Apr/May 2000 Poetry

Two Poems

by Claire Cowan-Barbetti



Leaf caught up in the current of the river
On a transparent plane above agile fishes;
Windswept trash tumbles down city streets;
In the early dawn, a man and a dog
Walk in the same direction;
Our dreams breaking, we wake to move with the day.

From the marketplace we drove together
Pleased with our cheap, fresh purchases-
Two white figs posed in my hands
Extravagantly like small, heavy doves;
Cradling their shapeliness, I laughed with you
All through downtown.

In the afternoon we make love,
A chair jimmied against the bedroom door,
Blocking small voices from our sweet flow-
Your exertion blesses me, your sweat falls like rain
On my body, and turning, pressing breasts, hair, sweat,
Our love makes thick rivulets towards strange countries.

But then we've drifted in and out of each other's arms
So many times. When I wash dishes
Running water with magnetic power drags tears
From my eyes. These domestic times dismember
When you are away. I lose shape without your
Touch speaking, yes, these are your lovely arms, neck, body-

Unbound and vilified in the want of such language
I feel memories thaw: you hid your light under another's
Upturned basket, away from me. Our fruit sat
In shadow, untasted, while the honey glow of our room
Receded. Now the wet work of my hands
Spills images like steam and I am boiling, febrile expansion,

Shapeless, boneless, organless. My action
Is explosion. This is fury: it exceeds in frenzy;
The sound of smashing dishes becomes the
Rhetoric of war. Your books lie lifeless and torn
On the floor, their perfect philosophy disemboweled,
Their sad pages lost to logic's continuity.

Movement is learning. Quietly, you gather me
Into your arms and the knowledge is secured:
These tears falling are yours, too.
Why else could we never split our tongues
And dam even some small sin or story
From passing into the whorled depth of each other's ear?

We tell each other everything;
Everything alights in the telling!
As our dialogue brims and swells
Books and lives find form; we steer
Along the flow of argument and it glides
Beside us like smiling dolphins who companion ships.

We have found the North Star,
The pole star, when together
Our gaze turned upward at night.
On porch steps, our legs intertwined, sojourning
Words find flowing shape in the undefined;
We listen to the rolling wind outside.



As earth absorbs leaves
A thousand times dying
From their final galas-
Elegant colored prisms,
Festive jewels alight on branches
Like inverted chandeliers-
Their falling is a sigh
Relinquishing work and satiety;
Pelican's blood from a torn breast,
White feathers dressed in red seeping
To nurse her young, hungry brood
Could not be more sustaining
Than the gift, the cultivation of
The bright leaves, in relief,
Against wet, black ground
Becoming brownness; then always becoming.
Such yielding is our kiss,
In our mouths the brightness of brief stars,
Lips the fullness of falling leaves
Upon the dark earth of the other.


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