You can’t remember a riff or a song,
and your date’s a woman now, married,
has had sex as you have
some few thousand times, good sex
and forgettable sex, even boring sex,
oh you never could have imagined
back then with the waves crashing
what the body could erase.
It’s vanishing as you speak, the soul-grit,
everything you retrieve is your past,
everything you let go
goes to memory’s out-box, open on all sides,
in cahoots with thin air.
The jobs you didn’t get vanish like scabs.
Her good-bye, causing the phone to slip
from your hand, doesn’t hurt anymore,
too much doesn’t hurt anymore,
not even that hint of your father, ghost-thumping
on your roof in Spain, hurts anymore.
You understand and therefore hate
because you hate the passivity of understanding
that your worst rage and finest
private gesture will flatten and collapse
into history, become invisible
like defeats inside houses. Then something happens
(it is happening) which won’t vanish fast enough,
your voice fails, chokes to silence;
hurt (how could you have forgotten?) hurts.
Every other truth in the world, out of respect,
slides over, makes room for its superior.
“So I said What do you
want, sweetheart? and you said Kiss me. Here I am
leaving you clues. I am singing now while Rome
burns. We are all just trying to be holy. My applejack,
my silent night, just mash your lips against me.
We are all going forward. None of us are going back.”
Praise the deep lustrous kiss that lasts minutes,
blossoms into what feels like days, fields of tulips
glossy with dew, low purple clouds piling in
beneath the distant arch of a bridge. One
after another they storm your lips, each kiss
a caress, autonomous and alive, spilling
into each other, streams into creeks into rivers
that grunt and break upon the gorge. Let the tongue,
in its wisdom, release its stores, let the mouth,
tired of talking, relax into its shapes of give
and receive, its plush swelling, its slick
round reveling, its primal reminiscence
that knows only the one robust world.
As soon as you begin to ask the question, Who loves me?
you are completely screwed, because
the next question is How Much?
and then it is hundreds of hours later,
and you are still hunched over
your flowcharts and abacus,
trying to decide if you have gotten enough.
This is the loneliest job in the world:
to be an accountant of the heart.
It is late at night. You are by yourself,
and all around you, you can hear
the sounds of people moving
in and out of love,
pushing the turnstiles, putting
their coins in the slots,
paying the price which is asked,
which constantly changes.
No one knows why.
anything you can say
in the sunlight:
stories of your various
childhoods, aimless journeyings,
your loves; your articulate
skeleton; your posturings; your lies.
Doctor, there’s a keen throbbing
on the left side of my chest
where my ribs are wrenched by joy.
Wings flutter in my shoulders
and blood courses through my body
like waves cresting on a choppy sea.
Look: the eyes blur with tears
and the tears clear.
My head is like skylight.
My heart is like dawn.
The mapmaker downed his tools.
I’ve caught it, every alley, every street,
every fanlight and window-ledge,
the city fixed and framed.
Now I want everything else.
I want to be a historian of footsteps,
a cartographer of hemlines and eyelids,
I want to catch what the pavements say
when they sing to each other
in their deep laboratories, plotting
every journey since the place began.
I want the whole
unlosable database, the repeating place,
kings stalking the server farms,
tailbacks and looped alarms,
I want to be where
brushstrokes flicker on a bank of screens,
where graveyards tilt
and quiet populations crowd the air,
their quarters risen again
smashing through the floors.
I want to stand at the centre
of a great clutter
mapping ashes, mapping bones,
archivist, enumerator, hanger-on
signing the returns
of an infinite census.
I want to be,
beyond everything I’ve reached or drawn,
not much at all, or all there is,
a geographer of breath,
a curator of hands.
I want to lie in the atrium
of the museum of the fingertip
and touch, touch, touch.
In love, his grammar grew
rich with intensifiers, and adverbs fell
madly from the sky like pheasants
for the peasantry, and he, as sated
as they were, lolled under shade trees
until roused by moonlight
and the beautiful fraternal twins
and and but. Oh that was when
he knew he couldn’t resist
a conjunction of any kind.
One said accumulate, the other
was a doubter who loved the wind
and the mind that cleans up after it.
he wanted to break all the rules,
light a candle behind a sentence
named Sheila, always running on
and wishing to be stopped
by the hard button of a period.
Sometimes, in desperation, he’d look
toward a mannequin or a window dresser
with a penchant for parsing.
But mostly he wanted you, Sheila,
and the adjectives that could precede
and change you: bluesy, fly-by-night,
queen of all that is and might be.