I’m traveling back home to you but it’s an omen:
my road map’s creased and torn along dead straight lines.
The hill and gully ride is over now and I’m flat out
on the dead straight highway with a toll.
Not a glimmer of the coastline as I try to make it home
to you through a forest of hotels as thick as thieves.
For the sea, the coves and beaches once seen through
seaside shacks and palm trees have been sold.
And the rest of us are herded to the verge by this new
highway while over there our beauty is extolled,
bottled and sold. And gated. In this new paradise the only
palms are greased. And somebody’s beach umbrella
has replaced the shade tree we once sat under and the
towns and settlements molder as they are bypassed.
I can no longer witness on this highway with a toll that
makes us seem as modern as elsewhere. For elsewhere
is not where I’m meant to be. And a dead straight
highway leaves no scent, no monument to the past,
no scenic beauty for the curvature of my eye to take in.
And endless empty space is not inviting. But perhaps
there’s no social meaning to this tirade after all. I’m just
feeling lost without a map as I make it home to you
and pay the toll. You could see it simply as a love song.
To the curving of your cheekbones, to the mountains
of your thighs, the hill and gully passion of your eyes, and
your hair that is not dead straight but very much otherwise.
Rain interchangeable with
the walls it falls against
alphabetless like a neon
ring above an extincted
window showcasing something
formerly fabulous now
kinda poignantly disappeared.
I guess that means we’re back
in Seaside (since we must
begin somewhere) and it’s
probably summer but
can’t be as long ago
as the date you suggest
since I wouldn’t have been
born, or quietly gagging
at the sentence re: photographs
being “fairly far removed” from
sculpture anyway belied by
a euthanized block
of period tract housing
the loading dock’s pair
of refrigerated trucks
the guileless curbs below
the blandishing panes
of all those plate windows
the corrugated doors
rolled shut against a
statement the curves
of the cars as they
throw back their throats
to the light the furtive
things people do in the night
(or don’t do) bluely
compiled screen by screen
in perfervid surveillance
I just want to say yes
to you, yes and
Evening, and all my ghosts come back to me
like red banty hens to catalpa limbs
and chicken-wired hutches, clucking, clucking,
and falling, at last, into their head-under-wing sleep.
I think about the field of grass I lay in once,
between Omaha and Lincoln. It was summer, I think.
The air smelled green, and wands of windy green, a-sway,
a-sway, swayed over me. I lay on green sod
like a prairie snake letting the sun warm me.
What does a girl think about alone
in a field of grass, beneath a sky as bright
as an Easter dress, beneath a green wind?
Maybe I have not shaken the grass.
All is vanity.
Maybe I never rose from that green field.
All is vanity.
Maybe I did no more than swallow deep, deep breaths
and spill them out into story: all is vanity.
Maybe I listened to the wind sighing and shivered,
spinning, awhirl amidst the bluestem
and green lashes: O my beloved! O my beloved!
I lay in a field of grass once, and then went on.
Even the hollow my body made is gone.
After a series of indiscretions a man stumbled homeward, thinking, now that I am going down from my misbehavior I am to be forgiven, because how I acted was not the true self, which I am now returning to. And I am not to be blamed for the past, because I’m to be seen as one redeemed in the present...
But when he got to the threshold of his house his house said, go away, I am not at home.
Not at home? A house is always at home; where else can it be? said the man.
I am not at home to you, said his house.
And so the man stumbled away into another series of indiscretions...
I dwell in a lonely house I know
That vanished many a summer ago,
And left no trace but the cellar walls,
And a cellar in which the daylight falls
And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow.
O’er ruined fences the grape-vines shield
The woods come back to the mowing field;
The orchard tree has grown one copse
Of new wood and old where the woodpecker chops;
The footpath down to the well is healed.
I dwell with a strangely aching heart
In that vanished abode there far apart
On that disused and forgotten road
That has no dust-bath now for the toad.
Night comes; the black bats tumble and dart;
The whippoorwill is coming to shout
And hush and cluck and flutter about:
I hear him begin far enough away
Full many a time to say his say
Before he arrives to say it out.
It is under the small, dim, summer star.
I know not who these mute folk are
Who share the unlit place with me—
Those stones out under the low-limbed tree
Doubtless bear names that the mosses mar.
They are tireless folk, but slow and sad—
Though two, close-keeping, are lass and lad,—
With none among them that ever sings,
And yet, in view of how many things,
As sweet companions as might be had.
When the white trees are no longer in sight
they are telling us something,
like the body that undresses
when someone is around,
like the woman who wants
to read what her nude curves
are trying to say,
of what it was to be together,
lips on lips
but it’s over now, the town
we once loved in, the maps
we once drew, the echoes that
once passed through us
as if they needed something we had.
You might come here Sunday on a whim.
Say your life broke down. The last good kiss
you had was years ago. You walk these streets
laid out by the insane, past hotels
that didn’t last, bars that did, the tortured try
of local drivers to accelerate their lives.
Only churches are kept up. The jail
turned 70 this year. The only prisoner
is always in, not knowing what he’s done.
The principal supporting business now
is rage. Hatred of the various grays
the mountain sends, hatred of the mill,
The Silver Bill repeal, the best liked girls
who leave each year for Butte. One good
restaurant and bars can’t wipe the boredom out.
The 1907 boom, eight going silver mines,
a dance floor built on springs—
all memory resolves itself in gaze,
in panoramic green you know the cattle eat
or two stacks high above the town,
two dead kilns, the huge mill in collapse
for fifty years that won’t fall finally down.
Isn’t this your life? That ancient kiss
still burning out your eyes? Isn’t this defeat
so accurate, the church bell simply seems
a pure announcement: ring and no one comes?
Don’t empty houses ring? Are magnesium
and scorn sufficient to support a town,
not just Philipsburg, but towns
of towering blondes, good jazz and booze
the world will never let you have
until the town you came from dies inside?
Say no to yourself. The old man, twenty
when the jail was built, still laughs
although his lips collapse. Someday soon,
he says, I’ll go to sleep and not wake up.
You tell him no. You’re talking to yourself.
The car that brought you here still runs.
The money you buy lunch with,
no matter where it’s mined, is silver
and the girl who serves your food
is slender and her red hair lights the wall.