The House in the East

You’ve heard of it, haven’t you?
Heard of, but never seen.
Call it a cottage, if you like,
or a fortress with four walls;
Eden is not better hidden
than the Good Lady’s house.
What doors there are, what gates,
open when and where she bids them;
no path will wend her way,
no wolf prowl, no traveler knock,
but one — the Sun himself, who
each night, bent-backed and ancient,
knocks thrice upon her door
and hobbles slowly in. Then, suddenly,
at the moment his feet touch the threshold,
he springs upright, sprightly as a colt,
glowing like honey in a red glass jar.
Such is the magic of the place, you see,
that Death himself will not enter
unless invited in.

The Path

Sometimes the path is beautiful:
ridged with wild roses, leaves
like silver coins in sunlight.
Birds twitter; the river murmurs;
far away, a woman sings.
But, sometimes, the path grows dark.
The rain beats down, the wolves howl
uncanny lullabies.
Sometimes the forest is as silent
as a scream caught in a throat,
or a cold hand
at the nape of a woman’s neck.
Then the traveler holds her cloak close,
mutters curses against the wind,
entreats signposts:
which way to a sharp knife,
a warm fire,
a companion?

Boston

Ah, Boston.
The fall, red ivy
on brick walls,
the friends I miss,
one and all.
In London I have lived
one rainy autumn;
In Madrid I have spent
a sunny spring;
In California I have lived
some twenty splendid summers,
but Boston calls to me —
of an autumn, red and gold,
across the sea.

Apostasies

I don’t need a god of love,
but a god of living;
perfection is
irrelevant to earthly matters.
Give me a god
with wind-chapped skin,
callused palms,
eyes like Californian wildfires
and the desert bush burning.
Let his teeth be fresh, sharp
as pine needles.
Give me a goddess
who retains her wildness,
who is dangerous in the way
that I am dangerous
when I forget
(when I remember)
what I am, I am, I am.

Borders

Be honest with yourself:
there has been no long night of the soul,
no wrenching loss – not really, not recently.
The dark has come and gone through your life,
like the light and dark of lights on a freeway
in the night, the journey
mostly routine, sometimes disorienting, only occasionally
frightful. You merely find yourself,
a traveler – by choice, you will remember –
in distant lands. Perhaps
you will find friends here. Perhaps
a home. More likely a bed, a pillow,
a place to soak a back stiff
with stagnancy, work to fill
your mind and hands with. Your fear,
always, of empty hands, open hands and
closed arms – yours or theirs, I wonder?
There are no barriers on your road,
only borders to overcome,
not an adventure,
just a journey. “I’m lucky,” you say,
and think of every other place
you could become, of –
What was that word? No no, in Japanese.
Aa, もっと, motto, more.
You remember, sip your peach wine,
remind yourself of the full table before you.
Soon, dawn will roll over green hills,
and you will be overwhelmed,
immersed
like the river
that becomes the flood,
in all you do not know.

Modesty #2

“Modesty” is what you say
When you think
A woman shouldn’t be seen, at all,
Shouldn’t be there.
I can’t help but wonder why.
Who does she remind you of?
Who did you
So want to silence?
The woman who broke your heart,
Or the one who wouldn’t call?
Who am I kidding —
Maybe you’re just afraid
Of the competition.
But really, where do you get off, saying,
“Take her away.
I don’t like the way she
Makes me feel.
She reminds me of the things that I don’t have
And the people who didn’t want me.
Surely the Evil of the World lurks in her slim shoulders.”
How is it that logic impermissible in a preschool
Is the rule of law in congress?
Is this what your Jesus meant when he said,
“Cut out your eye if it offend thee” —
That the evil of the world was in women’s shoulders?
An imaginative interpretation. I have another:
Control yourself, and you will not need
To control others. After all, I could easily say,
“I don’t like the way you
Make me feel. You remind me
Of the respect I’m not yet given,
And of the responsibility
Men have not yet taken.
Surely the Evil of the World lurks in your eyes.
See to them, Sir; be your soul’s own custodian
— captain, if you like —
After all, wasn’t the role of government,
Of rights and of commandments,
To prevent men from imposing
Their evil on the world?”
But you don’t see me dragging congressmen
out by their collars, do you? Well —
At least not until
The next election.

I went to the bookstore for a self-help book

I went to the bookstore for a self-help book,
And all I found was poetry. Mary Oliver —
Have you heard of her? She’s not bad,
Though I don’t know what’s good anymore;
I’ve had too much education.

I’ve been considering Barth’s Dunyaziad
How Scheherazade writes herself
A story in which she can win,
How “the key to the treasure
Is the treasure.” There is no trick
To living, I think he meant to say —
But how should I know?
Perhaps Barth is indecipherable, like life
Or poetry.

I have been looking at my heroes,
At myself, at stories. Hard to romanticize
An unromantic life. The precedent
Is already set. My life cannot unfurl
Like a bulb or a white skirt —
It is not that kind of story.
I will not proceed quietly
To bed and to rise,
Will not count the stones of ancient rivers.
Nor will I burst like the setting sun
Or a horse’s quick, wet heart.

I went to the bookstore for a self-help book,
And walked home instead. Now I sit
Across the country,
Outside my house, half-swallowed by the deep,
Royal blue of late twilight,
Orion’s belt dimmed by street lamps.
Glass on the street corner. Soft voices, warm lights,
In nearby windows. A child laughs,
A plate rattles. Something smells good
In the house next door.


featured photo credit: PeterThoeny Late dinner with a view via photopin (license)34274147386_a9a7dee71d.jpg

Fear the Octopus

Disclaimer: I actually quite like octopi. Will work on this further, at a later date.

Why fear the wolf?
Though he may wear the lamb’s clothes
He cannot take his shape,
Nor can he wear the starry sky
Like any common cape.
He feasts and fasts
And fasts and feasts
And always follows form
No need with wolves, my dear,
To fear unusual harm —
But the wise man fears the octopus,
Orphan of aliens, crawling wanderer,
Colorful carnivore, stealer of shapes.
Keen-eyed and clever, the octopus
Will answer any riddle you pose her,
Unriddle the riddler. The abyss looks in,
The octopus through.
And what riddle is she, this octopus.
A bird beaked and without wing —
Cast out curiosity,
Thief of sky’s colors?
Not bird then, but angel,
Scribe of the fallen. Was Veriel your name,
You whose ink once told
The truths of heaven?
Hungry, now, the octopus.
She wears the worlds she cannot return to,
Writes only the words
Of forgotten languages.
Covered in teeth
Her cursed and cloying fingers
Reek of hunger. She cannot help
But leave red marks.
A demon by definition,
Her nature is predicated
On the predatory act.
Paralyzed and vivified,
Her audience stands rapt
About to view her nature unchanging
(A demon in deed)
Whose soul’s her own trap.