Against the Evidence
As I reach to close each book
lying open on my desk, it leaps up
to snap at my fingers. My legs
won't hold me, I must sit down.
My fingers pain me
where the thick leaves snapped together
at my touch.
All my life
I've held books in my hands
like children, carefully turning
their pages and straightening out
their creases. I use books
almost apologetically. I believe
I often think their thoughts for them.
Reading, I never know where theirs leave off
and mine begin. I am so much alone
in the world, I can observe the stars
or study the breeze, I can count the steps
on a stair on the way up or down,
and I can look at another human being
and get a smile, knowing
it is for the sake of politeness.
Nothing must be said of estrangement
among the human race and yet
nothing is said at all
because of that.
But no book will help either.
I stroke my desk,
its wood so smooth, so patient and still.
I set a typewriter on its surface
and begin to type
to tell myself my troubles.
Against the evidence, I live by choice.
In a dream I'm no longer in love. I breathe deeply this sense of freedom,
and I vow never again to seal myself in, but I am reminded it is myself I love
also and that too is a kind of sealed condition. I am committed to taking
care of my body and its home accommodations, its clothes and neat
appearance that I admire in the mirror, yet I would like to know what it
would be like freed of brushing my teeth, washing my neck and face and
between my toes. I'd like to know, as I neglect to move my bowels, and
stay away from food that could sustain my health, and do not change my
underwear, and let odors rise from my crotch and armpit. I stick out my
tongue at the image in the mirror showing me my ragged beard and sunken
eyes and hollow cheeks, free of my self-love at last, and I sink onto the
bathroom floor, feeling life begin to seep out of me, I who haven't eaten
since last month. I'm dying and I'm free.
Without Sexual Attraction
Without sexual attraction, there is
the brutal movement of the sea.
The face peers out of its skeletal frame
and hands reach like bone.
Without love, the streets
are hollow sounding
with wooden, hurried steps,
voices like caverns of death.
We pass each other as trains do,
The steam hammer pounds with a regularity on steel I should envy.
Neither the hammer nor the steel seems to be suffering from this
terrible meeting between them, proving something vaguely pointed,
that some things must be done, regardless of cost, and finally the
cost too is absorbed in the doing that has become a ritual between
two fated opponents.
It is heart-rending to know a kiss
cannot cure the world of its illnesses,
nor can your happiness, nor your tragedy
of being a discrete person, for the bodies
fall like rain into the ground
and merge only to make an ocean
of bones and closed eyes, our identities
merged, as we had wanted
when we were persons
in each other's sight and touch.
I am leaving earth with little knowledge of it,
without having visited its great cities and lands
I was here for a moment, it seems, to praise,
and now that I am leaving I am astounded
So what does cruelty mean in these circumstance
and what does triumph, empire and domination,
but waves upon the still sea beneath.
And what does failure mean but to sink below
You who gave me birth between your sturdy legs
are dead. You who gave me food and drink
and washed my clothes, ironed my shirts,
took me shopping for a suit and coat are dead.
Now that I am old I sing you back
to stay with me, companion that you were to my
in youth, as now I gather strength to come
to where you are and rest with you.
If We Could Be Brought
If we could be brought to the surface
like a gleaming fish and served for supper,
if we could eat and swallow our own life
to make a good meal, if we could go fishing
for ourselves and feed on the gleaming
swimmer below the surface of our skin-
the fish that is our slippery life
That's the Sum of It
I don't know which to mourn. Both have died on me, my wife and
my car. I feel strongly about my car, but I am also affected by my,
wife. Without my car, I can't leave the house to keep myself from
being alone. My wife gave me two children, both of whom, of course,
no longer live with us, as was to be expected, as we in our youth left
our parents behind. With my car, I could visit my children, when they
are not too busy.
Before she died, my wife urged me to find another woman. It's advice
I'd like to take up but not without a car. Without a car. I cannot find
myself another woman. That's the sum of it.