All these fellows were there inside
when she entered, utterly naked.
They had been drinking, and began to spit at her.
Recently come from the river, she understood nothing.
She was a mermaid who had lost her way.
The taunts flowed over her glistening flesh.
Obscenities drenched her golden breasts.
A stranger to tears, she did not weep.
A stranger to clothes, she did not dress.
They pocked her with cigarette ends and with burnt corks,
and rolled on the tavern floor in raucous laughter.
She did not speak, since speech was unknown to her.
Her eyes were the colour of faraway love,
her arms were matching topazes.
Her lips moved soundlessly in the coral light,
and ultimately, she left by that door.
Hardly had she entered the river than she was cleansed,
gleaming once more like a white stone in the rain;
and without a backward look, she swam once more,
swam towards nothingness, swam to her dying.
Someone lives in a cave
eating his toes,
I know that much.
Someone little lives under a bush
pressing an empty Coca-Cola can against
his starving bloated stomach,
I know that much.
A monkey had his hands cut off
for a medical experiment
and his claws wept.
I know that much.
I know that it is all
a matter of hands.
Out of the mournful sweetness of touching
Out of the many houses come the hands
before the abandonment of the city,
out of the bars and shops,
a thin file of ants.
I've been abandoned out here
under the dry stars
with no shoes, no belt
and I've called Rescue Inc. -
that old-fashioned hot line -
Left to my own lips, touch them,
my own nostrils, shoulders, breasts,
navel, stomach, mound, kneebone, ankle,
It makes me laugh
to see a woman in this condition.
It makes me laugh for America and New York City
when your hands are cut off
and no one answers the phone.
Yesterday a woman walked into a Moscow subway
with explosives taped to her chest
and blew herself and forty others to pieces.
There was a spark and then, like someone had folded
the station in half, they were gone.
Her first name meant paradise
though it sounded more like doesn’t it.
You can find paradise anywhere.
I love names. I whisper them
when I want a cigarette: Hemingway, Dostoyevsky and Levis,
Bruce and Jane, Paradise. One of my coworkers enjoyed
branding my arm with a burning metal spoon.
His name was Scott, so plain and American-
sounding, so abbreviated,
though Scott analyzed Foucault and rolled his own cigarettes
and played electric bass.
In high school he sold acid to the same football players
who'd beat him up outside of McDonald’s.
After turning their eyeballs inside out for thirteen hours straight
they never touched him again.
We will do crazy things.
Sometimes I would wait inside my apartment lobby
with the lights turned off
so I could scare the manager
out of his skeleton. He and I were like Clouseau
and Kato, attacking each other for months
at odd hours of the night. One of my neighbors loved pissing
on his wife and another worshipped the smell of manure
and licked envelopes until her tongue bled.
I discovered paradise while smoking pot in a minivan,
until my friend mistook a Buick Skylark
for a cop car, shoved my head down into the lighter
and burned off my eyebrows. At his last public viewing
Abraham Lincoln’s eyebrows
had also disintegrated. This is the picture
his enemies would have loved to keep
in the breast pocket of their tuxedos while floating down the river
on a Sternwheeler. My ideas about paradise
have changed. I feel better knowing now
that my friend who seared my eyebrows
weighs over four hundred pounds.
Her paradise sizzles at the all-you-can-eat Mongolian grill.
You can find yours anywhere.
Paradise in the aisle next to the grapefruit and the cough medicine.
Paradise sucking another man’s toes over sheets
of tattoo flash. In the light saber and the dinosaur,
in your three-year-old singing Wayne Newton through the child monitor,
Paradise entering the station alone,
kneeling down and opening her jacket.
Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter.
Do not take away the rose,
the lance flower that you pluck,
the water that suddenly
bursts forth in joy,
the sudden wave
of silver born in you.
My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life.
My love, in the darkest
hour your laughter
opens, and if suddenly
you see my blood staining
the stones of the street,
laugh, because your laughter
will be for my hands
like a fresh sword.
Next to the sea in the autumn,
your laughter must raise
its foamy cascade,
and in the spring, love,
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for,
the blue flower, the rose
of my echoing country.
Laugh at the night,
at the day, at the moon,
laugh at the twisted
streets of the island,
laugh at this clumsy
boy who loves you,
but when I open
my eyes and close them,
when my steps go,
when my steps return,
deny me bread, air,
but never your laughter
for I would die.
It is a condition of wisdom in the archer to be patient
because when the arrow leaves the bow, it returns no more.
It should make you shake and sweat,
nightmare you, strand you in the desert
of irrevocable desolation, the consequences
seared into the vein, no matter what adrenaline
feeds the muscle its courage, no matter
what god shines down on you, no matter
what crackling pain and anger
you carry in your fists, my friend,
it should break your heart to kill.
Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing flowers home.
In the Kashmir Mountains,
my brother shot many men,
blew skulls from brown skins,
dyed white desert sand crimson.
Were there flowers there? I asked.
