Cut Lilies

More than a hundred dollars of them.

It was pure folly. I had to find more glass things to stuff them          

Now a white and purple cloud is breathing in each corner

of the room I love. Now a mass of flowers spills down my                  
      dining table—

each fresh-faced, extending its delicately veined leaves

into the crush. Didn’t I watch

children shuffle strictly in line, cradle

candles that dribbled hot white on their fingers,

chanting Latin—just to fashion Sevilla’s Easter? Wasn’t I sad?          
      Didn’t I use to

go mucking through streambeds with the skunk cabbage raising

bursting violet spears?  —Look, the afternoon dies

as night begins in the heart of the lilies and smokes up

their fluted throats until it fills the room

and my lights have to be not switched on.

And in close darkness the aroma grows so sweet,

so strong, that it could slice me open. It does.

I know I’m not the only one whose life is a conditional clause

hanging from something to do with spring and one tall room          
      and the tremble of my phone.

I’m not the only one that love makes feel like a dozen

flapping bedsheets being ripped to prayer flags by the wind.

When I stand in full sun I feel I have been falling headfirst for          

God, I am so transparent.

So light. 

Thou in Time

With the mower passing over
the lawn this August morning

shirtless, lightheaded

it is such easy going, you just
push it along and the fresh swathe
follows after, good machine,

and what Mother called the smell of order
wafts up from the headless

          around you, around you—

and who has no excuse like you, none?
You cry quietly, birdsong
occurring here and there, as you observe
the sun sinking
into the torn trunks

of trees…numbed on the porch
beneath the yellow porch light, you let
mosquitoes settle on your forearms, chest and throat
and drink deep
motionless, by the hundred

then you rub yourself, and cherry juice—

Please take pity,
speak to me,
come inside.

I am drinking the rose, now
I drink the thorns.

Cattail History

The lake dry; it seethes.
Rust creeps through
brittle reeds, seeps into
the rustling seed-heads—
one stalk bows
beneath the weight
of the blackbird’s feet.

From the path edge
the fat lizard barks,
a silent croak.
He pivots, sprints over sticks,
plunges into shallow hole.

His dull eyes glowing in the hole—

The late heat spreading, prickling
the inside of our faces—

an earth crumbles away
around us, scales
dropping from the eye.

And I love you, and I think
time is mind—
our heads globes
of unsifted time.

A disc of mist floats up,
brightens above the live oak.

Far grass tips wave, bend, flow.
The doom is in their roots too—
but it is still so early,

the sky is still stiffening
to a blue so dark
and clear I shiver

to shake a finer silence
from its skin. 

The Standard

At the Standard they pay a man to lathe olive wood
into the softball-sized spheres they load the braziers with

in the heat of early afternoon. They douse them with gas, touch
a match: and the guests with their crow faces

and sky-colored suits emerge
to sip from tiny eggshell glasses.

Orchids lean out from jute baskets lashed
to the palm trunks, lit from below they flutter

like moths—undesperate, and the guests
look exactly the same age, their fingertips linger

on each other’s forearms as they form tender
careless sentences, which diffuse,

and though even their shivers are languorous, delicious, Eugenio says
you can tell from the way they dip

the big shrimps in green sauce and nibble
the creamy meat down, an inch at a time

that they never have sex;
and if I observe how they let their napkins drop

on the gravel, how they drift down the path to dinner
I’ll know who has just recognized himself in a stranger,

calmly; whose torso is squeezed by a wordless joy;
who feels like a child; who a cloud;

and who aches, as she steps back onto the cool tiles of the arcade
in thin sandals, to be broken down again,

annihilated, into a thinking rubble.

Related Poems

October (section I)

Is it winter again, is it cold again,
didn't Frank just slip on the ice,
didn't he heal, weren't the spring seeds planted

didn't the night end,
didn't the melting ice
flood the narrow gutters

wasn't my body
rescued, wasn't it safe

didn't the scar form, invisible
above the injury

terror and cold,
didn't they just end, wasn't the back garden
harrowed and planted—

I remember how the earth felt, red and dense,
in stiff rows, weren't the seeds planted,
didn't vines climb the south wall

I can't hear your voice
for the wind's cries, whistling over the bare ground

I no longer care
what sound it makes

when was I silenced, when did it first seem
pointless to describe that sound

what it sounds like can't change what it is—

didn't the night end, wasn't the earth
safe when it was planted

didn't we plant the seeds,
weren't we necessary to the earth,

the vines, were they harvested?