What none knows is when, not if.
Now that your life nears its end
when you turn back what you see
is ruin. You think, It is a prison. No,
it is a vast resonating chamber in
which each thing you say or do is
new, but the same. What none knows is
how to change. Each plateau you reach, if
single, limited, only itself, in-
cludes traces of all the others, so that in the end
limitation frees you, there is no
end, if you once see what is there to see.
You cannot see what is there to see —
not when she whose love you failed is
standing next to you. Then, as if refusing the know-
ledge that life unseparated from her is death, as if
again scorning your refusals, she turns away. The end
achieved by the unappeased is burial within.
Familiar spirit, within whose care I grew, within
whose disappointment I twist, may we at last see
by what necessity the double-bind is in the end
the figure for human life, why what we love is
precluded always by something else we love, as if
each no we speak is yes, each yes no.
The prospect is mixed but elsewhere the forecast is no
better. The eyrie where you perch in
exhaustion has food and is out of the wind, if
cold. You feel old, young, old, young: you scan the sea
for movement, though the promise of sex or food is
the prospect that bewildered you to this end.
Something in you believes that it is not the end.
When you wake, sixth grade will start. The finite you know
you fear is infinite: even at eleven, what you love is
what you should not love, which endless bullies in-
tuit unerringly. The future will be different: you cannot see
the end. What none knows is when, not if.
This sestina was originally featured in Poetry magazine in October, 2007.
We cannot push ourselves away
from this quiet, even in our sprees
of inattention, the departing passengers
stubbing out their smokes, arrivees in tears,
lots of cellophane, the rumpus over parking.
Wind scrapes leaves across the road,
first flashes of snow, it is dark then
it’s really dark. Forgive me for not
writing for so long, I’ve been
right beside you, one of the vaguer
divinities blocking your way with its need
to confess all its botched attempts at love,
what started the whole mess. I love this place,
its absurd use of balustrade, the chairs
that dig into the spine, motorcyclists
propping their drunk girlfriends in the sun,
men playing timed chess with themselves,
the guarantees and warnings that entice us
to the brink of what they warn about.
But we can do no more than pass through
these rooms and their sudden chills
where once a plea was entered almost
unintentionally that seemed at last
to reveal ourselves to ourselves,
immaculate, bereft, deserving to be found.
"anyone lived in a pretty how town" ; e.e. cummings
I will never forget.
Out behind the vineyard.
Stone place maye a shed or an icehouse no longer in use.
October, a little cold. Hay on the floor. We had gone to his grandfather’s farm to
the grapes for wine.
You cannot imagine the feeling if you have never done it —
like hard bulbs of wet red satin exploding under your feet,
between your toes and up your legs arms face splashing everywhere —
It goes right through your clothes you know he said as we slogged up and down
in the vat.
When you take them off
you’ll have juice all over.
His eyes moved onto me then he said Let’s check.
Naked in the stone place it was true, sticky stains, skin, I lay on the hay
and he licked.
Licked it off.
Ran out and got more dregs in his hands and smeared
it on my knees neck belly licking. Plucking. Diving.
Tongue is the smell of October to me. I remember it as
swimming in a fast river for I kept moving and it was hard to move
while all around me
was moving too, that smell
of turned earth and cold plants and night coming on and
the old vat steaming slightly in the dusk out there and him,
raw juice on him.
Stamens on him
and as Kafka said in the end
my swimming was of no use to me you know I cannot swim after all.
Well it so happens more than 90% of all cultivated grapes are varieties of
the Old World or European grape,
while native American grapes derive
from certain wild species of Vitis and differ in their “foxy” odor
as well as the fact that their skins slip so liquidly from the pulp.
An ideal wine grape
is one that is easily crushed.
Such things I learned from the grandfather
when we sat in the kitchen late at night cracking chestnuts.
Also that I should under no circumstances marry his grandson
whom he called tragikos a country word meaning either tragic or goat.
from The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos
Want is ten thousand blue feathers falling
all around me, and me unable to stomach
that I might catch five but never ten thousand.
So I drop my hands to my sides and wait
to be buried. I open a book and the words
spring and taunt. Flashes—motel, lapidary,
piranha—of every story, every poem I’ll never
know well enough to conjure in sleep.
What’s the point of words if I can’t
own them all? I toss book after book
into my imaginary trashcan fire.
Or I think I’ll learn piano. At the first lesson,
we’re clapping whole and half notes
and this is childish, I’m better than this.
I’d like to leave playing Ravel. I’d like
to give a concerto on Saturday. So I quit.
I have standards. Then on Saturday,
I have a beer, watch a telethon. Or
we watch a documentary on Antarctica.
The interviewees are from Belarus, Lima, Berlin.
Everyone speaks English. Everyone names
a philosopher, an ethos. One man carries a raft
on his back at all times. I went to Nebraska once
and swore it was a great adventure. It was.
I think of how I’ll never go to Antarctica,
mainly because I don’t much want to. But
I should want to. I should be the girl
with a raft on her back. When I think
of all the mountains and monuments
and skyscapes I haven’t seen, all the trains
I should take, all the camels and mopeds
and ferries I should ride, all the scorching
hikes I should nearly die on, I press
my body down, down into the vast green
couch. If I step out the door, the infinity
of what I’ve missed will zorro me across
the face with a big L for Lazy. Sometimes
I watch finches at the feeder, their wings small
suns, and have to grab the sill to steady myself.
Metaphorically, of course. I’m no loon.
Look—even my awestruck is half-assed.
But I’m so tired of the small steps—
the pentatonic scale, the frequent flyer
hoarding, the one exquisite sentence
in a forest of exquisite sentences.
There is a globe welling up inside of me.
Mountain ranges ridging my skin,
oceans filling my mouth. If I stay still
long enough, I could become my own world.
29 ways to stay creative and fight writer’s block! :)