Thank you for giving us so much, Ms. Rich. You’ll be admired for much time to come. – A.G.

 

“For the Dead”

I dreamed I called you on the telephone
to say: Be kinder to yourself
but you were sick and would not answer

The waste of my love goes on this way
trying to save you from yourself

I have always wondered about the left-over
energy, the way water goes rushing down a hill
long after the rains have stopped

or the fire you want to go to bed from
but cannot leave, burning-down but not burnt-down
the red coals more extreme, more curious
in their flashing and dying
than you wish they were
sitting long after midnight

The only thing I need from you now is some solitude.
“You” contains a sliding scale, or maybe “solitude”?
All = A desire to hide under, behind, around any solid
object in some heavy degree of silence. Simple. I should’ve
set aside a day for away-drunk; Vacation means what you
need & what you make, & here again I decided on rescue mission.
I spend 24 in collapse & sore fingers; a lack of technology can
handle the abuse I’ve chained for 20 years. Noon, & beer in one
hand, guilt in the other. As though one ounce of disappointment
requires complete commitment to the cause, as though carefully-
underswept failures don’t pile high enough to warrant quilt in lieu
of rug, as though matador-hued face operates as veil rather than
giving away, cemetery-style. The you-inspired sweater shields little
against Southern winds, but windows closed would fill this room
with smoke, whether from cigarettes or slowly-burning books &
blankets abandoned for boozed crazed ports further north. Yes,
the best minds of each generation drag themselves through the
streets – I stumble & stagger behind, offering palms up & cab rides
to warm Harlem bed, suggest the Westside for currents off
the water to clear whiskey & un-support of so many years of days
too long; The make-believe messiahs tail close, fashioning
angelhead halos from dime store pipecleaners, glancing up only
to spy out the route to successes of undergrounds too far for
before 3 P.M., but just fine for midnights & sweats thereafter ‘til
porters’ rattlings remind of keys & 2x4s to be demolished, pieced
into “art”; We button-fasten to bent necks, welded such by revelatory
tears of the not-so-supernatural; Break hearts to build spirits &
characters left to fall ((from peer hands)) by boards layered with
2 generations’ dirt; Line hardwood with plastic, jagged-kniving
greens tomatoes carrots radishes before high pressure shaking oil &
vinegar to coat walls ceilings salad with the jerks of undersweeping
wing, chewing through unthanking exits & undeniability of return when
ears tilt down to proposal, eyes stare any-away from curriculum vitae
stacked four pages deep. We’re the foster parents of the of-age-but-
irresponsible, of the ones lacking empathy ‘til 20 years ahead when they
go back & read the book, & all we ask is misrepresentation by them –
Freud to Nietzsche – so our way of life survives. A miscalculation:
something missing amidst the equation; the meal cannot be served if no
prepping occurs, & loyalty never managed a place-card – You = “They” =
unkindly truthed with little yellow tags, & he knew what he labeled in
“Stunned.” We’d never debase to request your excuse for love, tortured
semi-souls; we map & re-route & avenue way home, back down over just
AWAY 3 or 4 trains, out of mind for sake of capital-H Hope, or relief, clear
dialogue, trace of humanity. We ((the You vs. Us of it all)) may pray to
respective gods for mountained starry holy skies, but polarity dictates
destinations dwelling down superstrings – you be Schroedinger’s Cat, we
be the box, so sit side-by-side on a line, but know lyric spans the length of
the scroll & a hundred more anythings span the distance. Struggle to fight
instinct, pyromancy in setting suns, because it’s so impractical to waste
warm clothing in cities begging ((granted)) tundras; We continue,
cooperation, apparent obligings to installations lacking Standard. But
the I involved desires no more vinegar sponge, no lies of hydration –
Real backhands, busted lips, bruises over bruises aphrodisiac to no end;
Verbal substitutes shove off the 3 blocks to blindness. Porcelain & Roses,
no matter how concrete, don’t exist in that petal falls & corner chips
encourage bacterial growth, promote decay, & enough of my me is missing.

