In October, three postcards come
from wandering friends:
a cottage on a cliff, with hollyhocks
leaning over the sea;
fat beds of lavender
resuscitated at Giverny;
the brief bluebell wood
at Brooklyn Botanic.
Why do they put these gardens upon me?
I’ve got no lease to these rooms,
I’m too old, it’s too late,
winter is coming . . .
and the White Garden
the pleasure house
where I sucked on a joint
and watched the moon rise--
that whole glory-book,
its shimmer, is shut.
Without my knowing, the clasp opened
on the subway platform, a clatter on the tiles
I only hear in retrospect, and now
someone else must be enjoying
my watch with its Navajo turquoise,
much admired by friends,
by my doctor of ten years,
who is ill himself now, and takes no calls.
Was it trying to escape, all along?
It went through the wash twice;
had to be fitted with new hands,
which kept coming unstuck.
And once, from a nightstand,
leapt out an attic dormer and lay with leaves
in the gutter for days, till painters found it.
Or was it struggling to stay, but finally unable?
Where the watch used to be, my wrist is pale,
my pulse flooding and scattered.
This is how the dictionary defines caducous:
“deciduous, as of leaves, dropping off very early,
subject to shedding, destined to fall.”
This flashing creature, my niece, dives to the blue
bottom to fetch something I’ve thrown there.
Sudden knowledge strikes me:
I am not the person everyone was waiting for, but
she might be, undine, this slip so whiteblond and blue,
poet for whom all the journals are searching,
teacher, immunologist, secret saint, person
to stand in the way of the long line of tanks.
Or maybe she isn’t the answer, either,
pretty child I see once a year and don’t know well,
little blond screen onto which I project
the miracle my future needs.
Suddenly lonely, this tacky paradise at the border,
overflown by ravens and the solitary vireo.
The fat man with purple sores all over his legs
is looking at me, and I am elaborately
not looking at him, as we wait for children
to clear the pool and laps to begin.
Shall I call the lifeguard? I’m afraid
of the fat man with his almost-open sores
I don’t tell her, and I don’t ask what it will mean
to climb into the pool with him, because no one can say,
and when I lay my body into the slow lane alongside his,
where he can’t keep from brushing, from touching me
as we roll to breathe, at the end of every laphe is waiting,
he is watching, he is looking at me.
-all poems previously published at From The Fishouse