GHAZAL # 4
What you call sweetness is not love.
Her sugar maggots will rot love.
A beast, the heart tears free of pledge.
Fishing nets have never caught love.
My mother scalded me with truth
to cleanse. This is how she taught love.
Of course it beats but can it break?
The bootleg version ain’t worth snot, love!
Once Rorschach-drunk with a litmus kiss
I asked the bartender to blot love.
Compassion or lust that turns to salt?
An ebenezer still for Lot’s love.
I am torn ragged at the seams.
His practiced hands knot love.
Thank the handsome one for my brass-
knuckle smile. I’m the 9 that shot love.
A cross to string my diamond heart.
I can’t wear the gift, O Lost Love.
But now I lay by your
twisted completeness – an ocean of transformative
screams, rolling, lulling, the colour of ice
and sometimes, gold.
But now I breathe, though I cannot
imagine the bright death inside you, that
maims all warmth, casts out the churning world
like a house fly. Touched by your beauty and
the sharp lines of your natural conviction,
now I am final – ripped from darkness into
something too bright – dunked into the chilled water,
naked, my heart not even where it belongs, but rising, rising
not pulsing – pausing and still because now
this is not sorrow, not the past nor even is it heavy.
Because now I touch your hand
and it is fixed like a star is fixed in the sky or glass
impaled so deep it touches bone. I touch
and like you I am contained, blue – and I am now and better than
a thousand storms.
BETWEEN M AND N
In the middle of the alphabet,
between m and n, we stall.
Folders heap around us like dunes.
So much data to enter,
so little incentive. Rain sighs
in the tall windows. You sigh
as I open a folder labeled
“Mulholland,” a shadow crosses
the nearest window. Maybe
a pterodactyl to distract us
with an omen from the past.
We have to complete this task
before the earthquake scheduled
for the doomsday after next.
But as we work we’re growing scales.
Long fibrous tails drag after us
as we plod from filing cabinet
to computer station and back.
We’ve regressed beyond the stages
of evolution Darwin plotted
to cheer us with a firmer grasp
of our relationship with nature.
We’ve regressed below the brain-size
required for literacy. Entries
from now on will be gibberish.
The alphabet no longer pertains.
The shadow on the window claws
at the fronds of ivy, and shrieks.
You respond with a chatter
of lost phonemes. Your body, ribbed
like a snake’s, excites me more
than a human body ever did.
I burrow into the heaped folders
to make a nest to cradle the eggs
I expect you to lay tonight
and then, like all indifferent
reptile mothers, abandon.
TO THAT SHE COULD ABIDE
She sat with a brigadier’s stiffness and spoke
of a man who could fold origami
in his mouth. A boondoggle, she said, to tongue
a crane and soak the paper to distress;
slurping at the final fold, slobber
leaking from his lips, his jaw dislodged--
what use that tongue? Atrophied when he’d try to kiss.
What moves her is what is pounded
into being: those red sparks that dance
fiery from where the anvil stops the hammer,
the bruise that streaks across the chorus
girl’s bust, the bug guts splattered on the boot.
Beauty bores, she says, its arrogance astounds.
Let us live for baser things. Let us live unbound.
At the flea market on Saturday
you find nothing
and it takes all morning.
Heartache, six months old,
grows out of season.
objects gain significance;
they burn their presence into time:
a crowbar made in Vietnam,
a smallish ball of rainbow twine.
These things are arbitrary marks
the heart's eyes seize when they are weak
to fertilize your troubled thoughts
with wholesale junk from overseas
that fills a reused cardboard box.
But also opportunity --
you touch a sky-blue china plate
and phrase a question with your mouth
then leave it to its history,
this nice thing you can live without.
Old bottles, records, antique toys,
books which are no longer read--
these bric-a-brac you walk among
will turn once golden hair to lead
like a picture of your mother, young.
And storied knickknacks
colored by their place of birth
are not unlike love's value;
all of its potential worth
can be traced to its beginning.
What time gave us to share
planted where we met, perhaps:
the sorrows of a small hotel,
worn-in sheets and short staffed.
The joys as well.
THE LAST DAYS OF MY LIFE
Maybe they will resemble the last days of high school,
when you suddenly click with someone
you have known for years
but were never close to, a new best friend who says
he loves The Harder They Come
nearly as much as you,
and his orange Camaro sucks down gas
but who cares and you drive all night
and toss the empties and eat shrimp
at Denny's at three in the morning
because there is no tomorrow,
never mind tomorrow
is here and tomorrow rocks. Goddamn, did you ever notice?
Or maybe when that girl
you sat next to in Spanish
blooms before your eyes and her dishwater hair and glasses
are the original quirks on a sunny afternoon
in May, and you kiss and kisses
were never this fine before.
The days are long, the nights are sweet
and if you lived by the sea
you sat on the sea wall, which held back
your laughter and all the delicious,
talk of holding on,
of staying there forever.
The pregnant dentist’s baby presses against me
as she cleans my teeth
The hygienist has called in sick
It’s flu season
The cosmetologist presses against me
as she cuts my hair
which is sparse and dull
Her hair is purple and gold
and I say something complimentary
even though it would be more honest to say something
Popular culture distresses me
as if I were somehow above it all
I’m right in it
speaking modern slang
but sometimes I wish we had no culture at all
high or low
The hip of the waitress in the New Mexican restaurant
presses against me
as she leans over the table to fill my wife’s water glass
The water is cold
and there’s a cold wind blowing along the Rio Grande
where I stopped to buy a psychedelic painting
from a Native American
who tells me about doing time in prison
He could have gone into population
and gotten into all kinds of shit
Instead he stayed in his cell
with his colored pencils
and now he sells me a painting for thirty American dollars
I ask him if some plants in his painting are agave
He doesn't know--
he says he paints a lot of pictures from magazines
a habit he developed in prison
Even now, he looks at magazines more than he looks
out his window
even though he’s Native American, he says
and ought to be attuned to nature
The waitress in the New Mexican restaurant is dark-skinned
She looks more gypsy than Hispanic
has a diamond shard in her nose
and one in her upper lip
I would have an orgasm, I think, if she pick-pocketed my wallet
I would gladly give her all my credit cards
as a form of worship
In the end I give her a thirty percent tip
I’ve left some posole on my plate
soft hominy marbles
next to brown beans
My leavings foretell my future
if only I could read the signs
or get a gypsy to serve me
My wife presses against me
her big breasts and curved hips
I serve her coffee I grind from oily beans
before the sun is even up
She tells me chores she’d like me to do that day
before it rains
Humans have to eat frequently
to maintain all the flesh
we press against each other
The cosmetologist is a single mother
with two children under three
I leave her a big tip too
I want everyone to be well and
have their needs met
or at least not frustrated to death
to have their children grow up
and with a surplus of positive energy to share