Huge crystalline cylinders emerge from the water
Where do they come from the King gushes these talking fish
Show me at once
We see the writer buried under a collapsing mountain of scribbled-over
While ink blurts from an overturned bottle
Speech is silver the King mutters
They discover a fabulous ancient city
Flag of smoke
Where we turned to look
Skulls, bats, stars, spirals, lightning bolts
Words spoken in anger
Flowers for sarcasm
The sequence continued to work in references to the brevity of life
Garlands of flowers
Stars signaling physical impact
They discover a fabulous ancient city
Under the water
None of the inhabitants
‘Be reasonable . . . ‘
Increasingly faint trace of inked
Step-ladder, tiny pyramid for miserly hunchbacks, near-
sighted reckoner, the reseda, gathered in its cunning
little cabin, breaks up, clears itself of perfume.
This flower is the friend of silent eyes, of century-
old hands, of honest blades.
She grows near modest shale-like clusters — these,
devout, dyed purple, or else those, burnt to brown
ribbons, daughters seen from a libertarian star.
When the limed soil turns toward the sexton, the weekly
herb heralds, at the bottom of some old fashioned desk,
some thin copy-book bound in boards of somber blue and
covered with beautifully written secrets.
When she’s moved by a ridge of fired peat, the flower
forecasts for the initiated only such a display of
nymphomania, such nutritious folly, nauseating tropical
And when she becomes incrusted in the millennial
foundations of bits of shale, she’s the prophetess of
the glass reed, the measly pot, the head schoolmaster,
the starched virgin, the pigeon-breeding spiritualist.
Her perfume is a secondary condition since its
disproportion to her stem and its continual layers make
That October might have begun
pretty much like this one. Last night,
first chilly night, we shut all the windows,
the cat curled between John’s legs, I slept
with a blanket over my head. At six a.m., wrapped
in a sweater, I checked the newly dug
beds of bulbs—tulips, your favorite—
and wondered if they, and the ones I planted
on your grave, would survive the months
of frozen ground.
You were three days from bearing your tenth;
rather than risk a fall, going up and down
two steep flights, you stayed inside.
At six a.m. you may’ve been in your rocking chair,
half-listening for fights over blankets
or Pop’s return from the graveyard shift
while you folded, again, a newly washed stack
of secondhand diapers and tees.
Maybe a draft made you shiver or a pain
made you think it’s beginning.
Too soon the cold will kill the last blooms
on asters, hydrangea, Autumn Joy sedum.
Too soon another breakdown
left you in the depression that lasted
the rest of your life. Too soon Judge Grossi ruled
you were dangerous to your child’s welfare.
At fifteen I was free to leave.
But this morning, I went back to when
the cold hadn’t yet settled in,
when you were waiting for me.
A chimney, breathing a little smoke.
The sun, I can’t see
making a bit of pink
I can’t quite see in the blue.
The pink of five tulips
at five p.m. on the day before March first.
The green of the tulip stems and leaves
like something I can’t remember,
finding a jack-in-the-pulpit
a long time ago and far away.
Why it was December then
and the sun was on the sea
by the temples we’d gone to see.
One green wave moved in the violet sea
like the UN Building on big evenings,
green and wet
while the sky turns violet.
A few almond trees
had a few flowers, like a few snowflakes
out of the blue looking pink in the light.
A gray hush
in which the boxy trucks roll up Second Avenue
into the sky. They’re just
going over the hill.
The green leaves of the tulips on my desk
like grass light on flesh,
and a green-copper steeple
and streaks of cloud beginning to glow.
I can’t get over
how it all works in together
like a woman who just came to her window
and stands there filling it
jogging her baby in her arms.
She’s so far off. Is it the light
that makes the baby pink?
I can see the little fists
and the rocking-horse motion of her breasts.
It’s getting grayer and gold and chilly.
Two dog-size lions face each other
at the corners of a roof.
It’s the yellow dust inside the tulips.
It’s the shape of a tulip.
It’s the water in the drinking glass the tulips are in.
It’s a day like any other.
Graceful son of Pan! Around your forehead crowned
with small flowers and berries, your eyes, precious
spheres, are moving. Spotted with brownish wine lees,
your cheeks grow hollow. Your fangs are gleaming. Your
chest is like a lyre, jingling sounds circulate between your
blond arms. Your heart beats in that belly where the double
sex sleeps. Walk at night, gently moving that thigh,
that second thigh and that left leg.
Unclouded third eye and lush
red wings. I’m pouring water
from cup to cup.
This is the water we are meant
to drink with the other animals.
There are daffodils by the water,
a road leading from the water
to the shining crown of the sun.
My white hospital gown—
off-the-rack and totally sane.
My foot unsteady, though,
heel held aloft, missing its stiletto.
Nine months sober emblazoned
on my flat chest in red
below girlish curls and mannish chin.
You can’t see my eyes.
You’ve never seen them.
You came in out of the night
And there were flowers in your hands,
Now you will come out of a confusion of people,
Out of a turmoil of speech about you.
I who have seen you amid the primal things
Was angry when they spoke your name
In ordinary places.
I would that the cool waves might flow over my mind,
And that the world should dry as a dead leaf,
Or as a dandelion seed-pod and be swept away,
So that I might find you again,