For most in the United States the word brings a phase when mortars in Vietnam still whistled around them and the scandal of Nixon and his Machiavellian buds poured from the news into their subconscious—I see that Watergate too: the televised hearings, and in particular one session—Sam Ervin had just asked Ehrlichman or Dean or Haldeman, a long-winded, periphrastic, left-branching question—it must have lasted forty seconds and seemed three days before he paused for effect, and Ehrlichman or Dean or Haldeman answered: “Senator, could you please repeat the question?” And he did, verbatim! And that is one Watergate. But I think also of the morning my father sent me to the creek that ran through our pasture to remove a dead calf a flood had floated north to lodge against our water gate— a little Guernsey heifer—I had petted her often— Now flies buzzed around her, bloated and entangled in the mesh—and I remember her eyes were open, so she seemed to watch as I pulled first one leg then another from the vines and wire that trapped her, and pulled her to the bank through the shallow water. Because the second water gate, which features the tender relationship between a dead calf and a little boy, happened twenty years before the first, in which men break into an office complex in a hotel, I prefer its posts and hog wire that kept cows from a neighbor’s field to the gray rows of filing cabinets that brought down a presidency. The water pours out of the mountain and runs to the sea. Sometimes I say it to myself, until the meanings leave. I say Watergate until it is water pouring through water.
The Language of Love
It has taken thirty-five years to be this confident
of what happens between the noun and the verb.
Eventually, love goes. The image. Then the thought.
No? Then you are still alive. Only a little. And then,
I do not mean to depress you. Men have to hear
before they see. Sacred vows. Dropped shirts.
Women do not speak to men. They are overheard.
Sadness mounts people. Around the burn-scar high
on one thigh, the body of the beloved will vanish.
And the come cries and salt hair-smells of lovemaking.
Secret fiction, holy matrimony, longest short story
the troth two lovers pledge to one another is none
of the president’s business, let him say what he wants.
He is no good with words. Ask any true lesbian.
He should take a poetry workshop with Adrienne Rich.
He should try using the world less and words more