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.

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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.

The Adulterers

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Three days you lay sick from what I had done,
with the knowledge of our nights inside you.
Like spilled ink that flows into atrocious purples,
they cannot be taken back.

Your maid tried to kill herself,
the shame had become like an unbearable child.
Kneeling before her confession,
she wore that thick and ugly whiteness
that spurred us both on to seize our forfeit paradise.

This world of doll-like beauty,
the weight of a thousand-year-old paper folding fans,
which we dared to destroy with our bodies’ provocations,
ranges against us now with measured ferocities.

It is now, when at last I have lost you to them
that the vision of your soiled cloaks sears me.

Through layer after layer the ink comes, irrevocable,
mixing our dark bloom of love with
finely sutured lotuses, sullen tigers, impossible cranes.

Were those robes not like exquisite chambers
which this century had meticulously prepared for you?
When the ink breached them, we both wept with joy,
for they became the one pristine debasement I could offer you.

Fierce

Fierce white feet,
paddling harder and harder
going nowhere
on the bristling waves,
somersault of light,
a foam of dolphins
drenched their glistening fears.

Player piano and the
drowned musician,
mazurkas of the forbidden heart,
it killed us with a bowl of fruit,
a single pineapple that
reached the shore.

Round and round in circles,
fierce little feet,
their widening wake,
carrying the laughter of
their skin.
I thought of spiders and seabirds,
things that never dreamed of death,
or burst pipes,
or a broken coast.

And the children trailed their toes
and combed the sea’s green hair.
She shuddered at their touch,
she welcomed their kisses,
and the paper boats that ignited
beneath a flaming feather in the sky.

IV

Tonight I become the solitary bull,
the defiance of foam.

Above the nearness of your bone,
I am an invariable flame of necessity.

The hours become my bottomless appetite,
my blood a devouring wind.

I gouge shadows from the hollow of your body,
and scatter the spiders of your waist.

I topple bones and floods and a frenzy of insects,
the way the bull breaks the corners of its hold.

Numbered

Since you left,
you’ve gained a new sensuality,
your lips full,
like a season of rain.
And the men who circle
like doomed matadors,
would wear you like a pin,
or carry a banner
to your fallen love.
But all this futile lust,
thrust your way,
only plunges you further
into your own voice.
Ah, your words on the dark paper
stitch solitude
into deeper need,
for storms and savagery
that will one day love you.
While the men circle,
living their fathers’ dreams,
while their day only returns,
you, on page after page of
your numbered hearts,
plot all the beautiful ways
to exhaust this life.