I am reading tonight with Reg Gibbons and musician Mabel Kwan at an event co-sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and the PianoForte Foundation. (7 pm at the Fine Arts Building downtown.) Also on the bill are poets Ed Roberson and Christina Pugh. I'm very excited!

Here are the poems I plan to read. I'll be accompanied by 3 early compositions by John Cage.

***
Lingua


It started like this.
In delight.

How could I not see the leaves
ringing yellow with light,
taste the berry opening
on my tongue and not want
to tell you? If we

had never separated,
if we had gone on walking
hip to hip, then

just the extension of the arm, wonder
in the eyes, soft
fruit warm in the hand,
passed from my hand to
yours, just this
would have been enough.

But I walked further to gather.
You crouched waiting in hunt and what
I saw was petals
opening, a quickened winging!

How could I not pursue it?
How could I not come back

to tell you with my nimble
fingers, then a flutter
of music on my tongue.

My first word was look,
I met this missing
you—meet this—thus
an undercurrent of the word
is love.


*

When I Saw It



It was early in morning’s memory
with that fog around the edges
and me, wrapped in blankets, rocking

just up and over the rung of consciousness
into the blurred limbs I was coming
to know as my own, into a car

clapping through a broth of wind and rain,
parents murmuring in the front seat
over wiper beats and soft talk radio—

sounds to become the beginning and end
of love—a slow unwrapping
of cinnamon gum, and her, passing it to him

as he aims us straight and low.
The car slows. Then stops.
She opens the door

to asphalt, soaped sky.
Across the road, a workman
is climbing the hotel sign.

He scales the tight white rungs
until he’s high as the building,
until he’s no longer

what I understand as a man
but something small enough to hold
and bend, like an action figure

or poem. Is this the moment,
years later, when I realize the bag
slung over his heart

is filled with black letters?
Is this when I have him pause
at the top, hot luck rushing his limbs

one March dawn, and how long
can I stare like this—
at his body, interrupted with mist,

his tiny hand reaching into his tiny bag,
and me, clutching orange juice,
still swaddling my newness

in this world— before I see it:
no no no
of a moment

dropping through
the hollow pole
of a life and it goes on

happening yet
it happened almost slowly:
a man, falling,

like no more
than a bright spoked
star of snow.

With me there,
trying to wake.


*

Shetl


Rain falls all day on the day
your mother was born years before.
We’re so happy we have this soft rain,
this soft rain, someone says,
you think yes of the bloodroot pushing up
through its hood of skin. It will erupt
in a foam of white and yolk-yellow at the stem.
She was alive during the war
and safe enough on this half of the world.
But you saw her looking through
the hissing fence, pressing food
between its barbs with warm gloved hands.
She saw you too, then one day only
tired dirt and burnt grass
under the stench of skin.
She couldn’t wait to have you,
the boy with the marks on his back.
You grew and you were holy,
absorbing the blows of the rain.
Then you left, as if you could leave
the site of those gouged wings—
scars (behind the heart) of having fallen.





***

cold, cold, cold



the rearranging air

and held note of the yet

who are you

what you remember

a story

you can shine ahead

a few years

to where you are not

you and new


***

We climbed back from the beach
of three as shifting pools
dissolved the sky in swaths of peach and gold
and night folded us back to its bruise.
The dark seemed to rise like steam
from the earth, beginning in the ankles
of trees and leaves’ undersides
then up the black basalt and sand banks
until it soddenened our path, swallowing
our hands, our feet and we
could not see to see.
We pawed the ground for the soft
hemlock needles, flexed our toes
for the jutting stones
and called on our technologies,
lighting our keys, our keys, our keys.
I crawled on hands and knees
and yelled out commands while you cried
terrorized, you fell a long way
into memory falling. But somehow,
we reached the top, mostly unscathed
and after sleeping
late in time’s carapace,
we woke, alive for the first time.


***


Kauai


We’ve come back
to the site of her conception.

She calls it why
and cries all night sleepless, wild.

It seems the way is always
floating and the goal:

to live so the ghosts we were
don’t trail us and echo.

I think we are inside a flower,
under a pollen of stars vast as scattered sand.

The air pulses with perfume,
flowers calling to flowers and the ferrying air.

