[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Travel"
The railroad track is miles away,
And the day is loud with voices speaking,
Yet there isn't a train goes by all day
But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn't a train goes by,
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
But I see its cinders red on the sky,
And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with friends I make,
And better friends I'll not be knowing;
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,
No matter where it's going.
--Edna St. Vincent Millay


"Shakur"
I'm coming at you live from the half way out
Where the winter morning stretches out

Like a white sheet over lovers the infinite
Has fetched. The still & bone-blue white

Couple found parked, frozen on the highway,
I'm thinking of them & the drug that made

Them think they were warm enough to chill
Because I know staying alive requires pills

And a wicked streak. I'd need a head cocooned
In bass, I'd need to be locked in a womb

To hear your dopey two note melody, your song
Pimped by wreckage, your light longing

For lightness. I'd have to be as quiet
As the youths whose youth made them stupid

And lovely. They are God's niggas now like you.
I'm thinking of the stall of intoxicated cool

That stalled you before it stalled them. I know
Men who want to die this way, smoke like snow

Tattooing their bodies with narcotic holiness,
The glaze of status, the faux lacquer of bliss.

I'm coming at you live frostbitten & thinking
Language is for losers. Who cannot think

Our elegies are endless endlessly & the words
We put to them too often unheard & hurried?

I'm coming at you live from the intangible.
Do you want to ride, or die crowded into a small

Space spitting Come with me? One day my song
Will be called "Language Is for Lovers." One

Day desire will not be a form of wickedness.
And when you offer your drug, O Ghost, I'll resist.
--Terrance Hayes


"The Black Album"
Black like my sister's black eye an imaginary father
gave her, so now she is forever beaten
by the absence of men, her pupil,
black like a record is black.
Black like my coffee mug but not my coffee
for I drink it with cream. For I walk out
onto the beach and bless the black bottoms
of the boats, for the plankton glow
inside the black sea like white blood cells.
For music and poverty are the great regulators of the world
when white kids in Kansas are bumping Tupac
from the windows of Ford pickups, working
in the canneries, dreaming of LA; raving and mad
between the turntables. The more I listen to Jay-Z
the more I'm reminded of Led Zeppelin,
The Stones, how they begin to live
the same life. How they need each other like organs
from a greater body. And then there are the black
keys Mr. Mozart bent into sound
so the people in the castle would have something
to move them, when outside the sky was black
and so was the moor, someone walking
across it, lost in his own suffering,
but a part of everything, the bog, the moon, the man
on the moon with his black dinner jacket, his teeth
bright black and earth below with its factories
pumping like a dog's heart pumps after its owner
drives up, opens the door, calls out its name.
Black like the buttons on your grandfather's coat
and black like the suits we wear
when our grandfathers die. I'm telling you
it's hard to tell the rivers apart from the hills, the super-malls
from the ma and pa's when I feel them both
so acutely. Black like the licorice used to be
and black like the lace bra Susan wore
beneath a baby-blue t-shirt
and how I would take her to the mat like a wrestler
and how she would keep her black boots on
so that now when I think of black boots I am no longer thinking
of Neo Nazis or soldiers but bedrooms and bedposts.
She had a black pair of handcuffs with black feathers
so that it looked like a black bird of submission.
For she was good when bound up
by black leather belts, for what we did
we did in the black voice box of evening
and in the morning when the light came in
to touch her where she slept, drooling on the pillow.
David wrote, "I don't know,
now, if any of us get out of this."
And I'm not sure any of us would want to,
the world coming together, crashing
around us, while we drive through the forests of Vermont,
listening to the Black Album, blasting it,
and the black bear that leaps from the road onto the tree
like a heavy black star, so that later
I would think of blackberries growing off
the freeway, the way you feel when you're moving
along like a train running, furious, on all this black coal.
--Matthew Dickman


IV
What's that shining in the leaves,
the shadowy leaves,
like tears when somebody grieves,
shining, shining in the leaves?