This is what he told me:
In a village, many men
wrapped a woman in a sheet.
She didn't struggle.
Her bare feet dragged in the dirt.
They laid her in the road
and stoned her.
The first man was her father.
He threw two stones in a row.
Her brother had filled his pockets
with stones on the way there.
The crowd was a hive
of disturbed bees. The volley
of stones against her body
drowned out her moans.
Blood burst through the sheet
like a patch of violets,
a hundred roses in bloom.
High on his figured couch beyond the waves
He dreams, in dream recalling her set walk
Down paths of oyster-shell bordered with flowers,
Across the shadowy turf below the vines.
He sighs: 'Deep sunk in my erroneous past
She haunts the ruins and the ravaged lawns.'
Yet still unharmed it stands, the regal house
Crooked with age and overtopped by pines
Where first he wearied of her constancy.
And with a surer foot she goes than when
Dread of his hate was thunder in the air,
When the pines agonised with flaws of wind
And flowers glared up at her with frantic eyes.
Of him, now all is done, she never dreams
But calls a living blessing down upon
What he supposes rubble and rank grass;
Playing queen to nobler company.
The moon in the bureau mirror
looks out a million miles
(and perhaps with pride, at herself,
but she never, never smiles)
far and away beyond sleep, or
perhaps she's a daytime sleeper.
By the Universe deserted,
she'd tell it to go to hell,
and she'd find a body of water,
or a mirror, on which to dwell.
So wrap up care in a cobweb
and drop it down the well
into that world inverted
where left is always right,
where the shadows are really the body,
where we stay awake all night,
where the heavens are shallow as the sea
is now deep, and you love me.
In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or if it were, it bore not beauty's name.
But now is black beauty's successive heir
And beauty slandered with a bastard shame:
For since each hand hath put on nature's power,
Fairing the foul with art's false borrowed face,
Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower,
But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
Therefore my mistress' brows are raven black,
Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem
At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,
Sland'ring creation with a false esteem.
Yet so they mourn, becoming of their woe,
That every tongue says beauty should look so.
Oh thou whose face hath felt the Winter's wind,
Whose eye has seen the snow-clouds hung in mist,
And the black elm tops, 'mong the freezing stars,
To thee the spring will be a harvest-time.
O thou, whose only book has been the light,
Of supreme darkness which thou feddest on
Night after night when Phoebus was away,
To thee the Spring shall be a triple morn.
O fret not after knowledge - I have none,
And yet my song comes native with the warmth.
O fret not after knowledge - I have none,
And yet the Evening listens. He who saddens
At thought of idleness cannot be idle,
And he's awake who thinks himself asleep.
If your eyes were not the color of the moon,
of a day full of clay, and work, and fire,
if even held-in you did not move in agile grace like the air,
if you were not an amber week,
not the yellow moment
when autumn climbs up through the vines;
if you were not that bread the fragrant moon
kneads, sprinkling its flour across the sky,
oh, my dearest, I would not love you so!
But when I hold you I hold everything that is--
sand, time, the tree of the rain,
everything is alive so that I can be alive:
without moving I can see it all:
in your life I see everything that lives.
To be, or not to be--that is the question:-----
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep--
No more--and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep--
To sleep--perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprise of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action. -- Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia! -- Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered.
I have of late—but wherefore
I know not—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of
exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my
disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to
me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy,
the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament,
this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why,
it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent
congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a man!
How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties,
in form and moving how express and admirable,
in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man
delights not me
And in the desert cold men invented the star
'What have you known of loss
That makes you different from other men?'
When the desert refused my history,
Refused to acknowledge that I had lived
there, with you, among a vanished tribe,
two, three thousand years ago, you parted
the dawn rain, its thickest monsoon curtains,
and beckoned me to the northern canyons.
There, among the red rocks, you lived alone.
I had still not learned the style of nomads:
to walk between the rain drops to keep dry.
Wet and cold, I spoke like a poor man,
without irony. You showed me the relics
of our former life, proof that we'd at last
found each other, but in your arms I felt
singled out for loss. When you lit the fire
and poured the wine, "I am going," I murmured,
repeatedly, "going where no one has been
and no one will be... Will you come with me?"
You took my hand, and we walked through the streets
of an emptied world, vulnerable
to our suddenly bare history in which I was,
but you said won't again be, singled
out for loss in your arms, won't ever again
be exiled, never again, from your arms.
There is having by having
and having by remembering.
All of it a glory, but what is past
is the treasure. What remains.
What is worn is what has lived.
Death is too familiar, even though
it adds weight. Passion adds size
but allows too much harm.
There is a poetry that asks for
this life of silence in midday.
A branch of geranium in a glass
that might root. Poems of time
now and time then, each
containing the other carefully.