But my eyes are thin and elsewhere.
I am thinking,

maybe even coming into the soul
is a difficult birth,
squeezed in the body’s vise.

My bent legs like pincers
or the vegetable petals of some tropical flower.

Even my mind gripped by the folds
of the flesh, how the cell keeps doubling itself
out toward complexity. . .

The tulip trees of the valley
spread their bone canopies into slick green
leaves and fire flowers deep as cups.

Their cups fill with rain, rain
drinks the leaves drinking rain.

I begin to explain.

How on this porous peak of stone in the sea
our daughter came into me.

Little flick of a fish I could not see.

I was just learning to be human
and upright among all that life.

And what was real was stranger
than night with its dust of unnamed suns.

It was the beyond in us
and she was.




Cream of the Pour is the Cream of Skin Thickening


I look out. Black leaves color of dried blood
and my ulcerated tonsils fluttering as I
breathe openmouthed. Through the branches
there are branches.

Some remember their lives
of green some hang languorous
sturdy with sap.

The question becomes how to live
the right life filling with it
as a liquid converted from light
until it becomes the weight
that factors your place.

Until just walking to the car
with some coffee
you can sense suddenly purpose

in traffic and glances windswirls
clattering wrappers to the street

a man with a gunning hose
dividing the sidewalk into continents
of soap

commuters and students ubilicalled
to music

and that branch quivering
as it touches another

which is also of course itself.


***

Some of these poems are from a manuscript called September, and some are from a manuscript I think is almost finished called Wishing Cap & The Middle Distance: A Calling. Both books are dedicated to Richard Fammeree, but Wishing Cap is a love story told through time. The book's patron saints are Radegrunde and Fortunatus, writers who lived in the 6th Century.

Here are some of their poems:

Prelude I: Radegund and Fortunatus



They exist somewhere between time and eternity.

Radegunde was born around 520 A.D. to the ruling family of Thuringia, an area in Germany between the Rhine and the Elbe. She was of a the royal pagans, Barbarians living at the edge of the Roman empire. When she was 10, Clotaire, king of the Franks, invaded and killed her mother, uncle, siblings and servants, plundering and burning the wealth of the kingdom. She and one brother escaped because of smallness and luck. When Clotaire and his men discovered them, they brought them back to his court, educated them the Roman style and contracted Radegunde to become one of Clotaire’s wives. She ignored her worldly status and devoted herself to God. When Clotaire had her one remaining brother killed in 550, she fled his kingdom to live as a nun and requested his support to establish an Abbey in Poitiers, France. He gave this support until his death, and afterward his sons supported Radegunde’s Abbey, which was founded as a kind of safe house for women. Radegunde’s piety, strength and political wisdom won her the respect of the day’s leaders, and she corresponded often with bishops, queens, kings and princes, including Gregory of Tours. She despaired of losing her family and bloodline, but found friendship and solace with her sisters in the Abbey, especially Agnes, whom she saw as her spiritual daughter. She was close friends with Venantius Fortunatus, a poet-troubador who wrote many letters and poems to Radegrunde throughout her life and who wrote her biography after her death.



Radegunde: Illuminated

I was rescued from the forest by fate
in its dark cape and hair-covered hands.
They were men’s hands, heavy with rings, and they turned
and turned me to look at me—my body bow-thin and singing,
my terrified face shuffled with green
light dropped from the tongues of trees.

That was after they’d slashed my mother’s lap
and the lap of the earth
had caught my brother and me
in its thicket of smells, that dampness I knew as grief.

Hiding was our shared heart beating,
wracked by what we’d seen:

Head-thump onto wood, eyes wild
for the severed body, the blood-tide.

Crack of bones under ax, bones snapping
like branches, like shelter for what
through them was passing.

Cold climbed our teeth and we watched
darkness sift into the world through a torn
sky of the strangest color—something stirred
of egg and stone and brushed behind the trees in a book.

Night soaked the branches until they were cold
as our parents’ bones, then sifted down to us as dust making dust
of our shoulders and arms. We held each other and watched
the other’s face dissolve like a moon, until even the silver limn
of cheekbone was gone, until we became only a quick liquid guiding of the eye.

That was how they found us, thinned with shivering,
leaves in our hair.

That was how they saved us
from what they’d done to us.