Is it dew or is it tears,
dew or tears,
hanging there for years and years
like a heavy dew of tears?

Then that dew begins to fall,
roll down and fall.
Maybe it's not tears at all.
See it, see it roll and fall.

Hear it falling on the ground,
hear, all around.
That is not a tearful sound,
beating, beating on the ground.

See it lying there like seeds,
like black seeds.
See it taking root like weeds,
faster, faster than the weeds,

all the shining seeds take root,
conspiring root,
and what curious flower or fruit
will grow from that conspiring root?

Fruit or flower? It is a face.
Yes, a face.
In that dark and dreary place
each seed grows into a face.

Like an army in a dream
the faces seem,
darker, darker, like a dream.
They're too real to be a dream.
--Elizabeth Bishop, from "Songs for a Colored Singer"


"Questions of Travel"
There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
--For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren't waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.

Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there's a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?

But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
--Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
--A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.
--Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr'dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages.
--Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds' cages.
--And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians' speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:

"Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one's room?

Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there...No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?

--Elizabeth Bishop
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Crying"
Crying only a little bit
is no use. You must cry
until your pillow is soaked!
Then you can get up and laugh.
Then you can jump in the shower
and splash-splash-splash!
Then you can throw open your window
and, "Ha ha! ha ha!"
And if people say, "Hey,
what's going on up there?"
"Ha ha!" sing back, "Happiness
was hiding in the last tear!
I wept it! Ha ha!"
--Galway Kinnell


cut for child abuse triggers )


"Poetry for Supper"
'Listen, now, verse should be as natural
As the small tuber that feeds on muck
And grows slowly from obtuse soil
To the white flower of immortal beauty.'

'Natural, hell! What was it Chaucer
Said once about the long toil
That goes like blood to the poem's making?
Leave it to nature and the verse sprawls,
Limp as bindweed, if it break at all
Life's iron crust. Man, you must sweat
And rhyme your guts taut, if you'd build
Your verse a ladder.'
'You speak as though
No sunlight ever surprised the mind
Groping on its cloudy path.'

'Sunlight's a thing that needs a window
Before it enter a dark room.
Windows don't happen.'
So two old poets,
Hunched at their beer in the low haze
Of an inn parlour, while the talk ran
Noisily by them, glib with prose.
--R. S. Thomas


"Paradise"
What you wanted was simple:
a house with a fence and a kind of gulled
light arching up from it to shake in the poplars
or some other brand of European tree
(or was it American?) you'd plant
just for the birds to nest in and so
the crows who'd settle there
could settle like pilgrims.
Darling, all day I've watched the garden make its way
down the road. It stops at the houses
where the lights are on and the hose reel is tidy
and climbs to the windows to look inside
like a child with its eyes of flared rhododendrons
and sunflowers that shutter the wind like bombs
so buttered and brave the sweet peas gallop
and the undergrowths fizz through the fences
and pause at some to shake into asters and weep.
The garden is a mythical beast and a pilgrim.
And when the houses stroll out it eats up
their papers and screens their evangelical dogs.
Barbeque eater,
yankee doodle,
if the garden should leave
where would we age
and park our poodle?
"This is paradise," you said,
a young expansive American saint.
And widened your arms to take it in,
that suburb, spread, with seas in it.
--Emma Jones


"Parents"
What it must be like to be an angel
or a squirrel, we can imagine sooner.

The last time we go to bed good,
they are there, lying about darkness.

They dandle us once too often,
these friends who become our enemies.

Suddenly one day, their juniors
are as old as we yearn to be.

They get wrinkles where it is better
smooth, odd coughs, and smells.

It is grotesque how they go on
loving us, we go on loving them

The effrontery, barely imaginable,
of having caused us. And of how.

Their lives: surely
we can do better than that.

This goes on for a long time. Everything
they do is wrong, and the worst thing,

they all do it, is to die,
taking with them the last explanation,

how we came out of the wet sea
or wherever they got us from,

taking the last link
of that chain with them.