(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
Our parents left us
blood and words
we leave our children
blood and words
we sing to our bones
beside the fire
we sharpen our fists
we rip out our eyes
our parents left us
blood and words
we leave our children
blood and words
Anyone here had a go at themselves
for a laugh? Anyone opened their wrists
with a blade in the bath? Those in the dark
at the back, listen hard. Those at the front
in the know, those of us who have, hands up,
let's show that inch of lacerated skin
between the forearm and the fist. Let's tell it
like it is: strong drink, a crimson tidemark
round the tub, a yard of lint, white towels
washed a dozen times, still pink. Tough luck.
A passion then for watches, bangles, cuffs.
A likely story: you were lashed by brambles
picking berries from the woods. Come clean, come good,
repeat with me the punch line 'Just like blood'
when those at the back rush forward to say
how a little love goes a long long long way.
Arise to birth with me, my brother.
Give me your hand out of the depths
sown by your sorrows.
You will not return from these stone fastnesses.
You will not emerge from subterranean time.
Your rasping voice will not come back,
nor your pierced eyes rise from their sockets.
Look at me from the depths of the earth,
tiller of fields, weaver, reticent shepherd,
groom of totemic guanacos,
mason high on your treacherous scaffolding,
iceman of Andean tears,
jeweler with crushed fingers,
farmer anxious among his seedlings,
potter wasted among his clays--
bring to the cup of this new life
your ancient buried sorrows.
Show me your blood and your furrow;
say to me: here I was scourged
because a gem was dull or because the earth
failed to give up in time its tithe of corn or stone.
Point out to me the rock on which you stumbled,
the wood they used to crucify your body.
Strike the old flints
to kindle ancient lamps, light up the whips
glued to your wounds throughout the centuries
and light the axes gleaming with your blood.
I come to speak for your dead mouths.
Throughout the earth
let dead lips congregate,
out of the depths spin this long night to me
as if I rode at anchor here with you.
And tell me everything, tell chain by chain,
and link by link, and step by step;
sharpen the knives you kept hidden away,
thrust them into my breast, into my hands,
like a torrent of sunbursts,
an Amazon of buried jaguars,
and leave me cry: hours, days and years,
blind ages, stellar centuries.
And give me silence, give me water, hope.
Give me the struggle, the iron, the volcanoes.
Let bodies cling like magnets to my body.
Come quickly to my veins and to my mouth.
Speak through my speech, and through my blood.
I am not afraid as I descend,
step by step, leaving behind the salt wind
blowing up the corrugated river,
the damp city streets, their sodium glare
of rush-hour headlights pitted with pearls of rain;
for my eyes still reflect the half remembered moon.
Already your face recedes beneath the station clock,
a damp smudge among the shadows
mirrored in the train's wet glass,
will you forget me? Steel tracks lead you out
past cranes and crematoria,
boat yards and bike sheds, ruby shards
of roman glass and wolf-bone mummified in mud,
the rows of curtained windows like eyelids
heavy with sleep, to the city's green edge.
Now I stop my ears with wax, hold fast
the memory of the song you once whispered in my ear.
Its echoes tangle like briars in my thick hair.
You turned to look.
Second fly past like birds.
My hands grow cold. I am ice and cloud.
This path unravels.
Deep in hidden rooms filled with dust
and sour night-breath the lost city is sleeping.
Above the hurt sky is weeping,
soaked nightingales have ceased to sing.
Dusk has come early. I am drowning in blue.
I dream of a green garden
where the sun feathers my face
like your once eager kiss.
Soon, soon I will climb
from this blackened earth
into the diffident light.
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Ah, broken is the golden bowl! the spirit flown forever!
Let the bell toll! -a saintly soul floats on the Stygian river -
And, Guy De Vere, hast thou no tear? -weep now or never more!
See! on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lenore!
Come! let the burial rite be read -the funeral song be sung! -
An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young -
A dirge for her, the doubly dead in that she died so young.
"Wretches! ye loved her for her wealth and hated her for her pride,
And when she fell in feeble health, ye blessed her -that she died!
How shall the ritual, then, be read? -the requiem how be sung
By you -by yours, the evil eye, -by yours, the slanderous tongue
That did to death the innocence that died, and died so young?"
Peccavimus; but rave not thus! and let a Sabbath song
Go up to God so solemnly the dead may feel no wrong!
The sweet Lenore hath "gone before," with Hope, that flew beside,
Leaving thee wild for the dear child that should have been thy bride -
For her, the fair and debonnaire, that now so lowly lies,
The life upon her yellow hair but not within her eyes -
The life still there, upon her hair -the death upon her eyes.
Avaunt! tonight my heart is light. No dirge will I upraise,
But waft the angel on her flight with a paean of old days!
Let no bell toll! -lest her sweet soul, amid its hallowed mirth,
Should catch the note, as it doth float up from the damned Earth.
To friends above, from fiends below, the indignant ghost is riven -
From Hell unto a high estate far up within the Heaven -
From grief and groan to a golden throne beside the King of Heaven."
Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet's heart,
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise?
Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies,
Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car?
And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
To seek a shelter in some happier star?
Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?