|Oct/Nov 2004 Poetry|
A Lovely Consonance
(For Sylvia Plath)
Red means war.
War on my lips, my shoulders,
my waist, the insanity leaving its baggage
on my eyes.
It's cashmere and silver hoops,
draining the dance from the floor of
writers, artists, handymen,
I woo them all with flushed, blotched
cheeks; I keep the time in shades of wine and
burgundy. Until I spot him
through the sweeping grime of typeset,
smeared A's and E's. I made up my mind
That any centaur should be taller and more
delicately hooved than I;
Should bear weight against a red introduction.
Seething, smarting from the bullshit of rhyme
and meter, solace and circumstance,
sonnet and closureŚ
who said pentameter couldn't bite a cheek like a
sun ripened apple, splitting the skin and letting
loose a current of lost vintage?
We are locked by books and leather,
my earring ripped clean through.
Ahead of me is a night of slush and snow,
of black fences and cold fires. Old rugs stained
with the crust of your lust. I owe you.
Death in red. Ribbed red, red made of
guts and gory trash.
A million years later: bees.
Bees drone and dull over your flaming papers,
reels of ordinary life. Milk curdles
over tiny fires. The babies suck me dry.
The beekeepers have your number,
as does the clergy,
and the au pair.
I learn German. The Ach and the wunderkind.
The spinster and the spell.
I paint our walls red; I make our red curtains.
Time doesn't travel.
The curtains will die in a fire
before reaching London,
with your papers,
with your fuel.
I'll take these hot embers to the city
where the cold kills even the most steady-hearted.
I will not re-think these abominations.
The grayish jolt of hallelujah and confrontation.
The mythical beast that is you,
nostrils flaring and feet stamping.
You're horned and godlike in your
I'll never regret it.
I'll work instead.
The work is a glutton;
The varnish and the vanishing.
An overflow. A lapse.
A bronchial flush and flow,
a red ribbon.
And then the last big dig:
a crackling of feet on ice,
dumb, dead Yeats.
"Tell it in third person,
for god's sake."
(For Edna St. Vincent Millay)
I compare you to sparrows, swans, cuckoos:
Always birds, necks stretched,
stranded until winter,
dodging foxes, dogs, the cats,
heads stuck shamelessly into dirty wings,
eyes crusted and half stuck with dirt
Migration a splendid idea
lying dormant in the circuitry.
One day they'll just leave.
Until then they light upon your open hands as if
that's ingrained, too,
and your voice the universal calling.
We swoop to meet your skin.
I've trapped you on land and water,
through letters and longings;
summer yawns on,
and there is no sign of you
but your ink is morphine to my veins;
your syrupy spiral
sends my blood reeling.
I place you under a fish-eye moon,
your hands clenched around a sweating glass,
a slick rash of poppies blooming on your cheeks.
You call it a fever,
But it lives under other names:
sicknesses as pallid and out of breath as jungle tops,
week old air.
Where the birds are.
The kind that wobble out from the underbrush warily
at the sight of seeds or scraps,
murmuring and quick to dash
back into the overgrowth.
The sweet chirrup of blank verse.
Lavender stifled our noses and filled our
mouths with bright, dead purple.
A field of you, lazily lapping at the tide of
smart, suffocating flowers.
Keeping you here
The nectar is poison.
It's dyed red to attract.
Only the smallest birds
with the fastest wings dare drink
from such a volatile brew,
the sweetly sung, sun ripened bout
of you, you, you.