 

Subtitled: In Lieu of the Anti-

I understood the irony of my last manifesto & counting hours ‘til
some undefined meeting of eyes & hands & bellies, but held fast to
“Right” as though definition could implant itself somewhere between us &
equals sign – Forgive fallacy & find my clarity in neglecting Winter’s
first falling for hands in pockets & cold-like symptoms in wind, soft
brushing & blushing; I sought shelter & reviewed footage of the month-
later, noted ghosts keeping warm over your shoulder, play of light on
glass, connection therein to back roads, deft fingers scaling buttons,
unthinking drawing of covers over in gratitude & warm kiss, mouth
open, explaining light shifts or the serifs of signage so my half-smile
mirrors yours in the still-frames. I forgot you, et al, today in myself —
a place I don’t often reside, despite living in the general sense, &
realized the “where” in which you speak, solaced in sunlight, then
pressed firm with fingernails the edges of vinyl insisted between
fingertips in the deadzone of 11th Avenue. Habit’s rapidly falling away
into the gaps between these letters & the pure whites of calendar
boxes containing no names and single-word schedules: Work, Write,
Breathe, Forget, Begin, & perhaps Again; see, if the visual for this dwelt
amongst timelines & textbooks with self-affirming titles, you’d appear
as halfway point – 6 of 12 hashmarks or more Salome dancing than
gripping the scalp of the sanctified, this translating to insistence
of Change being the brand scarred in your wake, a ticket more
permanent than the bruises I originally predicted you’d wield for
weapons or placemarkers. If bottlecaps turned to coins I’d prob’ly
turn a damned profit & still only send the nonsense of ill-advised affection
to all, so I salute your tactics in spacing & wait for loud noises & lights
before ordering French toast or sifting the salt with the flour.

 

Kent Avenue followed me — from the year my mother arrived
through someone else’s life to gifting, forgetting, & the
walking away I’ll never be forgiven. To the now: the re-
discovery of dust, stuck-hammered U & W, first pure joy of
over a decade, find that address printed black across strips
sticky-white for mending errors, misgivings from moments taken
too quickly like curves of my home’s dirt roads, yes, it grabs again,
un-fingered gloves, hair carefully mussed to appear on just this side of
the apathy line. Kent Avenue, Don’t you have hipsters to haunt?
Some girls raiding Grandma’s closets for authentic eau d’mothball?
Why hunt me down in Cola-town, flannel shirt, jeans, make-up
streaked from trying to keep simplicity sacred? I don’t mean to
push away — Stopped fighting inevitables — but if you hope for the
alteration I anticipate, you’ll flee back to your comfort sooner,
tell Bedford of abuse, commiserate with Myrtle, DeKalb for lackings.
Any shiftings in me are according to pre-calculated paths. If your mission
stems from artist’s lips, please relay the following message:
I bought this sweater for want to crawl into yours, & I can’t stop
the smile referring to your awe of her curling into me; Images of spider
webs across a lake frozen long, unnoticed by most since a solid foot
allowed no soundwaves to carry, no ripples or subterranean shudders,
frosted-over sight of creators’ smiles upon “Hello”; Fingertips press hard,
too hard, to hold the cliched upperhand, please always, please never release
hands clutched to cloth worn thin over heads, please forget words passed
on from unknowing mouths never pressed present in this position — Darlin’,
you know best from just the one smeared waking; The violence of Good
Morning, no coffee, lack of winter, but a disregarding away nonetheless;
The violence of misinterpretation six inches, then 726 miles but wafer-wine-
like absolution in the shock of tone, pitch, adoration along satellite signals;
Assumed oblivion like plugged ear blindfold & ballad — Here, dear, understand
method & means simply — hold the pen, strike the key, & curse through any
word herein; Push needs Pull, but I could never handle both, so choose & leave
the minding, filling of gaps to me; If more of the same is what you seek,
the cookies will burn, the mess will fall to you; But please don’t forget to set
the butter on the counter before I arrive.

 
I happened into a playground one of five Autumn days
to find the ball sitting stagnant and wanting for warmth
of hands – seems you’ll set it down at any number of turns —
Rough play still isn’t my forte, so you don’t have to start at
this metaphor; I just find something aching in the Newton’s
Cradle we’ve grown into. You know he never hoped for any
like this, sheer gravity set him in motion, and why not us?
My approach was less-than-me, but so much more, now I
worry over every word like you’re prone to hide and seek
only if the seeking’s soon abandoned and you feel safe
in shadow. Your Peter Pan comfort isn’t equivalent to a
ceasefire. Reflection proves my overspillings, my insistence
you sip, my stop-to-trip-then-fall-because-that’s-physics!
be the “Yes”’s you gather, basket bearer. No shining silvers
nor capital-L’s for the empty in you – they tire, retire, and
leave lesser me’s lonelier. Yours produced my “I Know,”
offer up like palms forward, waving handkerchief tied to stick’s
end ((and you know sticks are hard to come by in Harlem)),
only to hit pavement for empty playground, you MIA, and
panic finally provides hedges, a hole, the ball resting quiet,
covered with a meticulous, almost woven layer of leaves,
another cut-&-bled prayer not to play, but I laugh warm
breaths in now-winter air, hoping they retain heat enough to
burn your cheek, for the irony’s on you: Code-talk’s tuckered
me out, darlin’ — I never told you to press on, just to say
aloud when you wanted to stop.

