This is what was bequeathed us:
This earth the beloved left
Left to us.
No other world
But this one:
Willows and the river
And the factory
With its black smokestacks.
No other shore, only this bank
On which the living gather.
No meaning but what we find here.
No purpose but what we make.
That, and the beloved’s clear instructions:
Turn me into song; sing me awake.
Some part of the lyric wants to exclude
the world with all its chaos and grief
and so conceives shapes (a tear, a globe of dew)
whose cool symmetries create a mood
of security. Which is something all need
and so, the lyric’s urge to exclude
what hurts us isn’t simply a crude
defense, but an embracing of a few
essential shapes: a tear, a globe of dew.
But to what end? Are there clues
in these forms to deeper mysteries
that no good poem should exclude?
What can a stripped art reveal? Is a nude
more naked than the eye can see?
Can a tear freed of salt be a globe of dew?
And most of all—is it something we can use?
Yes, but only as long as its beauty,
like that of a tear or a globe of dew,
reflects the world it meant to exclude.
A house just like his mother’s,
But made of words.
Everything he could remember
Parrots and a bowl
Of peaches, and the bright rug
His grandmother wove.
Only ghosts patrol.
And did I mention
Strawberry jam and toast?
Did I mention
That everyone he loved
Lives there now,
In that poem
He called “My Mother’s House?”
I know now the beloved
Has no fixed abode,
That each body
Is only a temporary
Casts off forms
As lovers shed clothes.
I accept that he’s
Just passing through
Or that stone.
And yet, it makes
The way he hides
In the flow of it,
The way she shifts
In fluid motions,
Becoming other things.
I want to stop him—
If only briefly.
I want to lure her
To the surface
And catch her
In this net of words.
You hold your hands up to the light.
The small mirrors of your fingernails
are painted over with blood.
You help me knot the black
tie tight around my throat.
Tonight we are going to dine.
We have a hunger that nothing has filled.
It grows large and rigid.
We stand in it like a room.