This was written after I completed a five mile hike and then picked up a volume of Elizabeth Bishop's poetry to enjoy once again on a sunny afternoon. My answer to Bishop's poem, One Art. In this thing called losing, Bishop said we become masters And that losing isn’t a disaster. No, Not a disaster. Losing socks and such stuff. I’ve lost earrings, bracelets, Expensive ones too, didn’t care Beyond maybe a minute or two. And no pain beyond a stab of nostalgia Did I have upon saying goodbye To three houses and two cities. And yes, it was no disaster To bury my mother, A father who really wasn’t, The man who really was, First one brother, then the other, Then lastly, a wife. With each, my body and soul Savaged by a hurricane, catastrophic, yes. But no, no disaster. Except perhaps, yes, I’ll admit, A tiny bit of soul eroded From the waves of each hurricane Breaking over me as I buried each. And nothing, nothing did I master. Except, maybe this— I did not look for them Since they were gone, Emptied of this earth. Now, there is you and I look for you In everything I do-- Every sunset Every sunrise Every in between time. I look for you in strangers, In cars I pass along the street. I look for you at festivals, In films I see. I look for you in places, In the sky of Ruidoso, In bars, In restaurants, In the eyes of strangers, I look for you. I look for you in all this. And in this thing Called losing, In which I am well-schooled, As are we all, I have tried to make an art, To make an art of all this loss. Yes, this may be no real disaster, But Bishop lied. There is no art in losing, No art at all, That I can find to master.
The wind and rain stopped by last night, Had a few minor temper tantrums outside As I stood watching from the door. They slapped the trees limbs around a bit And kicked at bits of loose trash in the street. Nothing more violent than that. No pushing down trees. No pummeling hail. Rather calm for a storm. Yet it killed the heat of summer, Murdering it without a hint of passion And ushering in a cold windy day To begin the fall to winter. At dawn, I stand here, Warming myself With this cup of coffee, Mourning a summer That passed without passion.
The requiem played So softly in the background. Our words stuttered to a halt, And we listened to this-- The breath between words Not said in the silence Between us. All the while the strains of the requiem Filled the ever widening space Between the words of lies and truths In the deafening silence. To relieve the pressure in our ears We talked of all the daily banalities Of work, of dinner, of lunches, Of the silly things the dogs have done That made us laugh. We talked over each other Stumbling in a strange vocal dance Until finally tripping into silence Before a final goodbye is said With your lies and my truth unclaimed. But the requiem played still-- And then silence.
A ghost limb, removed,
The craving for
The softness of your skin,
The warmth and smell of you
A host of phantom feeling
Deep within the ghost limb
In the center of my chest.
What we know of words upon a page Read, learned over again until sated In the richness found. Then turn to the electronic blue haze Where even words resonate, echoing fade. For the sweetest lies, a believer craves. Then scrolling over plastic flowers dancing, The words of a lover’s refrain found Written once too often In wooing others On the same blank cards With pictures of bears. The words like Cheap plated jewelry’s shine Turn black in the bitterness On the day some thought Something pure, pristine was born. Then, finally, is it known the words Of the poetic, the romantic Are but rhetoric and lies Written and said More than once But promised For one. The gravity, the gravity A black hole.
Should I buy
That pack of cigarettes?
God knows I want too.
The store clerk
Stares at me
As if I’ve lost my mind.
I nearly answer—
Yes, I have and other things too.
I just want to feel the smoke
Rush through my lungs.
Skimming, skipping, speeding
The way pictures crash the dam of my heart.
I am flooded.
I’d rather be flooded with waves of nicotine.
Yes, it’d be a blessing to drown in nicotine.
Reveling in the stench of smoke
Would help dull this taste of bitterness,
Would dull this craving for a sweetness
I can no longer have.
And why not?
What’s it all matter now?
A slow roll kind of Catholic suicide.
How long could it take?
I mean, really, at this stage?
“Ma’am, can I help you with somethin’ else?”
Says the clerk behind the counter.
I am still standing there,
The crazy lady,
Trying to wring the water out
Of the water bottle I just bought.
“No, thank you,” as I walk away.
So, no slow roll Catholic suicide.
At least, starting not today.
But this patch of bitter taste,
This patch of craving for a sweetness,
Are sewn with double stitched seams
On the underside
Of my skin.
While watching a mother and her child at play
Wrapped in the delight of each other
She gives her boy a gentle toss
His tiny arms wide, wing-like
As if in flight
She’s a safety net
As he lands lightly in her hands
Their eyes lock, sparkling
Wrapped in the miracle of each other
His arms wind about her neck
His glistening golden head rests upon her shoulder
And this hole, this longing inside remembers
The rapture between a mother and child