poems and poems-in-progress

Sunday, April 20, 2014

I. The Resurrection


Thrown-off linens of a shroud lie
 in a heap in a crevice of shadow
unguent, still, like a dead 
lily, white which a voice in the
light wakes urging it upward
and plumbing the depths
its roots clutch, evicting
its flesh from its tight shell,
prying open the bud like
the heavy lid of a coffin
or seedcase split by the new 
strength of its own 
fruit, fueled by desire
to pay homage to sun opening like a heavy lid by dint of grace. It is a thing divided, as day is from night. Once blind, once thirsting for light, the new bloom, submissive and fierce, undergoes a cataclysm; it changes everything. This following streams of steely sorrow that washed across slate light amid clouds torn open and fallen blood. A soft calm came after -- a flourishing confidence ensued leaving the new flower resplendent, arching and splayed, its mettle moist and refulgent, its reach older than time and as endless, its green bindings cast off like a useless shroud, its petals generous and outward as it opens itself to the light it is 
quenched by. A voice in the light awakens –
rouses the necrotic souls of the
dead, rendering death
itself dead. It reaches down into 
the pitch, dissolving the 
lock death holds upon
earth, sword-sharp it shoots
upward out of the half-frozen
pitch strong enough to push
a great rock away so that in the rush 
the cave is flushed with sudden 
light such that it is no longer a place
 in shadow as wounds no longer are 
wounds as we know them, for a new
flame ignites the spirit within as without 
the world opens and yields like a ripe 
womb or mouth engaged in singing 
praise: behold this new dawn;
it comes down like a hammer
and  lands like a kiss.

Friday, May 17, 2013

From "Black Irish"