 

((apologies to anyone herein embarrassed. but i am a poet, so this statement silently precedes any of my works.))

I laugh through the 32 minutes, 9 seconds of
your sendings —  No, no! Laughter is resistance! You wore
a bubble right up ’til 1:49 into the intro, like the sticks and
c((h))ords covered inability, but you sing… distilled. My
smile draws question after question, unjustified, standing
on the platform between Down- and Uptown where neither
train opens doors, so we can’t even decipher the signs
identifying location. Don’t concern yourself, though, darlin’ —
my topography skills have improved and with most pastimes,
don’t we consider a master after 2 decades of practice? The
hatch door doesn’t lock, never did, so your dance with left
to distract from your spoon-scraping right would best be
transferred to other activity; Here, read this book, hold still
as best you can so your rail-straight spine can serve as easel
on which I’ll scribble my anti-anti slogans, just stop trying to
save yourself! Progress seems ionic when the shifts started so
small: A real-life “Can you spot the difference between these
pictures?” Oh, I know! Now he says “I won’t dick you over” before
sex! She wakes around three to feel his hand has shifted to cover
hers! He kisses her forehead, pulling her leg over him, and
“No, no. You’re fine. You’re fine. I think you’re fine.” The sun
isn’t warming, and I think it might be personal; I borrow
sweatshirt, cigarette, eyes rolled back & jewel of blood Jesus,
and wonder what happens in the sloughed-off six hours, peel
away a couple months, and the dotted line doesn’t fit you — trust
in my tailored instinct & this corduroy will cling in ((our)) no-time.
Dismantle, unclothe, sweat for love of subject, and be another
in line to bear honesty public better than private — I learned the
tactic at twelve and seem to select as such; See they tell us as
women that we habit beyond all else, that we should seek the
pattern of displeasure, and I’ve pinpointed a baker’s dozen,
solutionless, so I’d rather bake!, corner myself in any bar bearing
window seat, learn the  genus & species of wildflowers my grandmother
domesticates, anything other than find your fault. I want to coast,
watch your technique, and tether to that laugh, the rare one, head
fully back, trumpeting triumphant; No, there’s no cloth-hair
crevice here, thank G-d, just a night  I destroyed private property,
Leucanthemum vulgare, but managed one drink too many to keep
track of odd and even plucks, or steps on cobblestones, or minutes
passed in accidentally-interrupted family dinners, by which I mean
to say Sorry for direct command, but stop searching — two bumps
bent out and one in, dear, you’ll find no meaning in it.

Five deep and dreaming of foreign bays, watching
the energy in creatures so much smaller than me,
holding in palms crescent-bent the realization that
some lives dwell within the imaginary lines we
convince ourselves ((and others)) exist, that some
don’t, and clasp the strobe of blinking before
blowing it all away.

In 20-odd years of romanticizing, nothing’s
touched tonight’s degree of Holy: violas, geraniums,
some variety of bleeding heart; the creaking porch swing
and buzz of alcohol spilling through channels between
the soft solids of my brain; secret smiles while speaking
code to the outdoor ceiling: I sure have a way of pickin’
’em & Time doesn’t believe in “fair,” just insists on
wrong decisions and the loss of ideals.

He lacks a favorite color, lacks the want for
one, and commutes in the faith that big words
contain the option of becoming undefined;
the light overhead corresponds with crickets,
unexpected bridges mending, one meal’s toothpick at
a time, but remember, remember to insist that the waiter
seat us in the grand hall since the smoking section’s grown
useless amongst the un-dead, and ketchup, an ounce-
and-a-half of orange juice, onions twice the size of the home
fries taste so, so much finer over faux-marble.

I owe so many letters they must rival dollars these days,
the stink of “real life” demands attention! Somewhere
in the split of these words across my cerebellum, you
hand-over-fist more reality, curveball cracking my
standby “only you”‘s spitting whisper-like “You know
fidelity doesn’t mean a fucking thing to me, right?”