Father, mother, we cry, wrinkling,
to our uncomprehending children and grandchildren.
--William Meredith


"XLIII"
if there are any heavens my mother will (all by herself) have
one. It will not be a pansy heaven nor
a fragile heaven of lilies-of-the-valley but
it will be a heaven of blackred roses

my father will be (deep like a rose
tall like a rose)

standing near my

(swaying over her
silent)
with eyes which are really petals and see

nothing with the face of a poet really which
is a flower and not a face with
hands
which whisper
This is my beloved my

(suddenly in sunlight

he will bow,

& the whole garden will bow)
--e. e. cummings


"The New Year"
It is winter and the new year.
Nobody knows you.
Away from the stars, from the rain of light,
you lie under the weather of stones.
There is no thread to lead you back.
Your friends doze in the dark
of pleasure and cannot remember.
Nobody knows you. You are the neighbor of nothing.
You do not see the rain falling and the man walking away,
the soiled wind blowing its ashes across the city.
You do not see the sun dragging the moon like an echo.
You do not see the bruised heart go up in flames,
the skulls of the innocent turn into smoke.
You do not see the scars of plenty, the eyes without light.
It is over. It is winter and the new year.
The meek are hauling their skins into heaven.
The hopeless are suffereing the cold with those who have nothing to hide.
It is over and nobody knows you.
There is starlight drifting on the black water.
There are stones in the sea no one has seen.
There is a shore and people are waiting.
And nothing comes back.
Because it is over.
Because there is silence instead of a name.
Because it is winter and the new year.
--Mark Strand


"Disappear"
1. Three Shadows

What is a shadow? It is the self without a face or a name, all outline and no feature, the self on the verge of being erased. It is the incidental child of matter and light. Look how it spreads itself on the ground, weary but weightless, unable to leave a trace.

Another one of those days when we're standing by the side of a road with our mothers, sweating in our Sunday dresses, waiting for the bus home. You stand in the puddle of your mother's shadow, twisting your body so your own vanishes inside the darkness. I'm invisible, you shout, counting the three shadows left, then blowing me a stiff kiss. It's cooler here too.

Is it possible for this not to be a story of disappearance?

2. After Hours

Your voice from a phone booth on a sidewalk, in the rain, outside a diner with an unreadable sign. Your voice speaking in code, coming to me in bits and pieces, syllable by syllable. Your voice doubled, echoing, bouncing off a stained glass dome, traveling through a dark tunnel where a train is about to pass. The lilt in your voice betrays you as you pretend to sell me potato peelers and non-stick frying pans. Your voice from another time zone, competing with the waves of the sea. In a letter with no return address, your voice cracks jokes and says "my feet hurt" in another language. Your voice in the tired words on my computer screen, hidden somewhere in the identical towns of postcards. Your voice like a shadow on a road.

3. Landscape

When we were children, you didn't care for words, you only filled pages with vertical lines. Beyond the page, the bite marks at the tip of your pencil, bare knees, a scrawny cat sleeping at your feet. We lived in the city and I thought you drew lampposts, telephone lines, the long, rusty rods scattered in construction sites. Your voice insisting, no, no, these are trees.

4. No Rain

I walk one block and pass a series of testaments to failure--the skeleton of a building, a half-built bridge already breaking down. On the dusty metal fence hangs a sign that promises a highway.

You were in love, you wanted out of a city that screamed abandonment.

5. Another Routine

A new mayor, a new name for this road. The man selling sweet corn at the corner makes it a point to recite all the names to every customer in need of directions. I don't listen to him as I make my way to this place, known to me now only as the road where you last stood. I stare at its slender body, following the shape of a tree that has fallen down, beaten endlessly by the weight of buses and trucks.

