Saturday, May 15, 2010

Three Windows

I look out the first window
And seeing is what I see.
A branch tearing from the locust
Leans in on the glass,
Will be tied to higher branches
When they chop the thing up.
How many times have the doves
Left their mauve dust
After crashing into the pane?
At times I can hear the wind squeak
On the glass and, between winks,
The sun will flare and blind.
There is no window, no blind,
There is only the knowing blink.

There, out the second window,
In the moon dark the red fox
Precedes its brush thick tail
Into the brush behind the garden.
The screech owl whirs.
The sparrows hide from both
In the heart of a tree that I
Might one day take a flashlight to.
The owl and the fox are content
To wait for propitiousness
And a little longer for the lie.
For, out there, there is no end,
No windowpane, nor either.
There is not even me to eye.

Beyond the third window
I am not certain of anything,
Being blind like all who look.
The morning mist nuzzles the glass
Like a breast in a baby’s face.
It is winter and the eye sees green
Through the fog and light through
The green and dark through the light.
Wishful seeing. So, I don’t look out.
Each season has its own fog.
Rising early is rarely rewarded.
There is no fog, there is no name
For what there is, and there is no
Thing that is left for me unguarded.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Bewitched Groom

Where am I? Stretched on the floor,
the strength in my limbs a memory
of a moment before. My eyes could be
open or closed, but I'm not seeing
what I think I see, unless I've gone
mad! The witch! The fire-brained hag!
The seething toads and bunched snakes
of her soul are giving birth to blood.
She's flooded my veins with her water
to quench the hot Homunculus in my heart.
My reputation with purblind gossips
has blinkered her view to her daughter's
virtue. My darling, my perfect flower!
She doesn't love me, but I'm rich.
My love! Hers the downy and exquisite
flesh of a rose that is stripped
of its crimson. But what consummation?
The ejaculation of hate from a deaf,
goat-teated rawbones. Sprinkling horn
of gelded unicorn, wielding a faggot
spluttering with the black dust pinched
from the notch between her wizzled
thighs, she's tweaked my inner ear
and banged the bones in my head abuzz,
so I, like a drunken ass, bed
the floor, supine, my crutches under,
jabbing at my spine. She wants me dead
on the day I am to wed. Damn her eyes!
When the bitch has exhausted magic
I'll have her carcass burned to ashes.
There's evidence in this paralysis
to prove what the village has known since
the century was born a breech, wailing,
and the moon began to burn yellow.
The Redeemer fail me? No. I know God.
I once drove my horses till they dropped
and punched my peasants for pennies,
but no more. Oh, I learned a lesson
or two, and paid penance with infirmity.
I even kept the mare that pitched me
on that rock pile. The soil is thin
in which she plants her spell: time
and righteousness, proper living dig
the maggots from my heart and prayer
persists-the leaching of my soul.
I must get up, damn her! Enough is
Enough! I will love her dear one,
keep her safe and use her sweetly.
I promise to veil her eyes from
lascivious men not fit to touch
their lips to her dress's muddy hem,
until my ghost departs this game clay
to ride the fleeter media. Won't one
muscle move? My thumb twitches-
something wooden and smooth. The handle
of a currycomb! The stable floor!
I should be grinning in my closet mirror,
draping myself with golden medallions,
and tying my codpiece with bows.
For all my resolutions, I am a broken
promise. There, now I've given
up hoping! Forgive me, my love.
I cannot come to you today.
Forces more subtle than mortality
and mortal sin conspire against me.
I would hum the song of my honeybee
heart, but Queen Mab would shout out:
"He fooled the child, but not the crone!"
See! See! See my eyes fly open!
She's found the window in my head.
She knows that I would farm you
by the moon and by the sun and stars;
your golden hair would shade my eyes,
a fancy cap; your legs would be my
legs for work, your hands helping me
to beat you. Any child you yielded?
Oh, he'd have learned his Papa's ways.
What's that? Behind! The mare!
Flared nostrils, glaring eye! Humiliation!
Land on me, falling world!
The girl will only remind me when
the cock pecked crow and not the hen.
I'll bathe and go about my business.
To Hell with love and sucking sighs.
I am a man of satisfactory wealth.
Proud to swing his crutches to Heaven.

