Saturday, May 18, 2013

Summer Retreat

We were never
what we wanted to be,
at least there, in time
obscured by smoke,
by hallways leading
to mottled, painted, concrete
floors.   In the years,
the bump and jar like
lightning I never forgot
when I cut my hand at the saw.
I can say I’ve seen
the Northern blue grackle,
and the hot little starlings
that frequent the green
eastern lawns--of the desert
where I knew you, no one
remains.  There's just
one old goat of a man,
my brother the ghost
who writes to me about
the times we shared,
old roads, warm
beer.  Are you better
off?  I saw myself
As free as your world was free,
a world I loathed
like the animal you
thought I was.  Nothing

scrapes clean anymore.
Whereas the water was bright
now it’s like the past, a murky
pool filled with god knows what.
You say you see fish, but to me
they’re tadpoles, turning
into frogs--this endlessness
ending as we grow old.
Not nostalgic days, now
no days at all considering
what I've been up against—
you know the stories from
other poems, other times.
Of my life with children who sleep
soundly under rain clouds
I can never amend.  They are
as big as chiefs and amazons,
each alive for what I did
or didn't do one winter when
the palms were dripping
with figs and berries—
it was time to breed
like the animal I was.  Born
to secure my bloodline, mestizo,
Chicano, Sephardim,
I could not live for you.

Did you know Felix is dead?
That he drank himself into depression,
cancer, because he couldn't
stand the world ?  He wanted you like an animal too,
while his beautiful wife spread bagels
for us every Sunday morning.
So there is no rerun. No bargain
to speak of.  Your fury against
me not withstanding would be
one thing.  I have no urge
to touch or mingle under blankets—
it was as old as high school then
and we tried on so many masks.
Having revealed myself
I understood you thought
you had no mask, even as you
shifted in mild schizophrenia
that only some of us saw
late in the dark desert
evenings when the stars
shot out like hot points
for us to name.  But
that’s not the same
as staying up all night
while mi wifa, wary, in labor,
moaned and cried until
the doctor arrived.  There, I watched
the birth of my son.
Much later, I stood in the earth
in the sacred circle
barefoot with mi otra, mi bruja,
watching the back
of the Milky Way slide by.

What would Robert Lowell
say?  I've walked among
the cheerful masses
on Boylston and Newbury.
I returned time after time
for years to spend
with you, blue- eyed
woman I left behind,
who I no longer loved.
I have walked through
Lord & Taylor after
having smoked weed
with your brother in law
on a causeway leading
to Copley Square
where we'd take the T
for all sorts
of New England adventures.
I watched as his little dogs shit
in Back Bay bushes while your sisters
shared Marlboro Reds, afraid
they’d smell like smoke when they got home.

You know, broken windows and whiskey bottles
have won awards for their ability
to forecast the future—fracture,
broken history, no need or want
for mirrors here, right now.  I’ve just
got to let you know how the one dog
died of cancer and loneliness
after we gave his companion
away to an old woman who was
heiress to the local newspaper—
she told me that he’d cry and cry
at night and I can never forgive
myself for that.  He’s buried
somewhere in upstate NY
on a farm where the winds
blow through the sycamore,
friendly gusts announcing
the future.  Of his kind
there are many more.  Now I have
a Weim who acts like old Parker
but is invisible at night.  He sleeps
curled under blankets while
his mate the Boxer sleeps on the floor.

What I am most interested in
concerns the location of your
heart in relation to all of that.
No so much the sad and lonely
animals, including me, the
dark animal inside of me,
then I suppose what is left,
the remains, broken
glass at best—shards really,
not meant for the eye or any
part of the human condition—
outside of me, not my mirror any more.
So I beseech you in the common
language of elegy—
the tragedy is that you won’t
respond except to note
I’ve made this poem
for you—first there is the fire of love
then there is the ash.  I’ve not
come all this way from
the high desert to the wooded
hills of southern Ohio
to know what you know.  Only to seek
some kind of remittance, from you
O holy stranger who I once knew.

Still the world is changing
and I, lit by ghost fire
at midnight when the moon
is just vapor, I need
to tell you somehow
the magnolias and crabapple
tree are done for spring.
Somewhere in the deep
Northwest another friend
is gone the way of old
pine, all of you and all of me
gone now too, gone
like a sweater l left on a boat
ride long ago, the sea thick,
green.  Will you ever welcome me?

There's a street light next
to my house that blocks
out the darkness.  In the
indigo evening the newly
green trees are like dancers
unfurling robes.  There is
the incessant pink crabapple
and the dwindling Ohio
red-bud.  And the sounds
coming from neighbors--
baseball games on cable, long shouts into
the night.  When the right
time comes I'll find myself
alone with the hum of crazy
air conditioners running
all summer, for the heat,
from the heat.  A small
wind is whirling through
the oaks and maples now—
I can’t be bothered.  The rain begins
without knowing I was here.

1 comment:

Erodgenation Rodger Venue said...

WOW! Riveting! :)