from Epistles from the Planet Photosynthesis, UP Florida, 1999.)
the unchangeable fact.
You don't want me now.
Then give me back my things,
tell the new girl to stay
off my chairs my rugs my sheets my towels.
Make her take her eyes off you, look
away, walk out. We went to the Kiev for coffee.
That was our coffee. Those were my
eggs my coffee my blintzes.
Oh, walk out, turn left, let there be
darkness, walk among the staring
men in urine, all their
magazines, the crying cats
and lights that change color and change
color up the dark street, wide, private
except for the whisper of the bus
if it has rained,
except for the girl, expectant.
Wrap yourself in your green coat.
Wrap it around you. Don't turn around,
don't look like that, don't look
and see she is still there, go down
into the train,
its decorated shades, sit down
facing the flying
catacombs of the rich;
but if you get out
at Times Square
and if you turn suddenly west
and the mysterious disenchanted
city lies down like a prairie and if you walk
on toward that sky that looks white it's so empty
toward water you can't see that is proved
by the emptiness,
don't look around, please
don't go home. It was my home.
My mailbox, my window
through which the sirens and the men
and the women were crying
and sometimes just wind.
Don't. Don't whisper in that wind
any language but our language.
the part in the play when Helen's fingers
have learned the letters, but consider nothing.
It's the best part, but I have to put the book down
because my brother John's piano practice
is too loud (ever since I learned to spell
his scales and drills have filled the house like water
aquarium, green and vibrating water.)
I never look, but I can see his fingers
whenever they stumble and incessantly spell
Schumann's unrelenting object, difficult, nothing
sufficing, and anyway you must practice
not listening to the yelling floating down
upstairs bedroom. Helen is stepping down
into August heat as thick as water
if she could know it's water. Practice, practice.
She lets fingers drum into her fingers
necessary flowers that stand for nothing.
She's getting angry in the boring spell
sonata. Some dishes shatter the spell,
the voice is rising, John is crashing down
on the keys like a swarm of horseflies but there's nothing
he can do but answer (sighing water
in the kitchen). I turn to Helen's fingers
as if there will be safety in this practice.
pauses and the tetras practice
swimming on their sides in a luminous spell
of bubbles. Helen opens her baby fingers,
and now Teacher is babbling, pulling her down
toward the pump and speechless water.
John returns to the keys and plays nothing.
he tries again, shouts of nothing,
a slam, a quiet, and stop it, stop it. Practice
making it vanish; a climbing run, and water
falls on her hand that can suddenly spell
water, word in her hand, water down
her arms, and down down down fall John's sad fingers,
water. So I wished the spell
would never come to nothing. But what practice
now can keep it down, or hush his fingers?
Down to Rio
the blue honk of the Canada Goose
flew over her bed and into morning.
Birds ripped from the drowned trees, cut loose
woolen torrents from her wrists, and smothered
back a black wave and a warning.
Somehow in the drizzling song her mother
had crooned Rio, Rio by the Sea-o,
grinning the grin of a little girl; and yearning
for a view from the plane took hold, a trio
of field and field and field in the dark. She knew
then there were three of her: one who would listen
to the silly song, one who would blow
south over the bed, and one who'd unfasten
her straps and fall from the wing to a wing below.
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