Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Dragon Voyage (2)


I don’t much recall how I got
into those rooms—at closing
time all doors are dark—though
waking seems in memory always
the same, bedside in rooms lost
in suburbs you know are out there
yet pray you’ll never see, and wouldn’t,
if only you stuck to your own life,
if you knew just how to turn
that heart of yours into a home.

Coming to in still-drunk degrees
I’d scan those random bedrooms of
those women who’d lost their way too:
The bed queen-sized with a heavy duvet
and a half-dozen pillows (where I
had just one). The other pieces
of a bedroom showed old veneer
—haulage from a bad divorce,
fag ends of once-hopeful store.

The room was always too warm,
the slowly waking day sealed
by thick curtains. The closets were
stuffed with a party girl’s Circean wares
(padded shoulders, spangles, belts,
boots); and on the walls
large dopey fans, or worse, those
awful ceramic masks, ghoul-
symbolons of lust’s carnival.

The clock radio played smooth
jazz or country songs, spooning up
sugared bliss and rue—as if true love
ever danced in the wounded light
of such remaindered days.
Dreadful, dreadful, those room-sized
riffs on longing, hurled from a
wholly opposite heart:

And all of it narrowing down
to the groaning figure who was always
reaching out to hit the snooze button,
her back to me, the naked curve
of a freckeled shoulder, ribs and hips
like the strange bay of an island
I had stumbled into from a bad sea.
Her face was always hidden by hair
and that too-early hour of awfulness.
One more fuck and I’d go go go.

Love is not lucky, but lust may be,
harboring for one night that clench
my dayside hands could never shape,
no more than I could stop drinking
once the first drink of the night got poured.
There was a terribly familiar shape
to it all as I tried again and again
to get it right, ending up back in
my own bed staring at the ceiling
cursing my name or worse, rising
from huge hungover beds not mine.

This morning I sit in my home at the
usual early hour as cold rains slowly
fall outside, remembering those polar
beds of a heart now settled in itself,
struggling forward in a marriage I worked
hard as hell to keep. What’s familiar here?
Everything. It must be, else that sad
wanderlust return, seeking those damned
distant empty rooms where no light enters
and everything in darkness burns.


BOOTY (2003)

What did I keep of her
all those lost or stolen nights
when she took me home
and bid me swim
her naked blue? Sights --
pale revealings and the
shock of sheer nature:
Beachside motions as
I pinned her and she
my mine, all curve and
wave and fatal crash:
Three words she
whispered just before
dawn which sank so low
in my ear I can’t repeat
them here, though all
I say is a toil and toll
and vintage of them.
I see those hours a
fraudulent, pale vicars
of a drowning faith
that nearly damn killed
me til I found a home
at last. Now I sometimes
wonder if the booty
I brought back was
just the darker
blue insides of my
own too-hot heart,
the part where she
always resided. There’s
a mirror she once
looked into lying on
an altar far below,
the portrait of a gaze
over my shoulder at
the love she could not
find that damned and
boozy night where
we both made off
with booty -- silver cups
we spilled so utterly
which still gleam
bluish white inside us,
visible only on moony
nights when the
sea we call the heart
is calmed to glass.



Dark life. Confused. Tormented,
incomprehensible and fabulously
rich and beautiful.
-- Tennessee Williams

Suddenly as he peered down
and down into its depths, he
profoundly saw a white living
spot no bigger than a white
weasel, with wonderful celerity
rising, and magnifying as it
rose, till it turned, and then
there were plainly revealed
two long crooked rows of white,
glistening teeth, floating up
From the undiscoverable bottom.
-- Melville, “Moby Dick”

