Dreamscapes( First Dream)
In a hotel in Istanbul, an Archaeologist pleads with a man named memory
January, translation of Spenser’s Shepheardes Calendar
Mater dolorosa in the looking glass(remembering a poem about mirrors)
On discovering the humanness of the man, Bleach-boned inside the box
On Reading a Petersburg Poem
On the brief contemplation of the Story of an Old Stone Wall
Standing at Angel, Salto at Sundown
Summer in Ginger’s Cabin: the static radio of stars
The Alchemist’s Daughters(remembering time and transmutation across the body of the daughter:King Lear/pain and archaeological undreaming)
The First Ritual
The Passionate Bibliophile to Her Love (Pastoral Parody)
The Perversities of Nature/ Looked Upon with Kinder Eyes
Under the earth, the poet pleas to be remembered
I dissect myself carefully.
it is a thing that must be done from time to time
in the dark, like a ritual
Always, glass is needed. to create.
And the incision that I have made:
a pair of diagonal crosses
a poem, opened up
a monument, ancient and unburied.
All of this, an antiphon to re/genesis:
a prayer, mirrored
a sorrowing mother
Out of me leaps
a whore. a tired priest, Ecclesiastes in a mangled hand.
a white lily and a serpent eye.
But I am a mirror,
only echo. Wordless. Godless. Childless. Open.
I have become a lake, a Red Sea
from which all things
remove themselves, to unbecome their past being,
their prayer to remember backwards.
What it is to wrench our wretched ancient fingers
from the wet
Everything re/membered is born this way.
You trample the edges between light and dark
you feed on dreams.
You evolved from deep time
dreaming the first daylight: You are Lucy
dreaming and naked and lucid and bound to your book of satanic verses.
transformative. becoming and unbecoming
translucent and crouched
in the dark soil
your skull is perfect. just like your sons imagined
The stone, which is not a stone,
burns your hand before the transformation is complete.
With a cry you drop it over the edge.
Your daughters do not care. You say, it was the stone
that did this, that made your fingers raw charred, black-boned
Your gold crown cracked, revealing lead.
It was the stone; you say with some darker purpose,
perhaps the pursuit of re/ membering your self
Then, one nature masters the other but perhaps
it is the other way around.
And then you weep, confused. Your altar-daughters
have come for you: to their new place of worship, the palace
on the edge where insects go to burn, and you with them
under the moon, cold light Sulphury voiced
They say, Have you been well? They say, Re/
member your fathers. They scar you no more tenderly
their eyes betray some heavy deed:
They have gone, and set the earth afire, trenched their hearts
left you to burn. And in the heat, painfully you try
again to transmute yourself: from flesh, to air,
to stone, to save yourself. A thousand years you say, Where have I been?
Bewildered, you say, They love me.
Concerned, how your disgruntled fingers feel
Undone, my hand on yours, the rest of you
Should have to linger dis-assembled here:
How oddly I believe that we both knew
The moment you were born, and how you grew
Accustom’d to the hurt inside your cheeks.
Articulate: on paralytic strings, I drew
Against our scientific histories,
While silently you say, I’ve been and I will speak.
at the base of myth I lie staring up
to your ancient language.
It carries me across a dead Ithaca,
and lost oracles
and I am a sibyl, and I am wanting
your stories to be endless
a stream of tragic heroes
tragic gods, and I am wanting
your touch, a spoken tongue, folding and
translated into the heat
drawing me from the earth–-
and all transcendent laws
You barren ground, whom winter’s wrath has wasted,
Have been made a mirror, to observe my plight:
Some time before, your fresh spring flowered, and
Then went quickly; your summer splendid, dressed
In Daffodils. And now your dress is spoiled, lately
Covered by winter’s stormy state.
Rage, like winter, reigns in my heart, and
My life blood freezing in the wicked cold:
Such stormy turmoil makes me grieve, painfully
As if my years were wasted in old age,
And yet alas my spring is gone,
And yet alas, it is already done.
You naked trees, whose leaves are lost, give
No shade for birds to make their homes:
Instead of blossoms flowering from your buds,
Now, you are cloaked in moss and frost:
I see your tears, that from your branches fall,
Who’s drops freeze in dropping icicles.
Like you, my lustful leaf is dry and withered,
My timely buds, in mourning, wasted,
The blossom born from my branch of youth
Balefully on exhaled sighs, the blossom blown away,
From my eyes, like rain, tears fall down
Just as from your branches the icicles hang down.
Almost instantaneously the premise changes
and I am the girl on the train
sitting with her knees crossed, reading A Petersburg Poem.
But I have never been to Petersburg, that magnificent march of grey city in
grey lines slouching in four four across the pages of arches and murders
and grey houses where old men held trembling under the hands of
their mistresses and sons, clutching mirrors.
I have only read about the fog wintering on the streets like a cat
in grey rain, like a poem waiting to be filled with longing, and
I am distant, on the train, I am filled with longing.
I wondered if the Petersburg air was red in the evenings.
