~MID-FEBRUARY LATE AT NIGHT~
Intimidated by the glass,
I reach to touch a near-full moon
suspended on a near-black string.
It strays across tonight as I
have wandered across blank paper,
decorum over and done with.
The strange bones of my hands find their
own way (hasn’t always been so).
Outdoors, the moon lights up the dirt,
hides behind clouds that start to spill
rain. The environment reeks of
failure and I, unmoved by its
intent, start to despise the rain.
I have stood in this place a long
time waiting for shame to produce
the wild, tender thoughts I’ve called up
in the past. Where is the book I’ve
not written? Where is the house and
the barn I saw when I slept then
wrote about when I woke? Where are
the lumbering animals that
will find their way back home and the
farm wife in her wrinkled jeans and
patterned apron? Maybe they’ve been
cast upward into God’s shadows.
I reach to touch a sky that has
filled my life with false promises.
The old olive tree looks so cold.
Soon it will be Spring: warm, blameless.
I’ve buried my dead and, still, they come back to me, breathing
their names in the dark. I try to hold on to them, hugging
their ghostly bodies to mine as I hold yours to mine. I beg
my sad ghosts, stay stay to give me time for amends. It is
their revenge to drift off before enough “I’m sorrys” can
leave my mouth. True, before forgiveness, there must be regret.
Kneel for one, stand for the other. If the sprits refuse,
I ask Our Lady of Sorrows. I reach far back behind
myself to the old ways. The Precious Blood and Mother winks
in gold from the cover of an old prayer book. I open
its pages, thin as moth wings, and sink into the comfort-
able aged words. There are many more contemporary
books of prayer, but they don’t list the stupendous grand prizes
won from praying as this one does.
Recitation of the Seven Offerings
300 days indulgence. Plenary indulgence once
a month under the usual conditions, if recited
daily—granted by Pope Leo XII, September 1827.
Say the prayers, close the book. Souls and dreams are the same things.
If I sleep finally, will I wake up as a different being,
pure of spirit, forgiven? I don’t think so. I think I’ll
awaken with my brain steeped in mystery (a weak tea),
and Fear, that ancient prime suspect, making a clearing through
the tall, dusty ragweed of my burned-out memory.
The way sunlight pounds through traffic to reach my body on the sidewalk—
this, this is always with me
the snarling city cops looking for something to smash
and how they always find it
the night noises: howling sirens, shouts, something breaking,
the coyotes up by the Hollywood sign—nobody’s babies
watching where I step, the growling citizenry, the sly smiles, the shrugs, the caution, the desperate religion, the snorting busses, the cast-off shoe under the bus bench
Leaving my city—an amputation—a mistake of such egregious proportions
that the only rectification come in dreams
pungent sidewalks, unlit laundry room in my old apartment, roach baits to be purchased
every 60 days, my city, my love
A shrink told me once, “Contrary to popular mythology, people DO die of a broken heart.”
So it goes… so it is this grief of mine, this missing city
I want you even when I am with you.
~ABOUT A MAN~
A man gets a book from the library,
reads it and smiles to himself with no one
around to tell why he’s smiling. He likes
it that way. He likes the book in his hands
and the steady light in the reading room.
He comes here to hide from his father who,
though dead these last ten years, searches for him.
His mother, also dead, searches for her
Hairpins, always mislaid. His is a perfect
loneliness: dark, dreary, full of blues songs
and burglaries. He rejoices in the
stillness, a quiet not unlike that of
a weed growing out of the sand.
He doubts everything. He doubts his own hands,
his eyes, the photos of his family.
He doubts there is such a thing as love though
he loves his cat and his glass of blended
whiskey which he drinks on the patio
in the late afternoon. This man’s heart is
dark with ancient blood, sluggish in his chest.
His father and mother, before their deaths,
became bone and ash, spiky gray seed pods,
separate, submissive and unresisting
in the relentless finality of the stars.
When I ran away to visit my friend,
five hours by plane, we got drunk in
her kitchen and stomped our feet when
we laughed and dunked ice cubes with
our index fingers into glasses of whiskey.
One night later, she introduced me to
her friend, a madman with hair like silk
and I got all wrapped up in his strange
colors. He sang me his songs and I,
swept away, warmed to him.
We wrangled that night on a twin bed
in the guest room and slept, my fingers
tangled in his hair, his pale back against me.
The next morning he was strange, silent,
beautiful still, but his eyes wanted nothing
from me and, when I touched his hand,
he pulled away. He reached into a bowl
on the Cedar Heights buffet where there
was fresh fruit. “Here,” he said, “have an orange.”
Like Cisneros, I am delighted with my disasters.