Huge wood I can neither
resist nor enter. Danger
and wrong the petals
of a heavy blue orchid.
My breakage an artery
hurling toward your breasts.
Elusive verb radiating nouns
like scent. Milky hour of
beachside enactment leading
to death & that float
in blue waters of we.
Ink which disappears
the closer I get to writing
the actual bed. Itch and fever
of the violate child. My war
with the gods of no and without.
Summer afternoons
which build and slake are
still distant; for now, this
high heat which has too
much pressure, like bright
balls clanging against
off every pendulate roll,
heave, sashay. All of it zipped
yet pent, waiting,
plotting, grinding teeth
as the day groins on.
Most difficult angel, You
belong most to the God
inside these raw words. The
poem about sex is a water
horse at noon: the fleet
shade of shadows narrowed
to that hour’s high drone.
A roar like a wave like
a wound like a man
at his meat, grilling over
an unrepentent fire
burning everywhere at once.
A door opens, the blue
mystery resumes
as I tumble down and down
what’s under the heart,
the sky, the summer,
the page, one fin to write
with and endless teeth below.



Tired of his dark dominion . ..
George Meredith

It was something I’d overheard
One evening at a party; a man I liked enormously
Saying to a mutual friend, a woman
Wearing a vest embroidered with scarlet and violet tulips
That belled below each breast, “Well, I’ve always
Preferred Athens; Greece seems to me a country
Of the day—Rome, I’m afraid, strikes me
As being a city of the night . . . “
Of course, I knew instantly just what he meant
Not simply because I love
Standing on the terrace of my apartment on a clear evening
As the constellations pulse low in the Roman sky,
The whole mind of night that I know so well
Shimmering in its elaborate webs of infinite,
Almost divine irony. No, and it wasn’t only that Rome
Was my city of the night, that it was here I’d chosen
To live when I grew tired of,my ancient life
As the Underground Man. And it wasn’t that Rome’s darkness
Was of the kind that consoles so many
Vacancies of the soul; my Rome, with its endless history
Of falls . . . No, it was that this dark was the deep, sensual dark
Of the dreamer; this dark was like the violet fur
Spread to reveal the illuminated nipples of
The She-Wolf all the sequins above in sequence,
The white buds lost in those fields of ever-deepening gentians
A dark like the polished back of a mirror,
The pool of the night scalloped and hanging
Above me, the inverted reflection of a last,
Odd Narcissus . . .
One night my friend Nico came by
Close to three A.M. - As we drank a little wine, I could see
The black of her pupils blown wide,
The spread ripples of the opiate night . . . And Nico
Pulled herself close to me, her mouth almost
Touching my mouth, as she sighed, “Look . . . ,”
And deep within the pupil of her left eye,
Almost like the mirage of a ship’s distant, hanging
Lantern rocking with the waves,
I could see, at the most remote end of the receding,
Circular hallway of her eye, there, at its doorway,
At the small aperture of the black telescope of the pupil,
A tiny, dangling crucifix
Silver, lit by the ragged shards of starlight, reflecting
In her as quietly as pain, as simply as pain . . .
Some years later, I saw Nico on stage in New York, singing
Inside loosed sheets of shattered light, a fluid
Kaleidoscope washing over her the way any naked,
Emerging Venus steps up along the scalloped lip
Of her shell, innocent and raw as fate, slowly
Obscured by a florescence that reveals her simple, deadly
Love of sexual sincerity . . . I didn’t bother to say hello. I decided to remember
The way in Rome, out driving at night, she’d laugh as she let
Her head fall back against the cracked, red leather
Of my old Lancia’s seats, the soft black wind
Fanning her pale, chalky hair out along its currents,
Ivory waves of starlight breaking above us in the leaves;
The sad, lucent malevolence of the heavens, falling . . .
Both of us racing silently as light. Nowhere,
Then forever . . .
Into the mind of the Roman night.



for Linda G.

I am piled up so high
in your walk, I
slide down a chute of years.

Touch me, mountains
rise, & the pleasure
tears us into a song.

Quicksilver skies, these bird
over the Four Corners
down through Gallop & Wandering Rock

catch fire in clouds.
No god tells them
different. No hand

disclaims our closing
distance, as doors open
under the sea.