6. Inside the dark

I fall into a puddle on my way to catch a bus, and unlike a dog, I can't sit around and lick my wounds, I have to walk away like nothing has happened. The face of Jesus looms on a billboard, but where is the comfort that can be bought? Let me watch the blind men by the terminal massage commuters for a fee, let me listen to karaoke music and stare at the stall selling cheap umbrellas, let me stand under the shadow of a lamppost as is my habit, though it is evening, the weather is cool, and you are gone. If I keep still enough inside this shadow, it is as if I am not here. If I keep still enough, there is no proof you are not here with me.
--Conchitina Cruz


"Dead Butterfly"
For months my daughter carried
a dead monarch in a quart mason jar.
To and from school in her backpack,
to her only friend's house. At the dinner table
it sat like a guest alongside the pot roast.
She took it to bed, propped by her pillow.

Was it the year her brother was born?
Was this her own too-fragile baby
that had lived--so briefly--in its glassed world?
Or the year she refused to go to her father's house?
Was this the holding-her-breath girl she became there?

This plump child in her rolled-down socks
I sometimes wanted to haul back inside me
and carry safe again. What was her fierce
commitment? I never understood.
We just lived with the dead winged thing
as part of her, as part of us,
weightless in its heavy jar.
--Ellen Bass


"Try to Praise the Mutilated World"
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You've seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.
-—Adam Zagajewski, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh.


"Choices"
I go to the mountain side
of the house to cut saplings,
and clear a view to snow
on the mountain. But when I look up,
saw in hand, I see a nest clutched in
the uppermost branches.
I don't cut that one.
I don't cut the others either.
Suddenly, in every tree,
an unseen nest
where a mountain
would be.

for Drago Štambuk
--Tess Gallagher


"Nearly a Valediction"
You happened to me. I was happened to
like an abandoned building by a bull-
dozer, like the van that missed my skull
happened a two-inch gash across my chin.
You were as deep down as I've ever been.
You were inside me like my pulse. A new-
born flailing toward maternal heartbeat through
the shock of cold and glare: when you were gone,
swaddled in strange air I was that alone
again, inventing life left after you.

I don't want to remember you as that
four o'clock in the morning eight months long
after you happened to me like a wrong
number at midnight that blew up the phone
bill to an astronomical unknown
quantity in a foreign currency.
The U.S. dollar dived since you happened to me.
You've grown into your skin since then; you've grown
into the space you measure with someone
you can love back without a caveat.

While I love somebody I learn to live
with through the downpulled winter days' routine
wakings and sleepings, half-and-half caffeine-
assisted mornings, laundry, stock-pots, dust-
balls in the hallway, lists instead of longing, trust
that what comes next comes after what came first.
She'll never be a story I make up.
You were the one I didn't know where to stop.
If I had blamed you, now I could forgive
you, but what made my cold hand, back in prox-
imity to your hair, your mouth, your mind,
want where it no way ought to be, defined
by where it was, and was and was until
the whole globed swelling liquefied and spilled
through one cheek's nap, a syllable, a tear,
was never blame, whatever I wished it were.
You were the weather in my neighborhood.
You were the epic in the episode.
You were the year poised on the equinox.
--Marilyn Hacker


"How to Make Love to a Trans Person"
Forget the images you've learned to attach
To words like cock and clit,
Chest and breasts.
Break those words open
Like a paramedic cracking ribs
To pump blood through a failing heart.
Push your hands inside.
Get them messy.
Scratch new definitions on the bones.

Get rid of the old words altogether.
Make up new words.
Call it a click or a ditto.
Call it the sound he makes
When you brush your hand against it through his jeans,
When you can hear his heart knocking on the back of his teeth
And every cell in his body is breathing.
Make the arch of her back a language
Name the hollows of each of her vertebrae
When they catch pools of sweat
Like rainwater in a row of paper cups
Align your teeth with this alphabet of her spine
So every word is weighted with the salt of her.

