasting my
buttery fingers
one by one
and eyeing
my breasts as if
they too could,
bobbing, churn
pure milk to
Yellow dress and
flowers, yellow
hair, the world
was melting butter
sweet and slick,
your hands all yellow
with the spilling
sun, desire
like the heated
knife through