Despite my recent flirtations with becoming an off-Broadway-
and-145th actress to convince a solid, heavy line and space
so white on the other side of the couples’ ampersand, hours-
fermented lunch rises in my throat in the knowledge that you
are nothing if not a truth-teller, so you mean this more than I
meant refinishing bedside bank, all-caps scripting CHINA
across the face — Should’ve thought ahead; Should’ve saved
those pennies for the inside; Should’ve spent them on Berlin or
India alone.

Excuse the fall from diction’s grace, but you understand this is
two years ago again, right? In lieu of mortgage-
marriage, you opt for culture-coverage over the love you claim
to wilt without. Only now the scar of my lips rests on 89%
of your skin — please trust that medicine helps little, if at all,
in erasing them, so when you corner-cling to your local instrument
collection and hideholyhide to maintain your mind and long
for navel-tethered nights, probability dictates my tongue tripped
in argument — no, agreement with one who hates the East.

Well now, hold on
maybe I won’t go to sleep at all
and it’ll be a beautiful white night
or else I’ll collapse
completely from nerves and be calm
as a rug or a bottle of pills
or suddenly I’ll be off Montauk
swimming and loving it and not caring where

an invitation to lunch
HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT?
when I only have 16 cents and 2
packages of yoghurt
there’s a lesson in that, isn’t there
like in Chinese poetry when a leaf falls?
hold off on the yoghurt till the very
last, when everything may improve

at the Rond-Point they were eating
an oyster, but here
we were dropping by sculptures
and seeing some paintings
and the smasheroo-grates of Cadoret
and music by Varese, too
well Adolph Gottlieb I guess you
are the hero of this day
along with venison and Bill

I’ll sleep on the yoghurt and dream of the Persian Gulf

which I did it was wonderful
to be in bed again and the knock
on my door for once signified “hi there”
and on the deafening walk
through the ghettos where bombs have gone off lately
left by subway violators
I knew why I love taxis, yes
subways are only fun when you’re feeling sexy
and who feels sexy after The Blue Angel
well maybe a little bit

I seem to be defying fate, or am I avoiding it?

Like somehow I thought the paper bag adage true,
like somewhere I heard then believed that ash cleanses,
like sometime between Point A and Point A, I applied laws
of women like those of physics. Old songs sing of tying yellow ribbons,
a friend wrote red, but you and I, we shredded the orange, blue,
pink to bind branches, a somehow-New-Mexican sunset between
stone slab walls and subway stops. I don’t mean to lack culture, but
white wine’s always been better than the cello, and weeks passed,
weathering the colors to weary, much like you to me; I discovered that
steel + tile = a shattering, which is also the sum of a bum rushed
blueberry bagel raising and the unfaithful, so I unraveled, littering
the lawn like my floor the day I gifted 100 chocolate eggs – not even
Easter – wielding my “Most Attentive Not-Boyfriend Ever” trophy
before melting it down to mold armor in a war to ward off a dozen
less-than-worthies. See, the closed-hearted could label it failure,
my fallen face and bruised knuckles when you train-tracked to
destinations too far east for me to fathom, begged me to bite over
still-fresh bruises, and I promise I was the best at sharing in
kindergarten; I guess even the isolated is subject to society’s standard
of Normal containing Jealousy. I almost drowned in your pretty
words and five-dollar prosecco toasts to tree art, but to cliché
so deep my nostrils fill: I’ve heard plenty of sticks and stones and
always imagined them thrown. I’ve learned the best way to forget
want-to-hides is to crush them under rocks.

In the South, the traction of back roads accumulates,
buckets of sand, shovels, jawing into the wind & disconnect
from ringing, flashing. No technology accommodates for
resistance to change. My mother is reading a book about
proper funeral etiquette — a little after-the fact now that
four beers remind me of my heaviest doorway scenes; I guess
they’re equally great equalizers, the latter always including
a goodbye. You don’t believe in any of my themes: Family,
Escape, Love, but this gift speaks as your smile — Judas to
your well-lipped words, rock & roll and radio. The rips, the
wet-then-dried patch under your signature, the argument
of direction between the million small embellishments are
the scars you only showed well into your reckless drinking
and admissions that night we tricked everyone except each
other: the candle would’ve disappointed you, pulling back
layers of accessory to display frayed hems, proof that surety
was practiced before perfected. It’s still a lie, but you really do
love the play of light on certain curves of glass, leave me with
words like “Where I come from” and statistics of science:
My salted soil to your silver-stained halo print.