poems

21 August 2008

Joe's Party (A Summer Saturday)

1144AM; a Thursday.
Sitting in The Livingroom with a large nonfat Mint Mocha. Nothing in my head but Bridge Over Troubled Water; what I wouldn’t give for a voice pure and liquid as that. Ugh. Unpoetic. I flit, I flap, I flee…
It’s noon just about and I’m walking in Old Town and I’m walking behind two girls one in pink one in beige and then they left turn and I’m walking behind Jeff Buckley but black-haired. I would almost swear it was him besides the truth of the real Jeff’s drowning. Jeff ducks into a cantina whereas I go straight then I am walking past Jeremy Irons wheeling a crate thing of boxes of beer and it says COORS on his shirt sleeve and it says RIP Genevieve on his outer right ankle and I look at him and after as I pass by and his too-long hair is pushed beyond his face in the sun-riddled breezes

Friday. Michael calls the light slicing the waves Sea-comets; it’s eleven at night almost and we’re floating in the ocean which is lit up gray green though at the horizon black from the lights of Jack’s Bar & Grill where people are still dancing

Saturday afternoon. Hummingbird on a fern a day later, before we leave for the party, bobbing its brown head back and forth like a miniscule owl, green chest rumpled, each chamber of its heart stuttering beneath

Saturday afternoon/evening, at the party for Joe Powers, ex-director at North Coast Rep. Vince says “Waita minute there’s some faulty mathematics afoot” as Gabe plows through some debate or other, my father chuckling from his seat on the outside wicker sofa.
Julia whose name doesn’t suit her chats up someone on the board, sofa pillows barriering between them on the veranda, she’s one of those curly-haired big-nosed loud people. She’s 21.
Natty a kid from my sixth grade class is tall and beaky now, kind of like a less hardcore Eminem, his father looks like Andy Warhol. Natty has a pair of those gristly black earrings that stretch the cartilage and go through the middle of the lobes. Come to think of it he looks like the boy Cate Blanchett has sex with in Notes on a Scandal. Two girls in heels and jeans at his shoulders now; he says stuff, they laugh. It happens again. Is he a funny kid now, is that it? One arm holds a bottle of water and the other is wrapped around his chest and massaging his ribs casually like some guys do.
Things nameless people said in the family room and on the patio: “I’m gonna just trust, my love, I’m just gonna have to trust.” And in response: “Glad to hear it, my dear.”
“We’re not kids turning into adults,” one young actor says of Joe’s mentoring, “we’re kids turning into better kids.”
And another, slightly British or Australian accent, at the close of his bit: “And please don’t stare at me intensely now.”
And Natty makes a brief humble speech, fidgeting first with the water bottle, then with a half a cracker he selects randomly from the debris of the table before him, mumbling, “Sorry we’re losin’ you, man,” and everybody laughs because that doesn’t sound like the Natty they know and Joe just says “You’re not.”
Joe: “I feel like I’m at my own funeral.”
Joe: “Now I don’t wanna get too emotional because I love you…”
Joe: “Life is about change for me and I don’t understand it just as much as you.”

Later I’m sitting curled in an armchair editing this piece I’m working on for location – putting boxes around every word that describes setting and whatnot – and one of Natty’s boys comes down the stairs (I’m seated almost at the bottom of a set of stairs, in the family room) and he’s hot. I mean good to look at hot. But first glance and first feel is that he’s an aloof superior kind of hot, the kind I always like but that never seem to pan out. Anyway, he walks past me sitting curled, white v-neck tucked into an eggplant-colored skirt worn high-waisted, barefoot. And he spoon-feeds me, as he walks past and I flick my bored eyes up at him, he spoon-feeds me the nastiest, dirtiest, slyest, sexiest half-smile ever, and there he goes moving molten beyond the living room and through the wide-open French doors to the pleasantly cool backyard.
He’s wearing a black collared shirt (sleeves rolled to the elbow), light gray pants in a funny plaid, and dark green Vans. Like the smarmy bisexual boy in “Spring Awakening.” He is well-practiced at the swagger that accompanies guys who sag. He’s got pale pale ice-dense blue eyes and bleached-yellow tips over his brown hair, and bony guitar-player fingers. Later when we’re serving the “BRAVO JOE” cake however I hear him talking to Joe’s wife about how he got started in the theater and he’s got the softest sweetest murmuring voice, a voice like you wouldn’t expect, a bedroom voice almost exactly opposite of his eyes.
By Lord, this love’s as mad as Ajax!
It kills sheep, it kills me – I a sheep?