l:56, 2:09, 3:43, 4:11... a digital clock flipped off
red lucent numerals in the spare charming
space where delirious with somnolence
and the accumulating lack of it,
I would enter and rock
in the blackness and
tend to those who would teach
while altering permanently
how I did it
the true value
of sleep, and its dreamy contents.
Often when I entered
watery cat-cries of appetite
and insecurity capsized
and left me weak with lovesickness
amid blue stars and
baby rabbits, in the presence of
my heart’s desire
made flesh, my five-pound lovers,
their heads no larger than my heart
or fist, their fontanels not yet
having drifted to cleave like
continents sifting toward abridgment —
They needed a hand to support their necks.
They needed time to get the hang of it.
They needed official lactation expertise.
They needed me to stroke
their tongues in a flattening motion.
They needed to attain gestational age.
They needed a stubborn Irish Molly
at the helm of Operation Mammary.
They needed the bitch
attached to the hooters
to marshal her leonine defiance
when the hospital nurse and the moron
manning the La Leche phones
pissed in the new mother’s milk,
saying: “A baby who takes a bottle
will never latch on.” Or, as Adam
Klein extrapolating, quipped:
“Better dead, than bottle fed.”
They needed me to believe
they would catch on.
They needed me to know
they would latch on.
They needed me to nurture
the hunch I’d be their lunch today,
at ages 13 and 9, had I not plucked them
from my breast at 3 like
some kinder, gentler Lady Macbeth.
They needed neither Enfamil nor Isomil.
They did not need the “Simulated Nursing System:”
consisting of tubular plastic to connect
siphoned mother’s milk to nipples
designed to fool the baby —
but they needed me
to give that a shot.
What they really needed
was their mother to wear combat boots,
What they really needed was
a real motherfucker.
On those frigid January nights,
I fed a baby every hour,
every hour between midnight and that instant
when a gradual progression toward light
catalyzes rapidly and collapses
into incandescent sapphire,
so I turned to a cretin in the dark.
Though I was wholly
submissive to the issue
born of a marriage to my “one love,”
helped along by well-stoked hope
and the alchemy of
meat and love
which bore
the imprimatur of a voice in the light
and my already formindable
capacity to adore
in the abstract —
I was all theirs, but
I was still mine too.
So I craved a voice
in the night with talk in it,
a cock-of-the-walk talk
that was its own voice.
I gave myself to the light
of music and love, by day, but
I turned to a broad-shouldered dope
to help me through those long nights.
He was all wrong for me,
but he was all right, too.
His was the signal through which
my maiden (m’aidé!)
nocturnal transmissions
had come 25 years earlier.
Electrons coming
at the speed of light,
assembling into magnetic fields
of auditory vision. I picked up
WABC in the Rockaway bungalows
through a receiver shaped like a suitcase:
my birthday gift the summer men
walked on the moon.
There were buds in the bikini top,
and an Irish boy from Undercliff
in the Bronx, out for the season.
When sand jammed the works
rendering my turntable non75
operational, Cousin Brucie came through
with the Fifth Dimension and Crystal Blue Persuasion —
In the Year 25, 25 (…if woman can survive —).But this girl was a woman now —
And it was no longer vinyl
the station’s overnight jockey was spinning
in the winter of ’95 but politics.
It felt good, getting
pissed as I changed diapers,
It felt good to be disgusted
by moronic right-wing positions.
It made me feel like I still had opinions,
that a world beyond
the fruit my womb
still thrummed with
rough edges, short fuses
and a long memory:
a world well-embroidered
with prosody and music,
grit, conflict, muscle
and heat no amount of oxytocin
could neutralize. He waxed prosaic
on education, religion, government and crime;
He was a toady to the megalomaniac
Republican mayor of NY,
an apologist for the Church,
a mook in love with the “stars
and stripes,” Armed Forces and “Boys in
Blue” — He was everything
I can’t stand or get enough of in
a man, all rolled into a single meathead.
I turned him on, I tuned him in, I used him
each night, until my Prince came
through — until their double majesty
gained proper mastery
of their lips and tongues.
I felt ashamed,
choosing the boob over Coltrane and Mahler.
Choosing the boob over National Public Radio’s
trenchant commentary. Choosing the boob
over Sonido Suave, Spanish lessons with a beat
you can dance to, a “corazon” in every strain.
Choosing the boob I saw a few times on the Uptown 5
from Utica to Woodlawn and back again.
A big dumb sexy animal with tight
T-shirt biceps and a red beret
trailed by a coterie of hot
Latino toughs: martial artists, busted-out
Crips and Bloods, leaning against the
(Cuidado, Peligroso. Do not lean against the
train doors) juvie grads and unarmed hoplites
with dental gold, walkie-talkies and crude tats;
amped on bravado and justice adequate
to give a dopey half-high college girl
hurtling through the South Bronx past Mount
Eden and Tremont a false sense of
security in the middle of the night.
Becoming a mother granted no immunity
to the sexy rasp of the big dope in the dark.
There was new life, sure, but I wasn’t dead.
A bad boy with a pair of pumped-up pecs
could still get to me. So I chose the boob
over Sibelius, over Dylan, over Callas.
What need had I for song?
My daylight waking hours were song
incarnate: rapturous love songs
odes to new spawn, torch songs,
aubades and serenades, arias and
songs trumpeted by haloed cygnets
bathed in dawny light — Somehow listening
to the overnight clod kept me from being
swallowed whole. I liked his trattoria spots,
how he peppered the palaver with
“brasciole” and “Va Napoli!” gleaned
from a Barese Canarsie pedigree. I liked the dirty
water hot dog-gobbling competition
recaps and malaprops — “credos” for “kudos” —
One night I even failed to shift to another
frequency when the overnight oaf
characterized poets and “poetresses”
as loony kazoonies and called poet Allen Ginsberg
“a perve,” because I was laughing
through a certain desperation
which was a flip side of elation
in the wee hours. Footage to
counterbalance echoed in
the soft spot in my head
I reserved for idiots;
decades earlier in ’79, the lughead
had made the local Eyewitness News.
He was running his “deez an’ doze” mouth
about Mahatma Gandhi. I enjoyed the hint
of anarchy in the mastermind behind those
mass transit “angels” who danced out the pinhead
of the chief operating boob,
who rocked the head of a pin — .
I marveled — How’d a jacked jerk like him
even know who Gandhi was?
Each night I welcomed the throwback
whose 50,000 watts of powerful sound
even the Mafia failed to silence
into my sancto sanctorum,
here I let him get a piece of me
in the middle of those mid-winter nights,
as I lifted one breast at a time
out of my robe, and inserted a rude
digit into baby bird mouths, bright
as gutted cherries, and squeezed
with thumb and forefinger
as if upon a trigger, aiming
to force open the jaw,
in the hope of jump78
starting the sucking reflex.
There was nothing remotely radiant or
Gerbers about this scenario —
the babies needed me to be both
muscle and nectar.
They needed me to be three parts
thug and one part Madonna.
After six weeks they latched on.
Tiny Falstaffs, they quaffed and slugged
and slurped like happy baby hogs,
nursing incessantly and in tandem.
Sometimes the twins held hands
as they drank and dozed,
capitalizing on the bottomless
amplitude of supply and demand,
bellying up to the Milk Bar
whenever the desire struck.
We didn’t care who saw
or what anyone had to say.
When the kids reached for their sustenance in a cup
it was the rayon, nylon and spandex cup
of a black 34D underwire demi called “Emma.”
Guys rubbernecking thought it was hot, or a threat, or both.
Once, upon watching the son glug away with gusto,
old Mary Madigan was put in mind
of a 4 year-old-she knew in County Mayo
whose family would stop by Ruddy’s on Sunday after mass.
Throughout the afternoon, one would catch the boy
running about the pub looking for his mother.
Finding her, the lad would call out: “Hey Ma,
how about a suck?”
When my third child came, she knew exactly what to do;
she wasn’t fifteen minutes in the material world
before she was guzzling like a field hand.
She was beautiful! I called her “Breastina.”
She lived on my hip and claimed my body for her own.
I was so in love with her
I hardly fought it
when she assumed herself to be the rightful owner
of the sweater meat.
She became my “Crazy Dangerous Boyfriend.”
Precocious in all things, she talked early.
When, on rare occasion, I said “no”
to the bodice ripping sprite
as she reached like a pie-eyed pirate
for my décolletage,
she’d engage me in dialectic,
and advocate with great eloquence
in favor of her right to nurse at will.
So much trouble to go to —
when that deep brown stare
alone would have easily done the trick.
Why argue when you can just melt
your opponent?