The Day Lady Died
It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me
I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness
and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it
and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing
A Raspberry Sweater
to George Montgomery
It is next to my flesh,
that’s why. I do what I want.
And in the pale New Hampshire
twilight a black bug sits in the blue,
strumming its legs together. Mournful
glass, and daisies closing. Hay
swells in the nostrils. We shall go
to the motorcycle races in Laconia
and come back all calm and warm.
To John Ashbery
I can’t believe there’s not
another world where we will sit
and read new poems to each other
high on a mountain in the wind.
You can be Tu Fu, I’ll be Po Chu-i
and the Monkey Lady’ll be in the moon,
smiling at our ill-fitting heads
as we watch snow settle on a twig.
Or shall we be really gone? this
is not the grass I saw in my youth!
and if the moon, when it rises
tonight, is empty —a bad sign,
meaning ‘You go, like the blossoms.’
Ann Arbor Variations
Wet heat drifts through the afternoon
like a campus dog, a fraternity ghost
waiting to stay home from football games.
The arches are empty clear to the sky.
Except for the leaves: those lashes of our
thinking and dreaming and drinking sight.
The spherical radiance, the Old English
look, the sum of our being, "hath perced
to the roote" all our springs and falls
and now rolls over our limpness, a daily
dragon. We lose our health in a love
of color, drown in a fountain of myriads,
as simply as children. It is too hot,
our birth was given up to screaming. Our
life on these street lawns seems silent.
The leaves chatter their comparisons
to the wind and the sky fills up
before we are out of bed. O infinite
our siestas! adobe effigies in a land
that is sick of us and our tanned flesh.
The wind blows towards us particularly
the sobbing of our dear friends on both
coasts. We are sick of living and afraid
that death will not be by water, o sea.
Along the walks and shaded ways
pregnant women look snidely at children.
Two weeks ago they were told, in these
selfsame pools of trefoil, "the market
for emeralds is collapsing," "chlorophyll
shines in your eyes," "the sea’s misery
is progenitor of the dark moss which hides
on the north side of trees and cries."
What do they think of slim kids now?
and how, when the summer’s gong of day
and night slithers towards their sweat
and towards the nest of their arms
and thighs, do they feel about children
whose hides are pearly with days of swimming?
Do they mistake these fresh drops for tears?
The wind works over these women constantly!
trying, perhaps, to curdle their milk
or make their spring unseasonably fearful,
season they face with dread and bright eyes,
The leaves, wrinkled or shiny like apples,
wave women courage and sigh, a void temperature.
The alternatives of summer do not remove
us from this place. The fainting into skies
from a diving board, the express train to
Detroit‘s damp bars, the excess of affection
on the couch near an open window or a Bauhaus
fire escape, the lazy regions of stars, all
are strangers. Like Mayakovsky read on steps
of cool marble, or Yeats danced in a theatre
of polite music. The classroon day of dozing
and grammar, the partial eclipse of the head
in the row in front of the head of poplars,
sweet Syrinx! last out the summer in a stay
of iron. Workmen loiter before urinals, stare
out windows at girders tightly strapped to clouds.
And in the morning we whimper as we cook
an egg, so far from fluttering sands and azure!
The violent No! of the sun
burns the forehead of hills.
Sand fleas arrive from Salt Lake
and most of the theatres close.
The leaves roll into cigars, or
it seems our eyes stick together
in sleep. O forest, o brook of
spice, o cool gaze of strangers!
the city tumbles towards autumn
in a convulsion of tourists
and teachers. We dance in the dark,
forget the anger of what we blame
on the day. Children toss and murmur
as a rumba blankets their trees and
beckons their stars closer, older, now.
We move o’er the world, being so much here.
It’s as if Poseidon left off counting
his waters for a moment! In the fields
the silence is music like the moon.
The bullfrogs sleep in their hairy caves.
across the avenue a trefoil lamp
of the streets tosses luckily.
The leaves, finally, love us! and
moonrise! we die upon the sun.
A City Winter
I understand the boredom of the clerks
fatigue shifting like dunes within their eyes
a frightful nausea gumming up the works
that once was thought aggression in disguise.
Do you remember? then how lightly dead
seemed the moon when over factories
it languid slid like a barrage of lead
above the heart, the fierce inventories
of desire. Now women wander our dreams
carrying money and to our sleep’s shame
our hands twitch not for swift blood-sunk triremes
nor languorous white horses nor ill fame,
but clutch the groin that clouds a pallid sky
where tow’rs are sinking in their common eye.
My ship is flung upon the gutter’s wrist
and cries for help of storm to violate
that flesh your curiosity too late
has flushed. The stem your garter tongue would twist
has sunk upon the waveless bosom’s mist,
thigh of the city, apparition, hate,
and the tower whose doves have, delicate,
fled into my blood where they are not kissed.
You have left me to the sewer’s meanwhile,
and I have answered the sea’s open wish
to love me as a bonfire’s watchful hand
guards red the shore and guards the hairy strand,
our most elegant lascivious bile,
my ship sinking beneath the gutter’s fish.
