Night Poem XXI

Night of the open heart,
I strive against my tightening song,
against the sad and familiar
crust of my human days.

New, new again beside
your blue dangers,
I fear death,
and life shivers in my blood.

To be new is to be merciless.
On your plain swept of regret and love,
I place an orange, round and alone.
As I peel it, it forms a hurt the shape of a moon.

And because I am empty
and pained by the passing
of everything I’ve been,
its juice afflicts me with a new love.

Night of the open heart,
to ache is to ripen,
to know the bitterness of new growth,
and the possibility of catastrophes.

But to the clenched darkness
and to the hollowed peel of my old heart,
I reply with the wounded orange’s flesh,
raw and sweet and undefeated.

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Night Poem IV

Voices sleep in the night,
bodies quiet and alone,
all cries drawn inward,
and love kept in its hold.
Anger subdued in its kennel,
and regret floating above their eyes.

Trusting the night,
bodies laid out,
display unearthly banquets
for the devouring moon.
They are infinitely fragile,
the most brutal hands,
the most vehement lips.

I sit at my window,
and the air is thick
with the voices of sleeping animals,
the ancestral echoes of dreams,
the long dead in their earth,
and the death preparers,
cradling their sweethearts
in the white sheets of the living.

I sit awake with the
self-forgetting all around me,
like a witness
to the night that goes
erasing their brief bodies,
and I am sad,
and I am in love.

VIII

In the lungs of the girl,
the summer is a grove of shadow,
a song that is a bird,
a distance of guitars,
and the cicada’s trembling silence.
In the lungs of the girl,
the summer is a barb of joy,
a collapse of leaves in the burning roots,
love in the dark feet of children,
and translucent carp
streaming from the sun’s despair.
In the lung of the summer,
the girl is a voice of embers
dancing over my closed eyes.

Death of a Child

Gone,
probably too soon,
though we can’t be sure.
Statisticians mark you off
on a sheet between two dissecting lines.
Between two dissecting lines
he held you,
while his giant hands of flame
went to work.
Only moments before
you had been dancing
around the kitchen,
around the garden,
around the endless hours of your brief childhood.
What do we know,
we the well brought up,
of the secret language you shared
with the other breakable things
of this world?
Large men who assassinate themselves
over and over
with a disenchanted knife,
smear childhood across the walls.
Crumple of young years
in a pile of dirty clothes,
and a terrible innocence
that claws at the survivors.
Somewhere, a brief and sharp cry,
an accustomed outrage.
Somewhere, a statistician duly records.

Young Animals II

You tell yourself you won’t give up.
Burdened with a lust and a fear
and the entirety of this moment.
Has it come too soon?

Why is it now
that a weight like a lead eye
descends into your stomach’s depths?

And you must become
her thousand scented fires,
you must pilot both these loaded souls
to the shrouded tower.

Ill-starred, you’ve set out
with things you don’t need,
reasons, images, language,

plummeting sadness invades,
and you tighten the reigns
of your equine body.
But you are not yet animal
to her responding roar.

You plunge your paths into her,
straight and familiar,
crippled effort.
See how suddenly the undulating pain,

the breaking joy unravels them,
beneath a billowing undergrowth.
See the strange cats that
weave in and out of realization,
that come devouring children.

How at last you have
journeyed into no territory,
and are no conqueror.

Young Animals I

Holding you,
trembling, the hurt
song in you.
Why has it wavered

in the infinite openings
of these sheets,
in this new wakefulness,
alert to the silent thrust
of his stone?

Did you know it would be this way?
This strange solitude
you share
threatens to become you.

And what you give
over, in the tearful exchange,
where will he take it,
in the fretful journeys of his sleep,

how will it become him?
Courage fails through crimson sighs.
But have you ever been this unguarded,
this immense, without towers?

See how the young animals flow
so freely from you now,
through the undulating pain,
through the breaking joy.

My Thirty Hearts

Thirty years old,
I speak to my thirty hearts
that I’ve scattered like confetti afternoons
to the corpulent sky.

Some are snagged in sharp clouds,
some free, floating past
the loosening trees,
some return like balloons,
but I speak to them all.

My five year old heart,
Stub-toed,
Stumbling into rainy days,
receiving them like a leaf,

soggy cats rubbing his swift shins,
and the world bent down on knees
offering immensities
to tiny hands,

fragile hands, like a leaf,
yet brutal as the dawn.

My twelve year old heart,
eyes and tongues and ears
consuming youth,
as wicks consume the air,

wide oceans like
blue fry pans sparking,
and trees slung with tire swings

and little golden girls
budding in his mind,
warm lips, hearts of ochre,
pencil cases filled with scented rubbers,
and voyages down unreal Niles.

My seventeen year old heart,
wants roaring Beethovens,
eyes that sing,
mornings burdened with music,

the tall arms of schoolgirls
he could have touched,
their glistening ears dripping song,
song everywhere,

and the aroma of summer,
sweat, unbathed time,
he’s smattering his inward stars
across the beaming curb,

and the mad strides of youth
already almost at the school gate.

My twenty one year old heart,
cuts the stems one by one,
the sad stamens of home,
the tender, raw fingers of mothers
doing heartache for the first time.

The boy tethered to his one selfish beam,
learning what the men will teach
for a price,
he learns love instead,

opened on the shingles of taste,
the bed he’s made for her to unmake,
life described by revolving sheets,
and night’s lips,
and the broken tongues,

and the things she gives,
growing from the wounds she keeps,
and the forgotten school,
and the discovered sky.

My thirty year old heart,
given away in a reckless bedroom,
leaves only a note with a smudged address.
Tacked to streets,
I go hunting after lost time
not yet past me.

And my heart somewhere, kept by another,
wrapped in a faded golden paper,
stuffed away in a weeping drawer,
with scissors, fingernails, pencil shavings,
a taxidermist’s stuffed child.

And maybe sometimes taken out,
cupped in tears,
walked in lonely gardens of memory
with an old love,
then put away in rainy cupboards.