A Broken Sun

You must understand
That it is easier than you think
To commit acts of evil.

Take myself for instance.
In medical school I dreamed of
Becoming a doctor
Among villagers in the remote mountains

Of Japan,
Such simple folk who
Lacked adequate access to
The marvels of modern medicine.

But then the war,
And China.
How can I put it?
I lost this ability
To imagine a softer world.

The strict, enforced obedience
To the leviathan of flame,
The soul-rotting acceptance
That this world was alight,
And life was the fuel.

And then, my own chosen profession,
As one who deals with the body
Like an instrument to be fixed,

Somehow this too inured me
To the obscenity of pulling
Apart humans for the sake of
My nation’s science.

The rot had set into the living,
Into those of us charged with
Ameliorating ancient suffering.
We told ourselves,

In dissecting our enemies
We were completing a noble quest,
To cure the bodies that mattered,
Our own, of tragic diseases.

At first, I will admit,
I felt squeamish,
Hands trembling as I cut open
Some poor soul, un-anesthetized,

His pleading, pitiful cries
That turned guttural at the sight
Of his own insides.
Who wouldn’t be shaken?
I was still human then,
Even after all I had seen.

But after two, then three, then four
Vivisections,
My hand became steady,
As cold and precise as the instruments

It clasped.
Had I gained some new plane of
Existence,
Was I beyond good and evil?

What, after all, was life
But the fuel for something
Incomprehensible, mysterious,
Beyond all individual pain,

Propelling us all
Into a future vaster and more
Terrible than a devouring sun?
Was I not merely an instrument
Of this god?

But then suddenly,
With blinding violence
That sun arrived,
And the grandeur was gone in an instant.

No longer a surgeon to the
Imperial Army of Japan,
To the men of steel and death,
I returned to Japan.

I set up a quiet and humble
Practice in the remote
Mountains among the villagers.
I specialised in treating the

Children of farmers,
Tuberculosis cases,
Whooping cough,
Sprained ankles.

I had a normal kind of life.
But I was no longer human,
And when I placed my stethoscope
To the chest of one of my simple hearted patients,

Even without a word,
They recoiled instinctively from my touch.

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The Waltz

La_Valse

Your arm,
With full surety that air
And movement never fail,
Clasps my waist.

Your mouth,
As if you knew that
I had finally surrendered,
Pressed to my neck,
Which already ever so lightly
Retreats.

And as if to assert that this
Dance should be anchored
In known things;
Turn, rhythm, embrace,
Release,
The dominant and subordinate one,
You pull back my loosening grip.

But notice how,
Like one who nonchalantly
Throws off her dress,
I have already abandoned equilibrium.

Headlong we will fall
In a chaos of unraveling distances;
Only then will I see what lies
Behind your poise.

Danaïd

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You were cruel to leave me alone,
With only my hands, and
Only my art.
In your absence I turned the chisel
Against my own longing,

My despair entered this stone,
And like nerve pulling at nerve
I retrieved your impossible, naked
Soul from its guts.

See how the shoulders arch here,
Where the light becomes sharp and unforgiving,
This is where I first cut my heart out
With your touch.

And here, where the hair plunges
Like a leviathan of caresses,
Down into the unhewn rock,
Here my belief in the separateness
Of our bodies finally fails.

I am curled into every curve,
And surge and retreat of your terrible absence.

When you return, you
Will discover I have gone quite mad.
Night after night in my atelier
I have disemboweled myself,
A dozen new figures to worship your savagery.

The Separation of Camille and Rodin

Auguste Rodin

No, let me turn now and go away
From your too complete fierceness.
Until you the women I loved
Remained encased in my art,
Figures I could bend in plaster, bronze,
With violence, with tenderness.

But then you burst forth,
And refusing this clay immortality
All men offer,
Deigned from the beginning
To create.

And I loved you,
Because to my sensuality you offered this
Savagery,
Female vehemence.
What in me had grown too smooth, yielding,
Discovered suddenly, in you,
A disheveled beauty that far outstripped me,
And my art became frightening.

From you I learned the craft of agony,
The torn open garden of your female genius,
That is now mine.
And what I create is ugly and essential,
The breasts of my women are inhuman,
The loins of my men collapse the world,
And those who look upon my art
Spit at its feet and turn away in contempt.

You have given me this triumph,
Returned to me stone and soil.
But I want myself back,
My languid hurt.
Your too full madness imprisons me,
And I don’t know what my art means,

For it surpasses us both
And annihilates our purpose.
No, let me turn now and go away
From your perfect love.

My Oldest Enemy

I was low last night.
I don’t know why.
The words would not come
To form a night I wanted to sleep in.

So I stared at a blank wall
And watched it become
Only wall,
It loved nothing.

I rushed out into the night
And found only a street,
Not death,
Not the echo of compassion,

Not even a dismal hedgehog
Nuzzling the mane of the wounded earth.
I put on my coat,
Pockets filled with used up solitude,
And walked and walked.

I don’t know what I wanted,
A voice, a breast, a crime,
The outbreak of a new war.
I was looking for the source of my ache,

In the silent doors
And the shuttered windows,
In the gardens with their flowers
Closed like the fists of women.

I was low,
And there was no origin,
No starting point of my sadness,
There was no woman to blame,
No wrong, no mistake.

There was only this vast night,
Night of dogs,
Night of flowers,
Filled with the destruction of voices,

Night that I could not sleep in,
Like the bed of my oldest enemy.

Some Kind of Perfect

She told me she hates to be alone,
That when she’s alone
The silence whispers to her
Curious things,
How she’s broken,
How she can’t be fixed.

I told her not to worry,
Cause we’re all basically used up,
And anyway,
Perfection is a sin.

She never spoke to me again, after that.
My guess is that she
Needed someone to tell her
She was perfect.

Later, I saw her walking with a guy.
She had ribbons in her hair,
And her eyes were sad
The way they were
When she told me about the devil in her.

As for me,
I’ve learned to live with the one in me,
It’s a one hundred year truce.
He gets to wear himself out
Picking apart the core of me,
And in return I get the
Keen insight of a crippled heart.

But I can’t see any other way
To go about these things.
Oh well, she wanted to be perfect,
And that means wearing ribbons in her hair,
And getting around with guys
Who would never dare tell her she was broken.

To a Friend

I saw my friend’s heart break open
In the foyer, in the university,
Staring down
At the cold screen,
The absurd message,
Clean font
And the unspeakable loss.
She is gone,
Beyond the world’s
infinite vowels,
Long piercing cries of the world.
She is lost to the carnage of the day,
So filled with its lives going up escalators
And falling from bridges.
Now she is one of them
And holds all the mute words
We will never hear,
And our sorrow is the echo of her going.
There is no stopping the world
From bringing us to these distances,
Between heart and hand,
Between love and mouth,
Between grief and shore.
It goes on, always ahead of us,
Over there
Singing with the ones we love,
And we remain
With our stomachs burnt with yearning,
Exultant in our loss.
I saw my friend’s heart break open,
In the foyer,
With the lights of the city burning,
Raw and unreachable.
I saw his love,
I touched the nearness of everything.