Selected Poems
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From The Congress of Luminous Bodies

Naked in an Open Boat

“A man that is born falls into a dream like a man who falls into the sea.”
- Joseph Conrad


The boat is white
it has no sail
the sea is dark
my skin is pale
the night is hot,
but in the boat
if it were open
if I were bare
if the moon were new
I’d find you there



The Angel Garmin

Long have I wished for a calm voice
pointing me home,
a confident voice telling which fork
in the forest road,
leads to the soup, the bread,
the welcoming bed,
and which to dead-end
doom instead.

One night I circled a flat Texas town
for hours in my rented Ford
searching for the Hampton Inn
I’d left in daylight before
the unpredicted storm blew down.
The water rose; the gas gauge fell.
I surely had fore-tasted hell
lost in the unfamiliar, flooded town.

Now, the Angel Garmin takes
me through the four-level interchange,
over cloverleaf and roundabout,
keep left, exit, turn right,
she tells me. Perfect
mother, gaurdian, guide
all knowing, but flexible, kind,
never scolding when I fail
to turn as I am told,
she simply recalculates
finds me, brings me back home.




From The Green Season

Credo

I believe in the Tuesdays
and Wednesdays of life,
the tuna sandwich lunches
and TV after dinner.
I believe in coffee with hot milk
and peanut butter toast,
Rose wine in summer
and Burgundy in winter.

I am not in love with holidays,
birthdays—nothing special—
and weekends are just days
numbered six and seven,
though my love
dozing over TV golf
while I work the Sunday puzzle
might be all I need of life
and all I ask of heaven.



Gesture

My hand is raised,
as if to wave,
when I emerge from the sea,
mask and snorkel askew.
My friend who snaps this picture
thinks I’m greeting him.
But, no.
I’m holding my sliced palm
above my heart,
primitive gesture meant
to stay the flow of blood.
I’ve been tossed to coral
again
in the midst of bliss.



From Traveler in Paradise: New and Selected Poems

Flowers

The Farmer’s Market flowers
of a certain age sit on my kitchen counter
waiting for disposal, their fresher
sisters already placed in vases
around the house. Red gerbera daisies
bending at the neck, yellow and purple
tulips open and blowsy as roses.
(Think Melina Mercouri still sexy to the end.)
I can’t bear to throw them out
though their stems are slimy
and the water stinks of ammonia.
They have a languorous grace
leaning over the lip of the vase
as if standing straight were too much
trouble. (Think hookers in a humid city.)
But, perhaps they’re more like the women
I saw last week lunching at the food court
in the mall, wearing gauzy purple
dresses, flowing pants and tunics,
gray heads under floppy red hats,
laughing and happy as if celebrating
the end of fashion, the too tight
girdle of good taste.



My Heaven
     for Lenore Brown

In my heaven I wear
white cashmere Armani,
eat chocolate truffles
without dribbling my breasts.
The more Camels I smoke
the better my breath smells
and Cosmos and cabernet—
all the fruit that I wish.
Every day here is Great Hair Day
and I always look ravishing,
rested and thin. There are no duties
in heaven, just one long salon
with talk unfailingly brilliant.
Infinitely witty and quick
come to mind. No sputtering
world for tiresome distraction. Up here,
down there doesn’t come up for discussion.
Life in heaven: endless insouciance,
all bon mots and bonbons.
Did I mention how superb is my French?
And what of my poems?
Now, Major Movies.
Every one sold for Big Bucks
and starring in all The Roles of a Lifetime
is my favorite actress,
the incomparable, inimitable,
lovable Me.



From Transforming Matter

Grief Becomes Me

You've never looked better,
my friends Edward and Neil
tell me and lean close
for a clearer view.
I know what they mean
and believe it's true,
the same way earth and sky
wash to a radiant clean
after relentless days of rain.
How you would present me
with pieces of sea glass
tumbled smooth
from journeying canyons
and rivers to the ocean
and back again
washing up at our feet--
bits of amber, green,
and the rarest stellar blue.
Everything pure and impure
has leached from the soil
of my face,
and in the corners of my eyes,
hard crystals form.



Lesson

A portion of ashes we buried,
the portion remaining to be scattered
sits on a shelf
in my office, the container swathed
in a flannel bag, like the bag
protecting your tuxedo shoes.
How handsome you were in formal clothes!
Strangers often asked if you were someone.
Should they ask for your autograph?
The irreducible things that make up a person--
ashes, bits of tooth and bone--
transform from one noun
into another.
Before your death, Dearheart
I didn't know
that physics and grammar
are the same sad subject:
the transformation of matter,
transforming what matters.



From Deep Red

Gravity

What binds me to this earth
are the hands of my children,
as I hold my mother
holding her mother
back to the mother
who begat us all.
This is gravity.
This is why we call the earth Mother,
why all rising is a miracle.



Old Man at the Pool

What I knew about beauty,
the summer I turned ten,
I learned from books—
how Mammy squeezed Scarlett
into her corset for that famous
hand-span waist.
I was shaped like a milk carton.
I wore my mother’s old merry widow
under my bathing suit
to push me up and cinch me in.

In the pool I played water babies,
pretending I was a creature
with no earthly life.
I sat on the bottom of the pool
until the need for air
propelled me to the surface
where I would turn over and over,
somersault into exhaustion.

I don’t remember his face, just the gray
wires that grew down his belly
disappearing into his black trunks.
This old man, who held me
like a bowling ball,
his thumb in my crotch,
fingers splayed across
the bald arc of my pelvis,
this man who tossed me
into deep, deep water.



From Mansions

In Plowboy's Produce Market

I push my cart through Plowboy’s produce market
gleaning this song for the first days of fall:

broccoli cauliflower cabbage kohlrabi

The price of red pepper is dropping.
Eggplant shines purple.
Bell pepper is green.

I watch an old couple choose stringbeans:
she fills their sack by handfuls. He frowns,
empties the bag back into the bin,
then turns each bean to the light
before dropping it in.

pattypan crook-neck pumpkin zucchini

A woman wearing a scarf tight at her chin
eats Thompson’s seedless from the grape bin.

Tokay Exotic Muscat Red Flame

At the melons, a man in white shorts, skin brown
as russet potatoes, swings a cantaloupe into his cart.
I think I’m in love.

Winesap Pippin Golden Delicious
where last week there were plums.

Old man, kiss your wife.
Wash your face in the juice of ripe fruit.
Put beans into your sack without looking.
Old man, we’re in Plowboys’s
every bean is perfect, every bean is right.



From a Rhizome

What grows from a rhizome
rises Dutch Blue,
Bearded Purple, Japanese.

Iris, amazing peasant orchid—
such homely needs:
winter rain, half-day sun,

ordinary soil.
Distant cousin to the onion,
root that cures any bland soup,

greets each child at the door
saying come in,

this is love, you are home.

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