TUESDAY, AUGUST FIFTH, BACKYARD AT NIGHT.

inspired by Frank O’Hara

1.
for B
We women, I thought laughing,
and me all alone –
we will eat eat eat you up and swallow you
and yours even late into the night.
And we won’t forget like you will, either. Or at least
how you might. You and yours might not forget –
your lost black bowtie, or your funny beige boat
of a car might recall with a fondness imprints we women
have made on them both.
And those almost accidentally.
Ah the couple across the way with their green
and naked kitchen is drunk
and groan with adult islandic laughter – laughter
that in the minds of
we women
are among our evening
company this fine Tuesday or is it
another? Well whatever day it is they are both
we are all
here. I was born
on a Wednesday, were you?
I am never without the presence of we women.
I having learned how will eat
eat eat you up, swallow you
and yours and you and yours even late
into the night when our young
neighbors cackle sickly at the sheer
– and unyielding! –
emptiness of their second bottle of burgundy.
And how it glints above the naked green cabinets!
The husband
swiped them from one-a those anxious
company parties that dive
like a knot of chickens with their heads
cut off.
Do you know those parties?


2.
for ...
(Look, it never came!)

3.
11:46PM:
Hey I’m sorry it’s so late I got
into a fight with my parents.
Awake?

24 June 2008

Pantoum

Incredible how we believe ourselves in old age,

Weaving through lambent divides.

Homegrown eyes aside, we don our tank tops

And sleep in sun and jagged brambles.

 

Weaving through lambent divides,

Our eyes close in ugliness, humming

Sleeping in sun, jagged brambles

Rise and fall under winded canyons.

 

Our eyes close in ugliness, hummed

By choirs of bee-stings that swell:

Rising and falling, winded canyons murmur

“Incredible how we believe ourselves in old age,

Symmetrical and sparkling, like Heaven.”

Sestina: The Rest

In some mathematical formulas, order is the brief

insistence of a young person who never lit

his cigarettes ’til after break was over.  It was enough

to ask which he preferred, land or sea, did he prefer water

or the corroded skin of the ground?  And to look nice

was enough in itself – for him to look nice, that is.  To have forests

 

for eyes and soft valleys of mouth is one thing – the forest!

That’s exactly it!  “Have you ever,” I said, “felt the brief

but unshakeable knowledge of trees?”  “Well, you’re crazy, but nice,”

he said then to me, and he a Marine… though it wasn’t too big, it wasn’t lit

up like a candied hotel-boat, afloat on the glittering water.

What he said then: “Let’s not lose perspective; the Sunbelt’s enough.”

 

Because that’s where we were, the famed Sunbelt, though not enough

time had passed – the unsaid grew thick, undisturbed, greener than a forest.

I asked for water then; they brought us water.

That evening he spoke of his sister, how she had the odd, brief

body of a dancer, and how her face had never lit

from within, hardly with any joy when he had been nice

 

enough to march home for a weekend.  “Sure, the guys are all nice

to you now, but it’s ‘cause of your face;” apparently no militant soul ever lit

on fire, or anything close, from his girl’s letter, not even when he’s told that the forest

of her backyard burns honorable for him with flags, crosses, candles in water.

Even with young face and brown body, it both hurts and is never enough

to finish it fast; and with his mean laugh, our drowning was made brief.

 

The laugh was mean but he wasn’t.  The drown was brief

but the way he worked me through it was gentle: it was nice

and it was easy.  They were his hands, and his brown body; I could have said, “Enough.”

Without knowing him, or who his parents were, when he lit

that first cigarette, we had already promised ourselves that knotted forests

were for his sad marching only.  He could go, he said, forever without water.

 

“I never want to, but I could,” he said, “drown you in your own water.”

He was a delight.  On weeknights, he could phone, though the calls would be brief.

Before long, I imagined, I’d wake to less backyard, more patriotic forest;

it never happened, but the thought – crosses, flags, the rest – the thought was nice.

We could have stood together, brown arms knotted, we could have lit

the entirety ablaze, watched hours turn to ash.  And would that have been enough?

 

It never happens that one smells water or a forest and is reminded of him, though wouldn’t that be nice.

So his girl never enshrined his brief and dead uniform; neither did I.  We never lit

out together, or even separately.  Things never happened the way that would, for some people, be enough.