How can I then, my dearest winter lay,
disgorge the tasty worm that eats me up
falling onto the stem of a highway
whose ardent rainbow is the spoon’s flat cup
and in the vilest of blue suited force
enamored of the heated needle’s arm
finds the ministrant an own tongue’s remorse
so near the blood and still so far from harm,
thus to be eaten up and gobbled down
volcanoes of speedometers, the strike
that heats the iris into flame and flow’rs
the panting chalice so a turning pike:
you are not how the gods refused to die,
and I am scarred forever neath the eye.
What are my eyes? if they must feed me, rank
with forgetting, in the jealous forest
of lustrous blows, so luminously blank
through smoke and in the light. All faint, at rest,
yet I am racing towards the fear that kills
them off, friends and lovers, hast’ning through tears
like alcohol high in the throat of hills
and hills of night, alluring! their black cheers
falling upon my ears like nails. And there
the bars grow thick with onanists and camps
and bivouacs of bears with clubs, are fair
with their blows, deal death beneath purple lamps
and to me! I run! closer always move,
crying my name in fields of dead I love.
I plunge deep within this frozen lake
whose mirrored fastnesses fill up my heart,
where tears drift from frivolity to art
all white and slobbering, and by mistake
are the sky. I’m no whale to cruise apart
in fields impassive of my stench, my sake,
my sign to crushing seas that fall like fake
pillars to crash! to sow as wake my heart
and don’t be niggardly. The snow drifts low
and yet neglects to cover me, and I
dance just ahead to keep my heart in sight.
How like a queen, to seek with jealous eye
the face that flees you, hidden city, white
swan. There’s no art to free me, blinded so.
After the first glass of vodka
you can accept just about anything
of life even your own mysteriousness
you think it is nice that a box
of matches is purple and brown and is called
La Petite and comes from Sweden
for they are words that you know and that
is all you know words not their feelings
or what they mean and you write because
you know them not because you understand them
because you don’t you are stupid and lazy
and will never be great but you do
what you know because what else is there?
Alone at night
in the wet city
the country’s wit
is not memorable.
The wind has blown
all the trees down
but these anxieties
remain erect, being
the heart’s deliberate
chambers of hurt
and fear whether
from a green apartment
seeming diamonds or
from an airliner
seeming fields. It’s
not simple or tidy
though in rows of
rows and numbered;
the literal drifts
the hair is combed
with bridges, all
to stardom and lights.
If alone I am
able to love it,
the serious voices,
the panic of jobs,
it is sweet to me.
Far from burgeoning
verdure, the hard way
in this street.
Meditations in an Emergency
Am I to become profligate as if I were a blonde? Or religious
as if I were French?
Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous
(and how the same names keep recurring on that interminable
list!), but one of these days there’ll be nothing left with
which to venture forth.
Why should I share you? Why don’t you get rid of someone else
for a change?
I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love.
Even trees understand me! Good heavens, I lie under them, too,
don’t I? I’m just like a pile of leaves.
However, I have never clogged myself with the praises of
pastoral life, nor with nostalgia for an innocent past of
perverted acts in pastures. No. One need never leave the
confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes—I can’t
even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there’s a subway
handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not
totally regret life. It is more important to affirm the
least sincere; the clouds get enough attention as it is and
even they continue to pass. Do they know what they’re missing?
My eyes are vague blue, like the sky, and change all the time;
they are indiscriminate but fleeting, entirely specific and
disloyal, so that no one trusts me. I am always looking away.
Or again at something after it has given me up. It makes me
restless and that makes me unhappy, but I cannot keep them
still. If only I had grey, green, black, brown, yellow eyes; I
would stay at home and do something. It’s not that I’m
curious. On the contrary, I am bored but it’s my duty to be
attentive, I am needed by things as the sky must be above the
earth. And lately, so great has their anxiety become, I can
spare myself little sleep.
Now there is only one man I like to kiss when he is unshaven.
Heterosexuality! you are inexorably approaching. (How best
St. Serapion, I wrap myself in the robes of your whiteness
which is like midnight in Dostoevsky. How I am to become a
legend, my dear? I’ve tried love, but that holds you in the
bosom of another and I’m always springing forth from it like
the lotus—the ecstasy of always bursting forth! (but one must
not be distracted by it!) or like a hyacinth, "to keep the
filth of life away," yes, even in the heart, where the filth is
pumped in and slanders and pollutes and determines. I will my
will, though I may become famous for a mysterious vacancy in
that department, that greenhouse.
Destroy yourself, if you don’t know!
It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so. I
admire you, beloved, for the trap you’ve set. It’s like a
final chapter no one reads because the plot is over.
"Fanny Brown is run away—scampered off with a Cornet of Horse;
I do love that little Minx, & hope She may be happy, tho’ She
has vexed me by this exploit a little too.—Poor silly
Cecchina! or F:B: as we used to call her.—I wish She had a
good Whipping and 10,000 pounds."—Mrs. Thrale
I’ve got to get out of here. I choose a piece of shawl and my
dirtiest suntans. I’ll be back, I’ll re-emerge, defeated, from
the valley; you don’t want me to go where you go, so I go where
you don’t want me to. It’s only afternoon, there’s a lot
ahead. There won’t be any mail downstairs. Turning, I spit in
the lock and the knob turns.
Leave a comment
No comments yet.