VAMPYRE (2003)

On cold mornings as this
I recall the vampyre
who folded me in his
black so red cape
during those hard winter
months of my worst
carousals. He picked
me off as his own
and sported me me
like some backassed Virgil
through the blasted
dead precincts of
infernal desire. Outside
it was bars at closing time,
dreary parties at some
wastrel’s duplex in
a forgotten suburb,
the bottle clubs at 4 a.m.
with their disco whirl
of wolves and waifs.
Under or inside all
that was a bitterly cold
nightscape in its
most feral remove, like
living on the moon,
or working at the bottom
of the sea, or roaming
frozen steppes miles from
the nearest farm. Wrapped
in his red caul of utter
wrong made god I fell
down my ravening’s ravine
on wings of black delight,
my vision narrowed to
a single blurred impulse,
the flash of ass in
the murk far below
like a tunny in the wake
or a neon sign in
a bar window at the
far end of the last street.
He was humming absently
in my ear a vacant,
droning air, repeating
draught for draught
all the thirst housed
down a bottomless well.
His face was smooth
and pale as ogham-stone,
a death-mask forged
in my own image
when I stared into the
mirror behind the bar
and saw a king of
nothing there. Only
the eyes showed life --
Owlish orca-eyes,
lidded and burning
inside polar ice as
they scanned the regions
below like whizzing
arrows of an opportunity
it is death or worse to
greet: old eyes too,
eternally tired, haunted
by a root insomnia
to shadow every
dark impulse from
damning dark to
doomed red dawn.
His breath stank of
sour mash and cunt
and the vomitus of
a sea-lion's heart: Desire
may be holy, but
greed is its marauding
Dane, cleaving the
abbot’s head, nailing
all the nuns, burning
the rectory and sailing
off with sacks of booty
(silver chalices stained
with blood, jeweled
reliquaries dumped of
grey bone fragments
at the last departing shore.
Mine all mine, that
foul breath saws, in and
out like the metronome
of a missing pulse, like
a blueblack blickering
tide. And the fangs!
Let’s just say that they
were spread behind
my worst blackout falls
in the dead of that
last winter of my drinking,
the angels of longing
and satiation standing
at the gates of every
3 a.m. to haul me
down again into that
cold maw where I’d lost
again, lost it all. Again
and again, night after
night, I died trying
to wing an imp
to the heart of a heat
I could not legitimately
fashion, much less bleed,
ruled as I was by that
outward motion that
makes of love cold ocean
and high winds the wings
by which I fanned
a berserker’s suburban
rage. I travelled way
way out there all alone
to pick a fight with
a vampire’s sippy bone.
Fool -- and yet that
passage wound me here
on this first cold morning
of what we call winter
in these sub-tropics,
a blanket on my lap
and surrounded by a
house fully home at last.
A cop car rolls
up the street with
a searchlight fanning
bushes and nooks
-- they’ll never find him
lurking there. He’s
somewhere overhead,
up in the branches
of a burning oak, spreading
wide his wings to a
late November moon,
drying all the blood,
warm for fading seconds,
eyes all the bad ends
my life could dissolve to.
His owl-eyes are big
as plates, as altars,
as moons. Cold as
he knows it bladed thirst
for pale warm necks
which pierce like wurst.
Such cold is in the pyre
of that that vamp
who angels my old nights,
a cold which one is wise
to fight with a real life
-- cross your heart
and pray it rise
with the next day’s sun.



An appalling sweetness
slipped into view
when I lost the last
wet curvature of you:

Well, “lost” is landfill
for all tossed verbs,
numens of that last kiss
trucked from dead suburbs.

Atop that dread mound
an eerie twattage glows
as ghoul cockage choirs
in solemn, bony rows.

That chorus sings to me
the beat-to-hell old news
that I’ll not find her again
not even in rear views.

