My Dead Friends

My friends are dead who were

the arches    the pillars of my life 

the structural relief when

the world gave none.

 

My friends who knew me as I knew them

their bodies folded into the ground or burnt to ash.

If I got on my knees

might I lift my life as a turtle carries her home?  

 

Who if I cried out would hear me?

My friends—with whom I might have spoken of this—are gone.

After the Movie

My friend Michael and I are walking home arguing about the movie.
He says that he believes a person can love someone
and still be able to murder that person.

I say, No, that's not love. That's attachment.
Michael says, No, that's love. You can love someone, then come to a day

when you're forced to think "it's him or me"
think "me" and kill him.

I say, Then it's not love anymore.
Michael says, It was love up to then though.

I say, Maybe we mean different things by the same word.
Michael says, Humans are complicated: love can exist even in the
     murderous heart.

I say that what he might mean by love is desire.
Love is not a feeling, I say. And Michael says, Then what is it?

We're walking along West 16th Street—a clear unclouded night—and I hear my voice
repeating what I used to say to my husband: Love is action, I used to say
     to him.

Simone Weil says that when you really love you are able to look at
     someone you want to eat and not eat them.

Janis Joplin says, take another little piece of my heart now baby.

Meister Eckhardt says that as long as we love images we are doomed to
     live in purgatory.

Michael and I stand on the corner of 6th Avenue saying goodnight.
I can't drink enough of the tangerine spritzer I've just bought—

again and again I bring the cold can to my mouth and suck the stuff from
the hole the flip top made.

What are you doing tomorrow? Michael says.
But what I think he's saying is "You are too strict. You are
     a nun."

Then I think, Do I love Michael enough to allow him to think these things
     of me even if he's not thinking them?

Above Manhattan, the moon wanes, and the sky turns clearer and colder.
Although the days, after the solstice, have started to lengthen,

we both know the winter has only begun.

Part of Eve's Discussion

It was like the moment when a bird decides not to eat from your hand,
and flies, just before it flies, the moment the rivers seem to still
and stop because a storm is coming, but there is no storm, as when
a hundred starlings lift and bank together before they wheel and drop,
very much like the moment, driving on bad ice, when it occurs to you
your car could spin, just before it slowly begins to spin, like
the moment just before you forgot what it was you were about to say,
it was like that, and after that, it was still like that, only
all the time.

The Moment

Oh, the coming-out-of-nowhere moment

when,   nothing 

happens 

no what-have-I-to-do-today-list 


maybe   half a moment  

the rush of traffic stops.  

The whir of I should be, I should be, I should be 

slows to silence,

the white cotton curtains hanging still.

Related Poems

Suddenly

(Ruth Stone, June 8, 1915 - November 19, 2011)
 

And suddenly, it's today, it's this morning
they are putting Ruth into the earth,
her breasts going down, under the hill,
like the moon and sun going down together.
O I know, it's not Ruth—what was Ruth 
went out, slowly, but this was her form,
beautiful and powerful
as the old, gorgeous goddesses who were
terrible, too, not telling a lie
for anyone—and she'd been left here so long, among
mortals, by her mate—who could not,
one hour, bear to go on being human.
And I've gone a little crazy myself
with her going, which seems to go against logic,
the way she has always been there, with her wonder, and her
generousness, her breasts like two
voluptuous external hearts.
I am so glad she kept them, all
her life, and she got to be buried in them—
she 96, and they
maybe 82, each, which is
164 years
of pleasure and longing.  And think of all 
the poets who have suckled at her riskiness, her
risque, her body politic, her
outlaw grace!  What she came into this world with,
with a mew and cry, she gave us.  In her red
sweater and her red hair and her raw
melodious Virginia crackle,
she emptied herself fully out
into her songs and our song-making,
we would not have made our songs without her.
O dear one, what is this?  You are not a child,
though you dwindled, you have not retraced your path,
but continued to move straight forward to where 
we will follow you, radiant mother.  Red Rover, cross over. 

Audenesque

in memory of Joseph Brodsky

Joseph, yes, you know the beat.
Wystan Auden’s metric feet
Marched to it, unstressed and stressed,
Laying William Yeats to rest.

Therefore, Joseph, on this day,
Yeats’s anniversary,
(Double-crossed and death-marched date,
January twenty-eight),

Its measured ways I tread again
Quatrain by constrained quatrain,
Meting grief and reason out
As you said a poem ought.

Trochee, trochee, falling: thus
Grief and metre order us.
Repetition is the rule,
Spins on lines we learnt at school.

Repetition, too, of cold
In the poet and the world,
Dublin Airport locked in frost,
Rigor mortis in your breast.

Ice no axe or book will break,
No Horatian ode unlock,
No poetic foot imprint,
Quatrain shift or couplet dint,

Ice of Archangelic strength,
Ice of this hard two-faced month,
Ice like Dante’s in deep hell
Makes your heart a frozen well.

Pepper vodka you produced
Once in Western Massachusetts
With the reading due to start
Warmed my spirits and my heart

But no vodka, cold or hot,
Aquavit or uisquebaugh
Brings the blood back to your cheeks
Or the colour to your jokes,

Politically incorrect
Jokes involving sex and sect,
Everything against the grain.
Drinking, smoking like a train.

In a train in Finland we
Talked last summer happily,
Swapping manuscripts and quips,
Both of us like cracking whips

Sharpened up and making free,
Heading west for Tampere
(West that meant for you, of course,
Lenin’s train-trip in reverse).

Nevermore that wild speed-read,
Nevermore your tilted head
Like a deck where mind took off
With a mind-flash and a laugh,

Nevermore that rush to pun
Or to hurry through all yon
Jammed enjambments piling up
As you went above the top,

Nose in air, foot to the floor,
Revving English like a car
You hijacked when you robbed its bank
(Russian was your reserve tank).

Worshipped language can’t undo
Damage time has done to you:
Even your peremptory trust
In words alone here bites the dust.

Dust-cakes, still—see Gilgamesh
Feed the dead. So be their guest.
Do again what Auden said
Good poets do: bite, break their bread.

Gone is Gone

                               for Lucie Brock-Broido
 

            I was there at the edge of Never,
of Once Been, bearing the night’s hide
 

            stretched across the night sky,
awake with myself disappointing myself,
 

            armed, legged & torsoed in the bed,
my head occupied by enemy forces,
 

            mind not lost entire, but wandering
off the marked path ill-advisedly. This March
 

            Lucie upped and died, and the funny show
of her smoky-throated world began to fade. 
 

            I didn’t know how much of me was made
by her, but now I know that this spooky art
 

            in which we staple a thing
to our best sketch of a thing was done
 

            under her direction, and here I am
at 4 AM, scratching a green pen over a notebook
 

             bound in red leather in October.
It’s too warm for a fire. She’d hate that.
 

             And the cats appear here only as apparitions
I glimpse sleeping in a chair, then
 

             Wohin bist du entschwunden? I wise up,
know their likenesses are only inked
 

             on my shoulder’s skin, their chipped ash poured
in twin cinerary jars downstairs. Gone
 

             is gone, said the goose to the shrunken boy
in the mean-spirited Swedish children’s book
 

             I love. I shouldn’t be writing this
at this age or any other. She mothered
 

             a part of me that needed that, lit
a spirit-lantern to spin shapes inside
 

             my obituary head, even though—
I’m nearly certain now—she’s dead.