O Small Sad Ecstasy of Love

- 1950-

I like being with you all night with closed eyes.
What luck—here you are
coming
along the stars!
I did a road trip
all over my mind and heart
and
there you were
kneeling by the roadside
with your little toolkit
fixing something.

Give me a world, you have taken the world I was.

Thunderstorm Stack

A bird flashed by as if mistaken then it
starts.  We do not think speed of life. 
We do not think why hate Jezebel?  We
think who’s that throwing trees against
the house?  Jezebel was a  Phoenician.
Phoenician thunderstorms are dry and
frightening, they arrive one inside the
other as torqued ellipses.

from Pinplay

Chorus:
Choral interlude followed by Act IV.
How many pins can dance on the head of a god?
How many kings can you pin to the dance in my head?
How many dances left stains on the woman he was?
How many stains kept him quiet, O Agave!

[enter Agave exultant and covered in blood, carrying the head of Pentheus impaled on a lacuna]

Agave:
O!

Chorus:
Speak, Agave.

Agave:
I’ve come with the pins.

Chorus:
We welcome the pins.

Agave:
I stained them as prizes.

Chorus:
We prize them as kings.

Agave:
How many kings—

Chorus:
did you rip the cheeks off?

Agave:
How many cheeks—

Chorus:
did you pin to the delicate mouth of the mother?

Agave:
How many mouths did she need—

Chorus:
to finish the meat?

Agave:
Not so many.

Chorus:
A happy number?

Agave:
A clever number.

Chorus:
A realistic number?

Agave:
A frolic of a number.

[Agave raises lacuna high in one hand then lowers it gradually as her mood changes]

But then again,
actually, not much of a number.

Chorus:
If you think about it?

Agave:
A dismal little number.

Chorus:
If you study it closely?

Agave:
Just a sob of a number.

Chorus:
O Agave!

Agave:
What?

Chorus:
Your sob has a name.

Agave:
How many names can I pry from the head of a pun?

Chorus:
Just one.

Agave:
O my son!

[Agave tosses lacuna to audience with Pentheus’ head attached]
 

Related Poems

Night Sky

Staring at the stars,
I imagine you
vanished and dispersed
in that unreachable
clarity of light.
They glisten, sharp and cold,
vast distances apart
yet coming to their marks
the same time every night
of their season.

The seasons slowly move,
carrying their forms—
I recognize so few:
Orion with his belt
dominating winter,
a wobbly W,
the dipper’s angled box
and handle, each bright dot
individually
jeweled there.

Nothing there is fixed,
not even that clear star
that seems always to point
just one way as it speeds
farther and farther off.
All of them are whirling
on their separate paths,
circles and ellipses,
poles of radiance
that spread the dark.

What can be made of that?
If you are nothing now
but memory, the stars
seem a proper home.
Long after the sun
swells to disperse the earth,
they’ll change as you have,
light vanishing with time,
light beyond the reach
of light itself.

Staring at the light
an explosion sent
from some place nowhere now,
I know it will outlast
whatever I become.
Imagining its end,
I see it moving still
when nothing can be seen
and we are both nothing
everywhere.

Gratitude

Forget each slight, each head that turned
Toward something more intriguing—
Red flash of wing beyond the window,

The woman brightly chiming
About the suffering of the world. Forget
The way your best friend told the story

Of that heroic road trip, forgetting that you drove
From Tulsa to Poughkeepsie while he
Slumped dozing under headphones. Forget

The honors handed out, the lists of winners.
Forget the certificates, bright trophies you
Could have, should have, maybe won.

Remind yourself you never wanted them.
When the spotlight briefly shone on you,
You stepped back into darkness,

Let the empty stage receive the light,
The black floor suddenly less black—
Scuff-marks, dust, blue tape—the cone

Of light so perfect, slicing silently that perfect
Silent darkness, and you, hidden in that wider dark,
Your refusal a kind of gratitude at last.