They tipped their skins to our lips,
giving us water. They unwrapped dried venison
and cheese that broke to a powder on my tongue.

Then the muscles of their horses moved
under me, rolling my body over my body,
every shoulder-pull grinding me deeper into time.

In that darkness I knew I’d be wedded to darkness.

I’d have to let it in to my body.



Spoils


In the main hall, as plunder,
I was washed and dressed in fine embroidered cloth.

My hands hung useless
in the stone-cold air

as they pulled back my hair and combed for nits
and braided it with green
ribbons a handmaid had dyed.

While my mother was bleeding out
into dirt, she had watched this spring
color seep the silk, sleepy, thinking,
this is the sun, the sun
seeps into me, it seeps into my son through me.

That night, all her milk gone,
her nipples split by the prince’s teeth,
she’d let her own sun suck color from her thumbs.
She’d swayed and hummed against his hunger.

Plucked from our palace vaulted
with ash, I was lost in that paddle clack and strange
language, cold corridors

where I abandoned my eyes
and sought the shades, some
forgiveness from my kin
for living. None came.

I had seen my mother like the waters recede
from their strangling hands and I knew God
wasn’t anything simple or starved as a man,

not Lord as they said
in crewelled nobleman’s robes. No,
better to call God nothing

but breath moving through this barn of bones.

Better to be patient, I thought, trace
unknowing’s face with hands your own.



Knot of Power


Everything they gave me I gave away that was my way
of not belonging to them. I’d slip the knot of that kind of power
and know it just a twist
of hemp, matter, nothing
that would not burn. In that long dry penance
of wealth I did not tire of surprising

servants I’d decided were deserving. With a ruby ring
or slips embroidered in gold
silk—fine as the hair of a maid but secreted
by a blind and captived worm
then slipstitched by singing guildsmen.
Art and the commerce of the world.
Amassments of power was what they were
and even a milking girl knew
that the jewel secreted deep in her bodice
could buy her freedom when she needed.

I’d sit at the table mute or boring
the other wives with liturgy or lieder,
then when they’d left to their toilette,
I’d stuff crusts and plums, boiled eggs and little pewter pitchers
in my cloak, into folds I’d sewn.

In this way I slipped from my station and entered
my life. Disguised by a plainness of intention,
I fed the poor and mixed tinctures of herbs.

I liked to see the closing of a wound.
I liked to see a hungry eye anchoring
on a kindness, relieved for awhile of life’s terror.

I did not aspire to be good but truth was in me like a hunger.
It devoured the surrounding lies and left me with a seed
to tend, godlove a little leafing.











Soon


I was a girl when he took me,
bleeding me to enter and I looked into his eyes every time.

It wasn’t long before he was afraid of the still places
I could go in my body. Soon he overlooked me more

for the others, though he knew I was given to rapture,
given to kneeling in barns praying until my knees and flattened
feet split skin. In the haylight, sun spinning spores and glittering dust I
became those long blond fingers crossing and recrossing themselves.

I was hollow as a straw and holy gold. Rising not knowing

where I had been before this little flicker winging out
into hands, and works of hands.



Candling


Candling, my life was candling me, a luminous hand dipping,
dripping with an inward light, gathering gradually around

the thin twisted string I was. Sleepless, I was sleepy, dipping
candles to light by the light of the candles, my brow beading oil,

my face burning over the burning bowl of the thing
diminishing to yield up what was gathering.

That vat of wax was the sun in earth’s gut and my hands
were dunn gulls diving its broth, drawing out
the slickening shrouds, like acts

receding in a film, like days accruing indecipherable
from others, slipping from their skins and thickening

to the sludge that bodies the burn.








Jar


Clotaire returned from his latest tour
lusting, haunted by the deeds he’d done.

He’d had my dove brother killed he would have fallen had he tried
himself. He was weak as only the rich can be.

My brother who never gave a hard word
struck down in his first blond beard.

Worse than being murdered myself to know
he was gone. My own little human
life now meant nothing to me. Let me go

I said despising at that moment him
the stinking husband and all the
conquests of men just as a clay jar
shattered from the shelf the holy ghost
assisting me in my moment of need
or was it his terror bouncing off the walls.

