White Washed

This near-white shirt--
Tea-colored from age and dots of invisible grime,
Islands in the midst of a vast expanse
That sing of the pretty, dirty places it has visited--
Is covered in a quiet sampling of white, white paint.
I feel them before I see them
As I run my fingers over the dots of dry white-wash paint
And I dress in the dark crevice of early morning.
They are barely there--
Invisible to the naked eye
(The way of the children who inaugurated them to their place
From that time until now);
Invisible unless you get close enough to see them wholly--
Not merely a part of the greater whole, the greater shirt;
Not merely a part of the tea-toned canopy of dirt and grime,
But flecks of white-wash paint,
Each original, unique, and pure,
As bold as innocence,
As untouched as an ivory tower.

29 January 2008


We may well drown in our grand things--
The things we will to be and want to be,
The things our eyes cry out when we look at pavement spots,
The things our heart finds in a piece of poetry.
We may drown in our many, grand things
Were we to have time.
Were we to have time,
We could visit these great oceans in twenty years,
In far-away distant years.
Were we to have time,
We could look in the placid waves and see
All that we've gained, all that we've missed.
But we have no time,
And we are pleased to drown.



If I could write a poem--
A poem as divine
As the poem of your face and of your soul--
I would never grow tired of reading it.

The poem of your life
Is like the sweet taste of peaches
And the scent of the season's first snow.
It is like a calming rustle
Through the tree-less field
That shines and shimmers in all the brightness of the summer.
It is Leaves of Grass;
It is Langston Hughes;
It is Dorothy Parker (on a good day...);
And maybe a light sprinkle of cummings
(when he was in a mood.)

Your poem has no beginning,
And there is no good place to end it--
Because no one would want to say "goodbye" to you
Were it to end.


There are four of my by street lamp light--
A parade of shadows dance by
So that no one knows their own lonliness.
When I raise one arm, when I take a step,
Four arms and four feet all stride or reach
In a holy unison--yes, almost divine
(almost a Trinity, give or take a few).
The people, the people in the cold street lamp light
All open their arms to their shadows around,
But where can they go? Where can they go?
There are only more shadow-crowded streets
And thousands of street lamps
Whose light rends the shadow from the feet
Like the soul from the body.
Let us walk, and let us talk
Through groves and groves of olive trees--
Whose silver leaves, like silver strings
That tie so many presents closed.
Their whispers float in biblical pages
And set the rage of nations at peace
With one easy, slow, whispering breath.
The winding branches sing of shade
That made the hearts of warriors pound;
And oh, the sound, the sound of death
Became breath caught when they saw one branch.
So can we speak of silver branches
And leaves that glitter silver promises?
Can the beauty surrounding be our speech,
And our peace bound up in a leaf?

To a Sister

Sister of my childhood! I write
To poets of old through your eyes.
As my words or another's words
Or my unsteady pen or unsteadier type
Reaches your lovely lids and lashes,
I feel the face of cummings warm my eyes.
I hear the echo of good Sylvia,
Laughing, and dying as she laughed.
I taste the peaches, I feel the wind-swept sand
Linger between my freezing toes
As Eliot shouts out his, "hullo!"
And a lonely girl sits in a bedroom,
Rolling up her poems into tiny balls--
And I see her, and she sees me, so neither me nor her
Are quite alone any longer.
Sister, were you to leave or die some death,
These great giants of words--lonely
And lovely and all long-dead--
Would be worth nothing at all to me, nothing at all...
Except that they would all sing
A chorus of your name.


This Blanket is ironically white:
It covers me as I drink my coffee;
As I write my words to God;
As I strum that lovely guitar
(The one you tuned with elegant,
Green-stained hands
That smelled ironically of ivory
And of earth);
As I try to go about my dreaming.

It does not dirty, though smeared;
It does not stink, though rotting;
It does not warm, though a blanket.

Its winter white shade illuminates the air
Like a shocking flashlight in the dark--
I can see it through walls and ceilings,
And I always know where it's been.

This blanket is so ironically white,
Though dastardly things go on beneath it.
It shivers in the night
And wants to be dark, as it feels.

It knows its irony
And embraces its fate like a champion.
But underneath, it smells like sex,
It tastes like quarts of vodka,
And it sounds like the reviling of a Corinthian.


There are just some songs that sing of you--
Like one of those summer nights,
Alone and quiet and quite happy
(In that purely Summer way
When bee buzzes and bird hums
Turn into a dialectic of our memories).
A song holds fast to my ear
From a place far away--
It finds me in the breeze
(The breeze that is older than Rome;
And, I assume, if this particular breeze
Did not echo through some Ancient Roman ear,
It may have blown through yours
Earlier this evening).
I sing the song is eternal,
And it sounds lovely in my mouth
And feels delicious on my lips
(Because it tastes like you).


The Atlas

The atlas knows that heroes and lovers
Go all over and around the everywhere
To find who they are or will or want to be.
Odysseus sings to sirens, and the sirens repeat:
“Take your arms, and take your men,
And scourge the seven seas with me!
We’ll take our time to find no less
Than the best the world can ever offer.”

And so, from history to history and sea to sea,
Impassioned lovers and dreamers and poets
Go find themselves in distant continents
And they wonder as they wander:
“Does victory belong to the strongest of men
Or to the wary likes of me?
Will wanderlust and woman lust and words entwine
To make a pretty poem or a pretty love?”

And when the Grecian gods came down
From Olympus with royal decrees,
Their spirits and their flesh would lust
For lands and loves and women’s songs:
“Oh, god, your hands are lovely, firm,
And so adept to grope and craft.
We’ll give you our hands and give you our lands
If you will give us all that you have.”

Helen bore her heroes, and she bore them well—
Her bosom and her beauty both were ripe
For hero-making and lovers’ rhymes.
And so she stood beneath the godly mountain and sang:
“Your love and your songs are quite far from my bed
And your poems of my gold-spun hair do upset.
Is it so hard to see from your distant lands
That my hair is black?”

And Atlas stood firm with the world on his back,
And unbearable burden to offer to women
To try to win their love.
And he pondered for poetry to describe his desire:
“Your hair is far fairer and your lips are much sweeter
Than every rose whose thorns make me tender
And every continent upon my back
That makes me know more and see more and feel.”

Aphrodite had her choice of fine suitors,
But she chose her best and searched her heavenly atlas
To find the land and find the loves that befit her best.
She found no love, and so, alone, she sang:
“Oh, where can dearest love be found
When already I have so much?
What can they offer that I can’t afford,
And what can they give me that I couldn’t get?
You heroes of old and you heroes of now,
Please cease in your quest to win woman’s sad heart.
You do not know the sorrows I see
Alone with the worlds and with the gods.”