Who knows why forsaking
me was for her so easy,
why she drained the glass;
Or why her sleazy

voidings like a vacuum
in me yet clench,
a vertigo in all makings
with a familiar stench,

deigned to rule a wold
of cold and moony nights
with thorn plecturings of
strings no longer white,

their amperage sucked dry.
What’s horniness if it
douses not in fire
but bone-dry recit,

unbuttoning not blouses
but stone lips of banshee
rue—burning wicker men
because some dame decreed

my hands anon away?
Who wants to fornicate
unnippled sprites of ire?
Let’s banish hope, excoriate

the lust: debone the ghoul
who haunts the ossuary
of every stiffie lost:
let’s remit the actuary

before tits up it tanks.
She rose up from a wave
of breaking blue joy;
and then without a wave

she disappeared, willing me
this stale and sour undertow.
I’ll not find her on this
beach again: It’s time go:

Time to rearrange
into less salty, surer show:
time for bright diurnals
where fresher boners grow

beneath the fertile loam
of an untroubled sleep.
I’ll plunge on alone now
on waters twice as deep,

ghost-captain of a boat
destined for dryer shores,
calmer nights, no matter
how she always gores.


CORDAGE (2002)

At first it was just a small lie,
fitted like a joist into a gripe
over how little you get paid
for all you do. I threw the first stiff
in a ditch — who needs dead
old grandma anyway?— and
sent back to the funeral home
an urn filled with cement and
potting soil. After all, human
cremains are just dust,
silt-grey silage of all other ends;
besides, I needed the 50 bucks
for rent. Soon the money became
a form of income, and so my crimes
became the day’s routine,
stacking bodies like cordage
where I could, in ditches
and in vales, rigor upon rigor
heaped with lime so I could
fill my cupboards with Cheerios,
Jack Daniels and potted meat.
One week I swaled seven bodies
in a row beneath the clothesline
so I could buy my Mary Lou
an engagement ring from the pawnshop—
small gold, smaller stone— and oh
how gratefully she smothered
me in her love that night!
I guess that sealed my deal
with the lying devil.
I sent back my baggies
of God’s saltpetre
with my condolences,
ringing up the till and pocketing
the stiffs every which
way out of sight. You know,
it takes a skill to hide
six feet of bone: I made
of it an art. I furrowed ancient
farmer types to labor under
the field and dropped prodigal
sons like tears just beyond the fence.
Sixteen wives I arranged like petals
round the ruins of a homestead
a half-mile toward the swamp.
I never thought much about
the families who received
my purses of dim dust; dead is dead,
I reasoned. I sent off Mary Lou
when she started complaining
of the sewer smell that seemed
to rise from the grounds.
Marriage, hell! My bride
was veiled in dirt, a good woman
who asked no questions
after dark when the whole acreage
hovered in a greeny glow.
Still, it took a lot of Jack
to drown those tiny voices
which mewled sadly at the window
just below the crickets and frogs.
It took a pint, then a fifth, then two
a night to erase the vapid litanies
of homeless daughters and sons,
husbands, wives, the occasional parent
too. Believe me, the chorus at 3 a.m.
at the Groveland Crematorium
would appall the devil himself.
Well I got sloppy, eventually,
or maybe just went nuts.
I started stuffing corpses
helter-skelter where I could,
in the toolshed, beneath the trailer,
even in the bed of my truck.
Ten years, fifteen. I should have
hung a No Vacancy
sign beneath my official one:
my small lie had become
an empire bursting at its seams.
Finally it happened, someone
must have wakened in the night
to wonder what was really
in the urn on the mantle,
and was nuts enough to
call the cops. They didn’t
have far to go to find the first one:
A finger was crooked above the dirt
by the mailbox, welcoming the
two deputies in. I’m in jail now.
I can almost hear their spades
pawing up that bounty of finds:
five, two dozen, fifty-three, one twenty,
the bone racks come up like
prices in an old cash register—
ka-ching!— ringing up
the same lie again and again.
Just call me the Enron of the dead,
a middle-man profiteer
who peddled in old ashes
and pocketed all the gold.
The suits in Houston will never pay,
nor will I: Convene your hand-wringing
committees, line the litigants against the wall.
What can they convict me of
that I haven’t already heard
from a rabble of skulls?
See how I fashion a noose
from these bedsheets—there’s
always a loophole in this business of life.
As sure as sin, I’ll swing from them all.


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