I demanded the property in Poitiers
knowing my home was over again I would create

an abbey for girls invisible raped
and withering in the clutch of the days.

His fear of me gave me leave.

And from there we
built a life from his respect for me
and my nullity.



Regret Engine



Why was he ripped from the world
by men of little faith?

Why did I flee again, having twice
endured the enemy?

I did not even attend his funeral.

I did not close his eyes
nor let hot tears drop
to warm the unlucky corpse
inside of me. Life was denied.

I might have sent the fringes I made while he lived
to his bier.

With him went my joy.



Sisterhood



As the bloodline ended the spirit
claimed me finally, webbing

me out into the world
not as body
but word embodied

writing letters to bishops and princes
raising others’ daughters, plums
and herbs in the cool air
of my tending.




When We Met


Fortunatus was a performer. He liked stringing himself out on a lie, then
weaving it into something true.

And I was a controller. I liked being in charge and doling out bits of the vision
to my various delegations.

We both had survived too much life to believe our lives
belonged to us. I’d survived through wit, noble directness and fiery truth.
He through wit, stealth and flexibility. Not easy

to live as he did from court to court,
to stay alive through talent and flattery.

He wrote folio after folio of commissioned poetry.
Some of it good.



A Letter I Did Not Send to Fortunatus


Consider the secret recesses of the body—
pools of blood and water, knots and cords of tissue,
colors undeciphered by light.

And so love, if it must be, begins with belief,
vital and private as the body’s tributaries.

And each in our own way
has to tend it, make it breathe.

Until, eventually, we may see
our souls taking shape in the world
or the way even this dark and riddled world
has taken shape in the soul.

Can there be a conversation that contains all
other conversations?

First you were to me
an idea. I did not know what this was

to have a friend. Then I began to believe
that all this talking, song and poetry could be

real—that here was a man connected
to this story I was coming to love.

Then all those landscapes you walked through
became windows to see into you.

And into me too.




Fortunatus the Traveler

Fortunatus had always been Fortunatus. He kept returning. He wandered far, but he always returned to himself, which was his fortune.

I.

In the earliest known accounts, Fortunatus was an early Christian (Coptic?) who traveled with Paul through the desert, and helped carry back many epistles, two of which became Corinthians I and Corinthians II. He and Paul and Stephanus and Achaicus traveled through the deserts and valleys, talking of God and of Goodness, telling stories and gathering stories, which the most dogmatic among them, Paul, wrote down as his own.


TO BE CONTINUED....

पोएट्र

A Few Poems

I read this evening at Northwestern, along with three very talented students. Here are a few of the poems I shared, and a few I wished I'd had with me.



The Brain of the World Was Recalling Itself



in a Polish deli on the Northwest side of Chicago.
It had a kind of seeing and so perceived
the red, raw and broken all around.
Stubborn joint and gristle. The knife’s bright
entitlement. And it wanted none—no
more—of this; it wanted only to open out
in gauzy, combed formations.

All night, it had sat regal as a cake in a case.
Then, after the third shift, a man in a quilted flannel
and workboots spotted with plaster walked up
and pointed at it—didn’t even give it a name—
and an aproned woman slid her cold rubber-gloved hand
under and lifted it—quivering, gelatinous, delicate
folds unfurling then collapsing
into themselves—to the scale.

It was heavier than it looked. It wouldn’t be cheap.

She printed the label, set it on a small Styrofoam tray
and wrapped it in plastic, quickly, the way
they wrap the legs of the dead, to hold their shape,
while she thought of her husband at home—
up now, drinking coffee,
eating the sausages she’d left. She hoped
the way he’d begun to wheeze
when he came up the stairs
was nothing.

She didn’t notice it fighting against the cellophane
with a sharp right hook and deep ongoing keening,
every tiny chamber flexing, each
a lung gulping freedom.
She just passed it to the man
who grunted his thanks,
and if they’d noticed each others’ faces,
now they forgot them.

The man carried it through the market,
carried it through his weariness.
He grabbed an onion, fist-sized moon,
to bob in the broth around it,
knowing how its translucent layers
would gradually part,
like a sweater from a blouse,
a blouse from the slick cups of a bra,
pearled husks like morning
pared into a woman’s curls.