The young Russian girl who cleaned our apartment on Sunday mornings
who tugged at her stockings in the livingroom and talked of Petersburg
and of red-slit streets and blood and evenings
as if it was her city, as if it hadn’t swallowed her and stretched her out
and plunged her under, unimagined until she surfaced on some French countryside,
like I did when I became your poet.
I recall the insistent rat-a-tat of your empty wine bottles,
kept in cardboard boxes like keepsakes from distant journeys,
and the glass you planted in our backyard vineyard,
which has not blossomed after seven years of you and I,
of where I went some days to write my poems,
I stepped, and shred myself on your carelessness
the repetition of our notorious tete-a-tetes against the garden wall
and our uninspired evenings–
the red drowning, that young Russian girl, the inconsistencies of your body
trembling murderers arched in doorways and broken mirrors–
you left me with the memory of your poisons, your fleurs-du-mal
withering at my bedside, on the seat beside me on the crowded train
and bleeding in the palm of my hand.
And the red like the memory of azaleas and spray-painted asphodel
And the cheeks of the Russian girl tugging at her stockings in the livingroom
and the poet, the poet, the poet whose tongue was severed on the rug
when she walked in
And the grey rain I forced my body to remember, when I could no longer speak.
And the slouching streets weary with winter ash and longing,
And the poet, I am filled with longing for an unknown city that I remembered
on a train with my knees crossed, practicing our histories.
And all of this was a language that was not mine until I departed, wearily
believeing that I kept you in my poems, crystallized against the garden wall.
The rest I did not want.
Come read with me from lovers’ books
your modest thought be overtook
by strange and secret lands devised
from Chaos Lost and Paradise
And I will bring you verse and prose
and to your dith’ring head propose
the facts and fancies of the day;
I’ll sweep your sober dreams away.
And we will sit among the shelves
and into stories shall we delve—
the tales of lords and golden rings,
majestic knights, and shepherd kings,
A ritual rhyme, a parody,
another stone philosophy—
if to these words your thoughts will look,
come read with me from lovers’ books.
(Or should less fiction you prefer
with Sigmund Freud we’ll then confer
on dreams a cunning cupid laid
to lead the chalice to the blade.)
And then we’ll taunt the tragedies:
a maiden buried by the sea,
or she whose poisoned breast did take
the love of Egypt from her wake,
Or think just once of Juliet
whose loyalties brought sorry Death,
and if you’d shun these sad outlooks
come read with me from lovers’ books.
A printed page where fancy plays
on ins and outs of days and ways,
and if your thoughts these words have hooked,
then read with me from lovers’ books.
While we sit on the floor eating Chinese food
my third eye regards you curiously
from a point the other two cannot,
and curses them blind,
my severed tongue for being
unable to speak the more audacious languages
that your sex is keen
(For what my eye observes is the dimension
of mirrors: your struggle
from the egg,
your bull-horns, and trident,
the momentary attraction
of the sky to your conquered
waters. We are missing opposite fingers
so that our hands will not fit together.)
I have not learned the art of being woman.
I do not think I accomodate.
And although my wild hair coils around
the aftermath, I bear
and you recall your sea voyages,
your many deaths,
Your wings protrude at odd angles
beneath your shirt. You talk of travel,
and of your own sons
trapped on the islands of the unborn–
for whom you would devour birds
if only they would fly.
I cringe at my inadequate body,
the tail curled beneath me, shimmering
like dying feathers in the sun.
All I remember:
the downward dance of the
sun exiled to the underworld—-
and I following.
Below, the river boat man
madly in love with your name.
what is this about burning? assuming that the first murder was consensual, that the inward heaving of first languages into a pool of heat and blood was the first sacrifice. that the first man and the first woman took the heart out and shared its pink rhythmic fleshiness pulsing like a dare coming together in a dark garden. like a red fruit on a low-hanging branch. this is it, you say. the reason for fire. assuming that the first poet was an apothecary, who wrote to ease the blistering, to ease the pain of childbirth. the birth of languages and poison from the belly of the snake, becoming woman, becoming man, becoming earth and memory and history. so this is it, you say. assuming that the first dare was the carnal consummation of sin and nascence. that the first double-dare was a poet, who wanted to resurrect the unknown knowledge, of the night on which the old god set the earth on fire. on which the ashes became human. on which the poem was born. assuming that the first lines were a rhyming couplet, luscious, red. doubled over in your hands. this is it, you say. the reason for mythology. the return to the first poet, the first healing, the first ritual of burning. this is everything, you say, in our becoming.
