For Howe Gelb
Your voice is trafficking
toward me in the dark, sinuous
diamondback patterning itself
through sand. Steeped in heat
that sieves through my body
like Louisianas rice fields and zydeco. Spangle
of rain on a pond; vengeance of insects.
(There is a man who lives two blocks down who barks at his car.)
It moves through my limbs like men
in uniform; a vinegarroons sting; catching
the ear with the hundred eye-hooks
of a wedding gown. It lengthens
fingers and bristles like stalks of corn
in a field scattered with silvered
shells of armadillos.
(A man asking for change, says Honey, why you look so sad? Smile, it aint that
Spilling down my spine like coins
tossed in a coffee can. Sound of rain
seeping through a sheer nightgown, a woman
who lolls in the door of her back porch.
Soaked with whiskey and the sugarlick
whip of the blues. Your voice that tips
its hat back and says, Darlin, Ill be damned.
(When I was twelve, a priest tried to tongue my ear through
Residue of sleet
on a trampoline, a silver screw undoing
what we thought we knew of tomorrow
which is nothing but jive-
dazzle and static. Melody of spells,
doves blood and betony. It diffracts,
shattering like satinspar.
(In another room, a woman sings hymns along with the television.)
Migrating over states, past toll booths,
residing in fillings of men who drive pick-ups
away from the broken
bell of themselves. Men
who never stop moving. Voices, barbed
wire where sparrows impale feathered breasts
drawn to the clang of human longing.
(Get the fuck away from me! a couple argues in the hallway.)
Your voice that reaches me in sleep, sprouts
tubers and roots in my limbs, rests in the windows
of my hands. Alluvial lisp
licking insides of skin. An avalanche
of candelabras, stars
arcing through the dark. Your voice:
A forest. A cedilla. A film I shouldve been in.
[First published in Blue Sky Review]
Robert Desnos and the Hummingbird
A poem about you would begin with a tiger, a cobra,
a salami sandwich, it would contain
taxonomic terms for woody plants: sessile, catkin,
schizocarp, dehiscent, involucre, whorl;
it would cruise rue Saint-Martin and pick up chicks
at the Musée de lOrangerie between marble busts
of Etruscan warriors, a poem about you
would go everywhere, and never arrive.
It would list a series of phobias:
ailurophobia fear of cats
erythrophobia fear of red
nostophobia fear of returning home
It would indulge in hyperbole: you are as exotic
as an ocelot, or the merge of an abacus
with a hummingbirda moving scale of song.
A poem about you would include an obituary,
Compiègne, Havana, rumba, tango,
plums, the language of pain which has no letters,
only cells and vortexes; however, a poem about pain
would not be a poem about you.
It would speak of the heart though,
not as symbol but as organ and orator
of the bodys blood. Its hollow muscularity
and conical shape, obliquely placed,
its vena cava and auriculo-ventricular groove;
endocardium myocardium, pericardium:
A poem about you would switch subjects
suddenly and lilt word duets: mercury dew,
trout silk, creeper vine. It would contemplate
the prepositional phrase and carry the glare of stars
beneath the innuendoes of trees. It would abound
with women: Madeleine, Yvonne, Youki.
A poem about you would tell a story about a girl
who one night while steeping tea, spilled
honey on a book and discovered you.
In the end every poem is drenched
with honey and history and so the girl
leaned near the window with violet light
falling through like liquid and wrote a poem
to you called
A hummingbird quivers near my ear:
wind singed with sumac, the dusky
sibilance of your name: Desnos,
Desnos. Sky thick with cumulonimbus and
the whining of blue jays. How odd
to never hold the heft of you
knowing already your absence, like echo
and snow, but to think of this
is to sink into a subterranean landscape
of crows and curses. Permit me
the traffic of a broken heart.
Blue slate of this day stains
my dress, but the rains veneer is beautiful
and contains the language of lost causes.
Such lassitude in this wet darknesslamps
locate bodies like pearls
rolling across a dresser. Light
diffracts through my glasses in the rain
a microscopic slide of amoeba
that glitters in my periphery. Every word spoken
is a city sunk beneath a verdigris sea.
My heart is full of seaplants smelling
like lead and laundry.
wet bark skimming my spine while
rivulets write your words upon my bodice:
J'ai tant rêvé de toi que tu perds ta réalité.
[First published in Bellingham Review]