In an hour or two his wife would start the supper.
His kids would be up now, sitting mussed in pajamas,
in front of the TV that goggled loudly
in the language he only understood in scraps, the noise of it
everywhere, dividing his life from theirs,
making his a transparent, brittle peeling.

Under the plastic, it shivered, it pulsed;
it towed the man into his long afternoon
and tossed a shy light, like plaster dust, or loss,
up onto his face,
and anyone who saw him carrying it
flashed fleetingly on flesh—

the chicken’s cracked neck,
scrotum soft in the hand,
moonish sediment on the infant’s head,
her shoulder that first evening—how it almost glowed,

it was so pale,
a child would have guessed it was made of spun sugar;
an old woman would have said the purest fat,
the kind you can burn in a lamp if you have to,
or spread on hard dark bread;

and anyone close enough to look into the folds—
(flushed, bluing)—
would have felt strange,
as if they’d known all this already;
they recognized it from some throb behind the eyes.



Lookout


First we thought it was the shadow
of a duststorm or a swarm
of insects sliding over the ridge
and across the plains, the way it darkened
and rearranged the land beneath.
Then you saw the massed particles coming closer
were not bug or buffalo, but people,
carrying their young and old,
passing over the earth
as the earth was passing
in its own living skin.
All this with a scorching
want that lowed in a loudening thunder.
What was there to say?
Our tools were simple
and carved from bone.
We held them fragile
as artifacts, our eyes
smarted with dust and with sun
and we watched.


Cheyenne


I need to clear the bracken and weeds
that stick to my swimming thighs.
I went down and down, I swam
beside the boat, near its sucking wake
and tall, dangerous sides. I pulled
through water hung with mud and slick
shale-stumbled banks running up to trees
and scattered logs bleached white by the sun.
The way I loved seemed to be confounding
everyone. I was not alone, I had
a friend I did not even need language
with as we paddled side by side.
I was not shopping, scanning
the horizon for what would be a better
life. I was beside that ship of people
being ferried safe inside their deaths.
We would all arrive around the same time
but me by my own rhyming muscle.
I swam until the water grew warm
as a body around my body, until I was
in a liquid I had been before.
I opened my eyes against the current
and the stripping weeds, pulled
myself ever further into the folds
of the past, back to the riversplit
where it all began, scrambling out
onto land tingling with bramble and branch.



Late September



Gulls slide through the sky.

It’s one of those days
I’ve tried to get out
into my actual life.

Late September and I don’t even need
art to heighten my seeing.

The low spotlight of the sun does it for me.

Each blade of grass sidling up to its black.

Trees lapped by shadow and the Great
Lake’s frayed unending waterbreath

amid a yellowjacket hum
and the whirring spin of crickets singing
we are all just river pouring over
the wheel.

From here, I can see them at the park.
They are framed by the green ruffling

and all the times we will not be.

He leans against the slide reading a paperback.

She climbs the red step.

He lifts her into the cup of the swing,
and she throws her head back laughing.

I can’t read their faces, only their forms.

They have the same saturation into body
that turns the grass to strips of light.
I am one of those
who can’t forget, who loves
the one burning branch turning the tree
to something various and mortal,
something true.
Who sees the world a long way off
even when it’s close
as this girl I love now running up.




The SBC-Ameritech Endangered Species Carousel


The children wait in line, hopping,
hoping for their first choice—
a fiberglass panther black as a car,
a panda smoking bamboo,
a harbor seal with velvety questioning eyes.
Measured by the bar, they clamber on,
beat their feet against the creature’s bellies,
say, giddyup, hurryup, while their parents smile,
wipe ice cream from their hands and mouths.
The recorded organ bells out clownish now, louder
as the animals shiver up and slide back down
on fat brass screws, threading the afternoon
with their tragic imagined grins.
Only the gorilla stays level,
looking down under lidded brows,
his heavy knuckles bolted to the floor,
and the boy on his manlike back looks worried
that he’s only going round and round.
He’s crying now, It’s okay, his mother calls,
as he passes behind the lion,
the swan, the mandrill, the camel,
Don’t worry, Hon, it’s almost done.