Madame X

Filthy man! He calls himself Artist!
We pay him a fat lawyer's fee
for his talent at offending me.
Those black eyes see naked flesh
where others see slips or camisoles.
He grins privately, licks his mustache,
strikes me in profile when my nose
is my least attractive feature,
and poses my bust straight ahead.
He's painting my blush, isn't he,
to set the whole world gossiping,
when I wouldn't let him touch me
with his brush! My husband hired
him, as usual, without a resume,
sight unseen. I asked if he'd seen
a sample. "One, my dear," he said,
"which approximates our nephew's head."
My revenge had been this gown,
as expensive as it is décolleté,
and I suppose I dreamed a painter
to be schooled in professional behavior,
like my hairdresser and physicians,
to be marble-cool near bare shoulders-
but those eyes are blind to elegance
and see in sophistication only sex.
He flickers like black flame licking
the canvas with daubs of paint to show
that he's so serious in his art;
a wink and he'd be at me like a shark.
My neck! This portrait is overdue.
Aren't voyeurs prone to exhaustion too?
God would have had to think again
had he spent not seven days, but ten.
And when it's done, what will he have
made of me? Will I look exactly
as I am, well or badly drawn, my
beauty replaced by oily paint
or psychologically portrayed-
the face of hunger or deceit?
Will he trap each hair and mole, each
blemish like weird species in a zoo?
I'd be happier looming through a screen,
through a window dripping in the rain.
I should listen to my little sister
and have it done quickly by photographer.
Yes? Fine. So. He says it's finished
and invites me to look. A threat.
Let's see if it has been worth it.
My word! I'm so . . . do I seem so
to him? Yes, he's made a mistake
with my bosom, but my chin-
I hadn't thought the line that clean.
He teaches me to appreciate my nose.
My hair glows, darkness with a sheen.
My skin, alabaster everywhere, except
my ears, which do, I know, go red at
the least distress; my lips never
spoke such thoughts in mirrors; a kiss
from them I'd be wanton to bestow.
He's cut a heart out of my dress;
from waist to breast, the black cloth
flares and makes my shape a gift
to the admirer, while much else is left
undraped. Certainly the neck
is false, too long, too muscular.
Perhaps it's all the pose he gave me.
My husband will conclude he raped me.
I was wrong and I will tell him.
Oh, he's gone! I didn't see him go!

Being With

Each angle in the room is lost to the person
staring from a doorway or backed against a wall.

Boxes of black earth, coffins in reverse, are
stacked to the ceiling, stenciled with numbers.

You wouldn't want to live here or die here-
too much time lost in consciousness.

Underneath every table is a broken chair,
behind every picture a shuttered window.

The women do splits and the men, arms akimbo,
do all they can to prove they are what they are.

The efforts to impress, the shallow breathing,
the veins bulging at the temple, the black eyes

squinting with astonishment, all, individual to none,
freeze time into seeing, seeing nothing.

The red door opens a crack and a white spear
falls through, clattering like a wicked idea.

Dulle Griet

A creature of prentice alchemy,
slack-jawed butcher, zombie,
wrote the last Deuteronomy
in egg on the first door to Hell.
In breastplate and iron cap (bell
in a tree-tin and distant knell),
Meg schemed the death God would flee
from hated lizards' bite and miss
the jaws of soldier-swigging fish,
but not her blood-sword avarice.
The sick crone ran, her dream to marry
hot in pots and pans she'd carry.