From SUMMER IN GINGER’S CABIN
(…the compulsive need to lock the doors at night, close the windows, first the back door leading to the sunroom where you danced in poetry under a bare lightbulb and then the sunroom windows where they watched and then the door to the tiny living room where you drank and played board games all afternoon, talked until sunrise the day before yesterday, and the double glass panes in each of three bedrooms (while everyone still drinking) the bathroom and the front door– and they laugh, carefully disconnected no fear of the outside, of civilizing. Say: He (the murderer) with the axe will get in anyway, locked door or not he has an axe. Say: the moon-dust will come through the cracks under doors and turn to concrete and exhaust and poison us while we are sleeping. Say, finally, laughing: we are miles from cities, long wound road between us and a two-lane back road highway, one road in the same road out, we are Alone Alone Alone. They will sleep but the dark Thing you danced around in poems in the sunroom reminds you of the animals that have been here and their faces…)
When the flood came, you were sleeping.
It arrived so suddenly, the Inbetween place,
the half-dream half-eyed
otherrealm, that pulled everything under
Down here, you look for stones,
and banished sibyls
and their impossible tongues–
they have forgotten word-language, preach
in surface moon-sounds:
the soft chanting of moths,
the frog-cry, above–
poems buried in the waterbed.
You cannot understand the things they tell you
but you can touch, and dream.
Here, you will remain
until the surface calms, until Time reverses itself
and you move back to the beginning.
(…And the static radio of stars redistributing themselves in the water, and the pink sunburned rock, round lump wet tender belly in the early heat, and the little alcove with the spider and the tadpole and their modified yoga morning worship of the sun, and daylight, and the soft shifting of sand between your fingers, like warm blood in shallow water…)
She tumbled between worlds, vagrant empty spaces pushing against her from every side, wanting more, wanting her. And her, screaming silently with lungs that felt like overflowing, her limbs pushing back, eyes wide open, as if being born again, a woman. And this is what she had to do, to push against the emptiness, those spaces between worlds where she found herself vulnerable. Eyes wide open still, she closes herself.
Incommensurable red heat coils inside her, behind her eyes. They have become violet with the rage of being torn out of the earth, of being forced to be born again. But she must do this. She must close herself, limbs folded beneath her and at her sides she must float herself back down. Eyes open, heart closed, mind on fire. It is her only power, her only chance of return. She must feel nothing, be rational, against all odds remember that she is human, but removed from her humanity. She calls into her palm the scalpel, the scientific steel that cuts through worlds. A vision. Her father. Her lungs fill with water, emptiness kicks at her, forcing her to choke down. She is still, heart closed. Then, in panic she lunges in all directions, willing a sharp, steely path to a world, any world.
Steely. No. The name again, caught in the coils, tethered to her tongue but ever silent. And calm again, returning her limbs to obey the rational thought. It’s the name she is looking for. The scalpel dissipates. In her empty hand, another vision. She is looking for a name, a place, a moment. A hand in hers, no, now a skull, so anatomical, so clean, but broken, and now the emptiness pushing against her from all sides becomes a forest, and she becomes the trees. A dark well, deep hollow in the earth, a dark man, on horseback. He jumps off as it gallops, his shape forms the ground with the grace of a jackdaw, a raven, a crow, with the power of a wolf. Two dark men, a single mirror of her own cold eyes, like an ocean crashing against her tree-wood-body, only red and bloody. The dark-man-wolf is fanged, trembling. A world explodes. A hand, in hers, a skull, an infant, a silver dolphin, in water, her lungs.
Suddenly, she is tumbling between worlds. Eyes still open, the red hot flaring behind them, needing evidence of her own existence. Her lungs ache, but she must, as always, float her way down, to root her way into the earth. Her self closed, her complexion steely.
She wakes with a shudder, returned from her travel to any world, no, the same world. Psychology is a soft science. But her mother believed in meaning-dreams. She can close herself, but she must always know who she is, and she must always remember where she came from.
a wall stands between us–
mythology of you and I.
on this side
the dust dry scattered earthen
edge of some
deserted road. the sunlight blinds.
the shade smells of ash and
the place of the unforgiven.
from the other side
an overhang of paradise lost
to me; there must be
colour over there. the warm night.
the feeling of rain.
you are divine, the crown
of asphodels in your hair.
I am here.
you are untouchable.
my fingers ache.
In the middle of the night
your hands guttered by firelight fall to your sides.
I have tried to remember
anything else but that swift motion
of dropping the silvered spade
in the sand, the weary point marking your absolution
against a fiery god, the downward descent
of sun and sulphurous silt.
But it is a desert here, to think of
how I fall to my knees in the earth again
after a night in this city,
after we’ve come from our desert empty-handed of
broken urns, drought-spun bergamot leaves
and oriental dreams and I ask you why
I am given to writing poems.
While you stand with your back to the window
hands felled, I light candles to raise
from the breaths of ancient things.
After that you clench your fists emptied
of the coins, the blue-green glass,
the tingle of silver on the floor
the hollow bone chime, and temple seeds
the loving insistence
that year after year the Alexandrine leaves
and I bring you its remembrance
in place of feathers.
And you say to me, your poems write
at a rate of one per year and
as if flighted
always to the man on the other side of Istanbul
through fifteen hundred years
of archaeological dusk and upturned
sand in your clenched hands, and all that comes falling
together in the earth is not us after all,
but in the morning I am on my knees.