The Blue Grotto

I have a new chapbook out with Dancing Girl Press under this title. You can buy it through the link below for only $7. I'm very grateful to Kristy Bowen, editor and publisher, for her selection of the book and for its beautiful construction.


http://www.dancinggirlpress.com/bluegrotto.html


The cover is a collage that I did, titled "The Sea Came Up and Drowned." It goes with a song Richard and I have written (which we will record and post properly. . .eventually). Here are my half of the words:

The Sea Came Up and Drowned


*

It was the only way to live.

Usurp yourself to yourself
in waves, in centuries,

while something like truth
cooled below the surface in stone.

While something like a voice
began unwinding into the whorled pearl of its own home.

The earth is the earth and the memory
of water, every ridge a recollection
of water’s recession.


*

Those years stretched long
and flat as our palms,
lined with grass,
wind-whipped, twisting tendrils of grass.

That was after they’d been grabbed
by history, after we’d entered our lives
through our dreams,
our dreams through the seams in our hands.

After they led us back here,
to the sunstruck prairie
where we’re broken open again
as chaff, where the grass chatters
in the endless chatter
of the ancestors and the unborn ancestors.

Where you hold the seed of you before you.

Moon

This poem is for Alice Gorman Singer.

Moon


You’d floated in your mother seven months

that day she lifted her blouse, washed her stomach

in the silver light of the television,

whispered, Look, little pigeon,

we have landed on the moon. Now you play it over

and over in your mind: your parents

following those distended voices,

watching that one underwater step,

until she goes luminous

with you against the screen, and he kneels,

puts his mouth over her rounding navel,

circles his arm around her thigh.

This is how you became one of us

born without a moon, with a stone

lit in the distant inside.

For fathers

Here are two poems I wrote for my dad and grandpa. Happy Father's Day.


* * *

Meanwhile I Was Floating, I Was Ferried


My dad owned the boat and I owned the prow.
I arced off the front like the carved maidenhead
and the waters divided around us
in white-furred furious paws
while inside me, life
was weaving its red nest.

Sometimes while we anchored—
the radio on, our mouths working salted chips and peanuts—
I could see it—a dark mark further off, a circle
I knew held a child.

I thought she was.
I thought she was.
I thought she was my girl.

And I pointed the way to her.
Faster! I’d call to my dad.
Open it up! I’d lean forward then.
toward her waiting, her rescue.

How long did I dream her like that,
my life, afternoons into evenings
that settled their pink gauze along our shoulders and arms

as the water silvered and the sky
silvered and the horizon bled
into only the memory of separation.

And wasn’t that all we’d ever wanted—
to come upon life that way,
on the horizon, always
on the horizon,
almost as if we’d crafted it with our own hands

or lifted it from the milkdream of being.

We were the vessel. And the clear braid
of our own wake.

***

Brown Portal


They were a cement
made of many —
stones, those steps where I sat
in my brown knees selling strawberries.

I sat so long the brown
became a portal to me,
an entry where a mud-colored
rock had been, thick as a thumb
and unlovely. I pressed my live
one into it and rubbed
it over the gravel grain
and the hum of what was once:

the river below and men
trawling the flow for the little stones
that would constitute the steps back home.

They must have carried them up the bank
in buckets. My grandpa and his brothers,
in undershirts working. And I must have been
a glint on wet pebbles then, back
in that everything, a sprinkling
of sun through the trees.

Mine never was a thumb
at all but a thumbplace where a stone
had been, the mark of some
past when we were earthwarmed
and solid faceup in sun.

****

Confinement and Release: New Poems

I'm going to try to post poems more regularly. Here are this week's:


She Assumed A Narrow Corridor, Then
Unfolded It

Nature offers up so many tongues
to untie, to let the ink and dyes
drip from their cuts.
What is wrong with us? Why
have we fallen from our dust?
Wool-colored sand, someone
said, the blown hem of the sea,
as if such saying were enough.
As if starting out we only
meant to be an art piece.
One more dulling day
in what it wasn’t.
Apples and sentences cracked
at your teeth, back before
you were lonely and used
to delineating. Then you flew
through the vowels, they lofted you
up over houses
with screen porches, little doormats
and you saw it all sorely
on your feet the long shift.
But now this rich sleep
is yellow and sickly, a yolk
over the eyes. I guess
we could intellectualize,
could invent a religion
or go on trying.
But sometimes in a hot bath
we remember fire that climbed
the bones’ scaffold, live air
singing, how it sang us.