"He is a spy,
a bloodlust fly
circling the sty
above the sky,"

she said as the egg ashes fell
on all red, fecund infidels.
Her barrel insect monster's hiss
excited her waistless bogey-
man's ass to speak; it said, "I
eat and fart and then I die!"
The hysterical diablerie
on the witch inflicted flies.
God's dancing pipers' fantasy,
with spiders from a harp to kill
those who eat apples but can't piss
a lake in payment of the toll,
blow them long and bloody kisses.
His winking, trapdoor-blinkered eyes,
opened wide as windows, see
Mad Meg flee; she desperately
would rather he watch the enemy.

St. Jerome

His animal mind
parsed by grids
of lattice and tile.

The table edge sooths
a cassock's tormented
drapery into planes.

Dust ascends the sunlight
to touch the cold
surface of the window.

Twelve points of horn
suspended by hemp
spatter candle wax

in sea horse patterns
about the Bible stand.
Over his shoulder

the standing crucifix
reads, with craning,
exhaustion, stories

that crack its heart.
He thumbs the pages
staring out to space.

His thoughts circle:
What is the difference,
patience and faith?

Either you are young
and ardent, or still
wait and hope

the lion asleep beneath
the table awakens
while you're still here.

Two Poems



Some paintings gain by being tilted,
their frames off plumb against the wall.
Mondrian's "Rose in a Tumbler,"
its boxy blue petals already askew

against its own white border, finds
order pitched a few degrees awry.

There is in this a mystery I would
explain at the expense of the effect.


At a bookstore, I found a novel
with a reputation for being bawdy.

As I thumbed its pages, out dropped
a snapshot of a naked woman's back.

I bought the book, though I don't
intend ever to read its blue pages.

The woman's hidden face smiles at
some canard on page seventy-eight.

Rose in a Tumbler

A powder blue flower-
a rose in a short glass,
a seer's whiskey sour,
nature without surface.

A drawing to surpass
reality, it grows,
it seems, to embarrass
red and white roses.

We know the draftsman knows
a multiplying power-
the rose in blooming blows-
imagination's flower.

The Last Painting

The brushes kept slipping from his fingers.
Wind-tortured fields of wheat under darkened skies-
every brushstroke a nail.
The season's rustling hurry and the dusk
emotionless crows flap up to multiply
dun the wheat's gold and usurp the storm.
The blackened, infinite blue,
his palette's only suggestion of the primary;
red and yellow are plant and soil,
each decaying at the other's root.
And why the two moons? A starless night will come?
Is one a waning sun? When all else is clear:
grasses sprout darkly along the muddy path
that goes into the field to stop.
Or turns to go where the eye can't see.

On Buson's Portrait of Basho

Old grinner,
what's under your sky blue cap?
Not haiku!

(Note: Though in this image the cap is not "sky blue", in the original it is.)

Balthus' La Patience

Balthus' La Patience

The drawn curtain and striped wallpaper
are an improbable contrast of commonplaces
while curtain and skirt converse
in the same green fabric
with black and rhyming folds
in a room where the Persian carpet
lies at the same skewed angle as the curtain
and seems to have white socks
when others are present
and thick books lie atop the wastebasket
where they belong
beneath a fancy copper box
hurriedly but not recently inspected
and an unlit taper and skinny deco pillow
point one at the bars of the wallpaper
and the pinned-up curtain
and the other at the girl's smooth sweater
which is orange also
and the closest thing to us
that player of patience
bent entirely too far forward
to be thinking about the game
and not herself as well
which is what patience is all about
in such a room.

The Night Cafe

What's lost? A game of billiards: a ball
struck a ball, two rails, and another ball kissed,
then money changed hands. The loser stares
at the chalk-smeared bed where his future sleeps.

Two men rub their ears, hunched beneath vague hats;
elbows banging the table, they wait for booze.
A man with a glass weeps, seated near lovers;
when his rum is served the murdering will begin.

Green, red, and yellow-odor, texture, light
we encounter every day; but what are these
walls painted blood, floor and ceiling tinctured bile?
Let's all go mad sniffing the glow of gas lamps.