IT TAKES ME
some sort of a
rhythmia takes me whenever I try to write about you words and rhythm are never enough some sort of a
rhythmia takes me I fail to build the better stanza fail to catch the music of the action of the phrase it takes me: sitting in the car
on a field road necking like there isn’t skin enough or time in the dormitory stretching out a hand to brush your thigh by accident and stuck up against the wall
you lift me take me down in the ditch with an axle broken walk five white miles in January it takes me: watching you drive from the back seat seeing some girl get all over you like a lip-sticked snake it takes me: bent on the coffee table fucked from behind like a cow mounted I whine and the wood’s crisp edge pressed a deep crease
in the skin of my stomach some sort of a
rhythmia takes me trick memory tripping
of sequence it takes me ten years practice a
rhythmia trampled I learn to balance I quietly back down and you join the faces who fare no better than a photograph left in the sun my elephant’s memory stretches out to meet you I catalog everything everyone and then you die and how can I draw a poem out of dissonance how can I cut a poem from something that has no clean
it takes me you die no poetry there no metrics and some sort of a
rhythmia takes me
some sort of halting cry of mourning done once and left to die you can’t be buried twice but you you treat me to repetition live again screaming in the trees and some sort of a
rhythmia takes me some treacherous kiss some cock some carnal coward who left me at nineteen stripped and crying you trip me John for a decade
you trick me every time I pull my pants down let’s admit it I never knew you knew only the bones you wanted revealed never dug beneath the flesh never happened to find any discrepancies in the seams of your skin in the fit of your clothes or your cock I cannot deny that stifling eye or the skill of your pleasured body but what fit in the bedroom never worked on the bus on the street with public life lived away from cum stained sheets or words of love what made sense in the bedroom never makes sense now in the funeral pyre some sort of a
rhythmia takes me every time I try to translate you to paper to poetry I’ve lost your language you will not make metrics for me now not even in your grave.
NOW THAT WE ARE NEVER FINISHED MOURNING
for Mark Miller
Don’t even start. It would be a long, ugly list.
How one morning Mark couldn’t wake up and we recall
his wondering aloud whether he might turn into ashes
in Wisconsin. How his remains were flown home
in a plastic jar, back to San Francisco, not the Midwest,
because Wisconsin (or Minnesota, or the Dakotas,
or Michigan, or Iowa...) is a place which, once left,
can never be convincingly returned to again.
How Brett took the ashes to the Detour
and dumped some on the floor, bits of bones
and fine gray powder ground under the heels
of well-worn leather boots. It was all accomplished
in darkness. Other ashes scattered in the park,
under the stands of rhododendron, used condoms,
cigarettes, old gum, and Mark, seeping down into
the city’s unstable soil. Don’t even start.
I don’t know enough stories, or maybe only
beginnings, or ends; say, the details: the translucence
of a man’s skin in the afternoon light, a bit
about his hair or his eyes. Their names can be
alphabetized, but never ordered; I can never
do justice to them, their capacity for knowing
each exact moment, each heated contact,
the taste, the scent, the texture of skin.
Don’t even start. I could say it all again,
retell every story I’ve ever told and still
no one would listen. Why should they?
Aren’t we all tired of death? It used to be
we’d tell a story and something, some lesson
or knowledge, would be made or unmade.
And something else would change. Now, nothing.
Now that we are never finished mourning,
the shapes, the intentions of the stories have changed
and we all walk away, uninterested or weary
or used up when we read the obituaries
or hear one more poet on the stage proclaim
This poem is dedicated to the memory of...
Everything wanted its own language.
Before the schism, everything
had one tongue, and that tongue
was one muscle in the one mouth
of the world, speaking one word
over and over.
We can’t remember it now.
Something to do with water, sky, stones, fire.
The intricacies implied, one raised eyebrow
or a nod between strangers on the street;
in passing glances, a whole story told.
Now we’re all so specialized
the doctor for your left foot
can’t look at your right,
and volumes are written on
every letter of a too extraneous
alphabet. Before, the story was
as simple as
something to do with joy.
LETTER TO A FRIEND IN SAN FRANCISCO
November here opens a door. You would recognize this,
having grown up, like me, in this colder climate.
Yesterday it was so warm I walked around the lake
in shorts and shirtsleeves. Birds flew in vast waves
over the water. Today, the wind rips at my jacket,
and my poor hands, barometers, begin to ache and freeze.
The days grow shorter. Nights, in gust and gale, prevail.
We all live inside. What I know of you in your new home
comes only second-hand, descriptions of a house
in the hills, a garden filled with fantastic, primordial plants,
a series of birds you’ve taught to speak so that
each day, when you return from work,
these pets call out to you like a lover or a parent
Hello! Hello! Hello!
Forgive me if I embroider or invent the pictures:
You, on your hillside, looking out at the bay.
You, at the dockside, coiling rope onto the deck
of your small boat, seagulls crying overhead.
You, watching your lover drive away to a new home,
then collapsing, the way lovers do when a new door
opens onto memory, onto loss. I know he has been
with you for a decade. I’ve met him in other cities.
I have approved. Now, you sit in your exotic garden
alone, making phone calls home to this colder land
because that’s all there is left to do, reach backward
for help, move forward as you can.
We mend where we may, and for you, there’s nothing
I can say that would make sense. Only: this is what
loss is: emptiness; a way of not seeing
through the void. After we spoke,
in my own winter-bare garden, unseasonably warm,
my arms drank in the best of the sun.
I thought about us, our common past. More and more,
there is nothing I can do to help anyone, except listen.
All around me, in the trees, the birds that remained
were singing. Perhaps they were fooled
into believing we had all missed something wicked,
the long sleep of winter. Perhaps not.
They are so pragmatic, little birds;
the way they can recognize the order of things;
the way they can, even in winter, sing.