*


Someday We Will Be Post-Gender


As a girl I was a little god,
a stripped stick, divining rod.

Then that hollow bone bled and I turned
to polled people, opinions instead.

What had I done with my speeches,
those names I’d wield for little ones

against bullies on buses. Justice
you abandoned me or I

abandoned you for a plum
ass and tight jeans. I wore

them rolling coils of clay,
strategically licking my waiting lips,

forgetting what it was I'd meant
to create. Love, love, love a pink

throb in the crotch and art
class bowl I thought little of.

I didn’t like myself enough
to like what I could make.

I was self-annihilating. That’s why
I was always in love. It was nothing specific

that wounded me, just humanity
and all the ways it entered

to eat. Mistakes of the inverted
world, the snake with its tail

in its teeth. Now it rings out
on a rhythm older than my words

which are old already and used.
The end in the beginning

and a stone in the gullet
of the end, etc.

I never woke
to see where I was,

unless seeing saw me leave
and leaving I could see it all so tenderly.

Now how do I stay, be-
come the one to cut

through this thicket, begin.


*

Apple


She was just doing her job
cracking into the skin
and bringing him in
to the world


***

"Apple" is about Eve, and springs from a feeling that I have sometimes--a sureness that all is right with the universe and always has been and always will be. In the story, Eve opened the sealed perfection of the apple, so that life, real life, could be tasted and lived. The imperfection became the perfection because it was alive.

This statement, "Someday We Will Be Post-Gender" is not just a wish. I know that day is coming soon, (and has arrived for many people already, if not the wider world.) And I also know that I have to wade through my own thicket of questions and passe habits and "issues" about gender to get to my freer being. When I do this I become even more a woman, more female because I am less concerned with what it means to be female. I see a freedom in my female students that I did not know at their age, and this excites me. They--and my daughter, I hope--will not have to wade through some of these thickets of doubt and foolishness that I have waded through. The first lines here refer, I think, to the dillemma of being a girl-becoming-woman in a culture that worships only male gods, and mostly male writers, and still asks girls to sell themselves through sex.

Also. . . in childhood we are all magical, connected to our superpowers. It's up to us, I think, to tell girls that they do not lose their powers of imagination and intuition when they hit puberty--those powers only deepen and change.

"She Assumed A Narrow Corridor, Then Unfolded It" is written to another friend of mine--a singer--and also to myself. Again, it comes from that dillemma of being tired, and afraid to soar and sing, but knowing that's what we are here for.

These are all unfinished, as am I. Just part of the process.

***

I've been angst-ridden all week, wondering why I am not able to be happy, which is self-perpetuating, an elaborate way of looking backward and blaming myself. So often, I am given a gift, I receive something that I have worked for or hoped for, and then I forget, I move through to what I want next. . .

This week I have spent a lot of time feeling some kind of blame. . .toward myself, other people, society, the literary world. . .

and it is all just a smoke screen. I am realizing that I fall into this pattern when I need to make a jump forward. I become afraid, look around for some situation to blame for my stasis and then usually create an elaborate plan for shooting myself in the foot and not taking the next step. I have spent years of my life on relationships, and while so much of this is good, deep learning, a lot of it is fantasy--thinking someone would solve my life for me, and then falling into blame and disappointment when that does not happen. When of course real change does not happen that way. It is not passive but creative.

I think being in love is just being in a spiritual-emotional dimension of rightness. And being out of it is awful.

Thank goodness for friends. . .who remind me of old patterns and who can help guide the way to clarity. Tonight I found the blog, http:findjoy.blogspot.com/ and was helped by the graceful wisdom there. I later realized that this was writen by a real, live friend of mine. What luck!

This is for you, KF, with love:


Bike Wheels


Purr of rubber on gravel
and the red pulse of a truck
backing up. Also the whipporwhill
trilling its wings into wind.
I like the way treelight falls
to eggs and chimes my hands
amid the chipping of another bird.
That jogger left his keys in his pocket
and they bell him in step.
Are you fucking joking me,
a girl says, walking by.
I have lost years of my life
talking worry, doubt
and shallow palaver.
But all those conversations
with you I've needed
to lead me back to this
living weave of skin
we breathe each other in.