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Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

 

 

 

Something makes us turn—

though they tell us, go straight.

Though they tell us, look ahead,

something in us knows there’s another path.

And it’s ours.

 

When I met Modigliani,

what did I know of love?

I was on honeymoon in Paris.

He an impoverished Italian Jew.

We would recite Verlaine

under his black umbrella

in the warm summer rain.

He begged me, don’t go back to Russia.

I did.

 

That winter he wrote me:

Vous êtes en moi comme une hantise;

You are obsessively part of me.

And I knew it was true,

that he was more myself

than my own familiar hands.

Back in St. Petersburg,

I would touch my lips in the mirror

and say my own name

and believe my voice was his.

 

I think of Lot’s wife.

How they told her not to turn,

to not look at Sodom, her home,

but how could she not

turn to the green fields where she had sung,

turn to the bed where her children

were made, turn to the place

of her blood?

 

When I turned back to Paris

I was not transformed into salt

but into chalk on paper.

 

Modigliani always drew me

in long spare lines—but never

while we were together.

Always from memory when he was alone.

With me, his hands

were too busy for crayons,

 

He’d slip off my dress,

and in my breast,

he’d visit my beloved Russian steppes,

in my waist, he buried himself

in Siberian snow,

and between my thighs,

he was baptized again and again

in the floodwaters of the Neva.

 

They’ve not yet made

a corset that will fit me—

how could it when I

am all of Russia?

 

I loved him. Wrote him poems.

Left red roses strewn on his floor.

How airy the light was then.

That was before we knew

what our art was for.

 

We thought it was for each other.

We thought it was for love.

 

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April 23

 

 

How do they do it,

the broad-tailed hummingbirds,

arriving at my window

the same day every year,

welcome as spring,

reliable as moon.

 

And what part of me

thrills in their predictability?

And what part says,

a tad too triumphantly,

See, here’s proof,

things come back.

 

I hear the small birds

before I see them,

their wingtips trilling,

I’ve read how the feathers

that make the sound wear down

from use. By midwinter,

 

you can barely hear

their bright hum at all until,

preparing to breed,

they grow new feathers again.

How do they do it,

grow feathers at just the right time?

 

I want to linger in the small

miracle of it, these ears still learning

how to hear and this heart still

astonished at the timing

of the world, how life just knows

when to return, when to grow.

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path through the jungle—

so much has to change

to stay the same

 

*

 

zipline so fast

even my shadow can’t find

a place to land

 

*

 

hanging bridges

above the deep chasms—

panic disguised as hope

 

*

 

a fourth star

in Orion’s belt—

in fact, a firefly

 

*

 

love starved—

instead of catching the bigger fish

eating the bait

 

*

 

dismantling the gate

at the chambers of the heart—

using the wood for a bridge

 

*

 

pouring out from the tree’s thorns

and army of fire ants—

nearby the ylang ylang spreads perfume

 

 

*

 

diving into the waves—

if only all chaos

had a trapdoor

 

*

 

beneath the waterfall

riding the rope swing, wondering—

does our joy release into the world?

 

*

 

meanwhile, in the rainforest,

the purple orchid peels back its petals,

reinvents opening

 

*

 

questions that start with why

are the hardest to answer—

the lizard walks on water

 

*

 

smaller than a thimble

this frog beside the river—

universe size, my wonder

 

*

 

this old oyster shell

worn by waves into a heart—

love this world, love this world

 

*

 

after two days,

the purple orchids are spent—

giving myself to the waves

 

*

 

the gray and brown wren—

its bright song a mailbox

red flag up

 

*

 

ten thousand times ten thousand

waves on the beach—

letting each one rename me

 

*

 

beside the great strangler fig

enjoying feeling small

in the big, big world

 

 

 

 

 

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while the bells of the heart

clamor and clang,

catching a ride on the clapper

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Puddled

 

 

 

Today it was the puddle

that woke up my heart,

the way it received the sky

 

and remade it in smeary mirrors

of grays beneath my feet.

How at first, I tried so hard to avoid it,

 

and then, once my feet were wet,

I could see it only as a way to play,

an invitation for joy. To splash

 

in the clouds. To splash for the pleasure

of splashing. To splash until

I could no longer recognize her, that part

 

of me who longed to stay safe, stay dry.

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In the secret temple of my heart

was an altar

with nothing on it—

I love nothing,

the pure potential

of it. Sometimes when others

journeyed here, I sensed

they were surprised,

perhaps even sorry for me,

as if it would better

with a lotus or a cross

or a star or a figurine

or a photo of someone.

Or a stone. Always something.

I tried, in fact, to put things

on the altar, but

no thing let itself

stay. There was a day

when, in a single moment,

the altar had everything

on it, and by everything,

I mean everything—every

bee, every stick, every

plastic bag and beetle,

every crushed empty can,

every crumpled shirt,

every door handle, compass,

broken thermometer, apple,

trashcan, tree, everything.

And it was so beautiful I wept.

For hours. Oh, the pure potential of it!

And then, that altar

was no longer in some secret

temple in my heart,

but everywhere. Everywhere

a place to worship.

Everything a prayer

waiting to be heard,

to be touched.

And inside, the most beautiful

nothing, not even an altar,

which is, oddly, everything.

I can’t say how.

Sometimes, when I am quiet enough,

I notice it. Sometimes, when

I get out of the way, I fall all the way in.

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One More Lesson

 

 

 

while pouring tea for failure,

I forgot to add the tea—

we drink the hot water together and laugh

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One Time Warp

 

 

 

leaning into a wind

from twenty years ago—

still tugging tears from my eyes

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Come, she says, let me show you

my secret place in the woods,

and she grabs my hand

 

and walks me past the pond through

the forest and along a ditch

until we arrive in a small clearing

 

rung with birch and old spruce.

It’s secret, she says, but not

too far away. Will you help me

 

get it ready? We return with

loppers and a small hand saw

and clear away what is dead. The sun

 

discovers new ways to touch the ground.

When we leave, the clearing

comes with us. All day, I feel it,

 

the light as it finds its way in.

 

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Easter Eve

 

 

 

On the table, a letter to the Easter Bunny—

the girl has written it in blue pen

thanking him for the joy he brings.

 

Beside the letter, two baskets

filled with empty plastic eggs.

So much inside wants to be filled. Or so

 

we believe. Tomorrow morning,

the baskets will be for a moment empty,

the eggs, hidden, ridiculous with candy.

 

Oh the things we use to stave the void!

There is beauty in barrenness—

just outside the window, the world

 

is trying to prove it, the field no longer

steeped in snow, yet not yet verdant

and green. And still it’s lovely, a stark,

 

splendor. though perhaps we need

to recalibrate to see.

Every Easter, she writes, I wake up

 

soooooooooo excited to find the eggs.

I think of the field, how it takes

no belief for it to fill, for it to burgeon.

 

And still it is no less magic. I think

of the girl, her joy in giving the Easter Bunny

her most beautiful egg, how she’s learning

 

the art of emptying. I hope you like it, she writes.

I tell her, I think the Easter Bunny

will cry, tears leaving my eyes, not sure

 

if I feel more empty, more full.

 

 

 

 

 

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