When you peel layers of clothing from his skin
Do not act as though you are changing dressings on a trauma patient
Even though it's highly likely that you are.
Do not ask if she's "had the surgery."
Do not tell him that the needlepoint bruises on his thighs look like they hurt
If you are being offered a body
That has already been laid upon an altar of surgical steel
A sacrifice to whatever gods govern bodies
That come with some assembly required
Whatever you do,
Do not say that the carefully sculpted landscape
Bordered by rocky ridges of scar tissue
Looks almost natural.

If she offers you breastbone
Aching to carve soft fruit from its branches
Though there may be more tissue in the lining of her bra
Than the flesh that rises to meet it
Let her ripen in your hands.
Imagine if she'd lost those swells to cancer,
Diabetes,
A car accident instead of an accident of genetics
Would you think of her as less a woman then?
Then think of her as no less one now.

If he offers you a thumb-sized sprout of muscle
Reaching toward you when you kiss him
Like it wants to go deep enough inside you
To scratch his name on the bottom of your heart
Hold it as if it can-
In your hand, in your mouth
Inside the nest of your pelvic bones.
Though his skin may hardly do more than brush yours,
You will feel him deeper than you think.

Realize that bodies are only a fraction of who we are
They're just oddly-shaped vessels for hearts
And honestly, they can barely contain us
We strain at their seams with every breath we take
We are all pulse and sweat,
Tissue and nerve ending
We are programmed to grope and fumble until we get it right.
Bodies have been learning each other forever.
It's what bodies do.
They are grab bags of parts
And half the fun is figuring out
All the different ways we can fit them together;
All the different uses for hipbones and hands,
Tongues and teeth;
All the ways to car-crash our bodies beautiful.
But we could never forget how to use our hearts
Even if we tried.
That's the important part.
Don't worry about the bodies.
They've got this.
--Gabe Moses
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Trouble"
Marilyn Monroe took all her sleeping pills
to bed when she was thirty-six, and Marlon Brando's daughter
hung in the Tahitian bedroom
of her mother's house,
while Stanley Adams shot himself in the head. Sometimes
you can look at the clouds or the trees
and they look nothing like clouds or trees or the sky or the ground.
The performance artist Kathy Change
set herself on fire while Bing Crosby's sons shot themselves
out of the music industry forever.
I sometimes wonder about the inner lives of polar bears. The French
philosopher Gilles Deleuze jumped
from an apartment window into the world
and then out of it. Peg Entwistle, an actress with no lead
roles, leaped off the "H" in the HOLLYWOOD sign
when everything looked black and white
and David O. Selznick was king, circa 1932. Ernest Hemingway
put a shotgun to his head in Ketchum, Idaho
while his granddaughter, a model and actress, climbed the family tree
and overdosed on phenobarbital. My brother opened
thirteen fentanyl patches and stuck them on his body
until it wasn't his body anymore. I like
the way geese sound above the river. I like
the little soaps you find in hotel bathrooms because they're beautiful.
Sarah Kane hanged herself, Harold Pinter
brought her roses when she was still alive,
and Louis Lingg, the German anarchist, lit a cap of dynamite
in his own mouth
though it took six hours for him
to die, 1887. Ludwig II of Bavaria drowned
and so did Hart Crane, John Berryman, and Virginia Woolf. If you are
travelling, you should always bring a book to read, especially
on a train. Andrew Martinez, the nude activist, died
in prison, naked, a bag
around his head, while in 1815 the Polish aristocrat and writer
Jan Potocki shot himself with a silver bullet.
Sara Teasdale swallowed a bottle of blues
after drawing a hot bath,
in which dozens of Roman senators opened their veins beneath the water.
Larry Walters became famous
for flying in a Sears patio chair and forty-five helium-filled
weather balloons. He reached an altitude of 16,000 feet
and then he landed. He was a man who flew.
He shot himself in the heart. In the morning I get out of bed, I brush
my teeth, I wash my face, I get dressed in the clothes I like best.
I want to be good to myself.
--Matthew Dickman

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