“Distrust the maker, oh first direction.
It seeks only to confound flight
Of the sparrow and the thrush—
What use have regal wingtips
For letters of four and five?”
So it was once written
In gold-leafed pages upon the mind:
Some called them memories.
No name, no language they remember,
Letters sealed with tongues of white and grey
Matter, an accumulation across centuries.
Letters left at the doorstep
Of ambition: Did not a single stone
Give birth to the tower at Babel?
Letters cast off upon white-sailed ships,
Servants to the irrationality of the wind—
Have they tried speech?
Letters docked at black harbors,
Endless in ink, waiting to be read.
A picnic of one, and a Sunday afternoon
For none. She packed
Inside her basket-woven heart
A blanket in blue. A blanket for ladybugs,
And incessant desire, a photograph to the last
Sunlit shout before the uncertainty of sleep.
They flitter about
Her imperfect skirt, re-arrange the polka dots,
Match designs upon a back they cannot—could not—
see. The arbitration of expected beauty needs
No inspector, no permission. Downcast eyes speak
Loudly enough and a queen’s will bends
To no fountain of flesh. Canvas of bone,
what heartaches do you hide? The lines of a lie
Cannot be undone through mere motion,
And only a fool
Desires resurrection without change.
It cannot be said that he had lived:
such a term must resist
Association with unlucky harpstrings and lecherous feet,
Fifth and third harmonics forgotten somewhere
Between the dotted lines
Connecting what-could-have-been and that plane of gold
Violence. He wanted nothing more—or nothing less?—
Than a summary calculation of his misdemeanors. Could they
Be mixed into a shot of sawdust and Promethean disregard,
An alchemical decomposition of that night and all nights thence,
Unweave from his mind, that fast-pacing mind, the marcato
Of his reflection, stained with the guilt of glass
And the judgment of her cinnamonbrown laughter?
He carried underneath his pillow—always!—
The black cartridge of his dissolution. He lacked only
The constitution for a final performance.
She had a mouth constructed for laughter:
Upper dais slightly oblong, ill-fitting
Curve to sister’d step. And what of the black
Nestled within? Barbs stolen from the rose bush—
Edge’s wit mustn’t meld
Amongst company so colored.
She had a mouth constructed for laughter, and perhaps
It had done so once.
But the years had made it small;
She wore now a smile arranged
Only in self-contempt.
The real thing she sold
In the marketplace outside a dream.
Some elements of the prose loosely lifted from previous work.
Even the white of the dying sun
Avoids my bedroom window,
Another Sunday afternoon
Dissolved within a rectangle eight by ten.
The neighbors passed
Away overseas. I saw
The ship’s shadow cast off,
Left beneath a front door
No one thought to disembark: blank, handwritten,
Like the intention of their goodbyes.
I miss their casual violence, the staccato
Of youth unrealized, each cry
Transmuted to fill the hole above my head.
Perhaps I shall visit them, follow starstiched
The longitudes of our deceit.
Companionship’s kiss left all alone
Befriended so long
Thoughts subtle-shaded rose all in black.
Mythological age passed but unsown,
Mortals so mere
False-bidden flung on div-ine track.
Thus king ignoble sat on the throne
Judgement so daft
Satanic refusal broke deviled back.
So gilded god arrived much postponed
Purpose so straight
From side unseen slipped last attack.
Stay a month longer, Jin-dynastied sun…
Too eager you signed unfounding breath.
Greeting came carcass-gifted,
Calamitous cause leaves unsaid?
Enlighten then your parapeted subjects:
Sixty-thousand they stand, suicide-shawled.
Where erred veneration,
When fell celebration?
The horsed horde at our gates know not love
(Their language lacks the rhyme).
At those hands
Are we to be skull-split,
Rent from family and form,
Rent for silver and sex?
It cannot be!
Your claims I disavow, your shapes I abnegate.
To my disciples I say only
Adopt, in final moment,
The butterfly’s art.
I often (re)write poems. A dramatized re-telling of the original.