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The Addict


I try

to kill myself in small amounts,

an innocuous occupation.

Actually I'm hung up on it.

But remember I don't make too much noise.

And frankly no one has to lug me out

and I don't stand there in my winding sheet.

I'm a little buttercup in my yellow nightie

eating my eight loaves in a row

and in a certain order as in

the laying on of hands

or the black sacrament.

It's a ceremony

but like any other sport

it's full of rules.

It's like a musical tennis match where

my mouth keeps catching the ball.

Then I lie on; my altar

elevated by the eight chemical kisses.

What a lay me down this is

with two pink, two orange,

two green, two white goodnights.


Now I'm borrowed.

Now I'm numb.

Wanting to Die

Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the almost unnameable lust returns.

Even then I have nothing against life.
I know well the grass blades you mention,
the furniture you have placed under the sun.

But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know  which tools.
They never ask  why build.

Twice I have so simply declared myself,
have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,
have taken on his craft, his magic.

In this way, heavy and thoughtful,
warmer than oil or water,
I have rested, drooling at the mouth-hole.

I did not think of my body at needle point.
Even the cornea and the leftover urine were gone.
Suicides have already betrayed the body.

Still-born, they don't always die,
but dazzled, they can't forget a drug so sweet
that even children would look on and smile.

To thrust all that life under your tongue!--
that, all by itself, becomes a passion.
Death's a sad Bone; bruised, you'd say,

and yet she waits for me, year after year,
to so delicately undo an old wound,
to empty my breath from its bad prison.

Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,
raging at the fruit, a pumped-up moon,
leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,

leaving the page of the book carelessly open,
something unsaid, the phone off the hook
and the love, whatever it was, an infection.

Eighteen Days without you

December 4th

And where did we meet?

Was it in London on Carnaby Street?

Was it in Paris on the Left Bank?

That there that I can thank?

No. It was Harvard Square

at the kiosk with both of us crying.

I can thank that there –

the day Jack Kennedy was dying.

And an hour later he was dead.

The brains fell out of his dazzling head.

And we cried and drank our whiskey straight

and the world remembers the date, the date.

And we both wrote poems we couldn’t write

and cried together the whole long night

and fell in love with a delicate breath

on the eve that great men call for death.

December 11th

Then I think of you in bed,

your tongue half chocolate, half ocean,

of the houses that you swing into,

of the steel wool hair on your head,

of your persistent hands and then

how we gnaw at the barrier because we are two.

How you come and take my blood cup

and link me together and take my brine.

We are bare. We are stripped to the bone

and we swim in tandem and go up and up

the river, the identical river called Mine

and we enter together. No one’s alone.

December 15th

The day of the lonely drunk

is here. No weather reports,

no fox, no birds, no sweet chipmunks,

no sofa game, no summer resorts.

No whatever it was we had,

no sky, no month- just booze.

The half moon is acid, bitter sad

as I sing the Blended Whiskey Blues.

With Mercy for the Greedy

For my friend, Ruth, who urges me to make an appointment for the Sacrament of Confession

Concerning your letter in which you ask

me to call a priest and in which you ask

me to wear The Cross that you enclose;

your own cross,

your dog-bitten cross,

no larger than a thumb,

small and wooden, no thorns, this rose—

I pray to its shadow,

that gray place

where it lies on your letter ... deep, deep.

I detest my sins and I try to believe

in The Cross. I touch its tender hips, its dark jawed face,

its solid neck, its brown sleep.
True. There is

a beautiful Jesus.

He is frozen to his bones like a chunk of beef.

How desperately he wanted to pull his arms in!

How desperately I touch his vertical and horizontal axes!

But I can’t. Need is not quite belief.

All morning long

I have worn

your cross, hung with package string around my throat.

It tapped me lightly as a child’s heart might,

tapping secondhand, softly waiting to be born.

Ruth, I cherish the letter you wrote.

My friend, my friend, I was born

doing reference work in sin, and born

confessing it. This is what poems are:

with mercy

for the greedy,

they are the tongue’s wrangle,

the world's pottage, the rat's star.

The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator

The end of the affair is always death.

She’s my workshop. Slippery eye,

out of the tribe of myself my breath

finds you gone. I horrify

those who stand by. I am fed.

At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Finger to finger, now she’s mine.

She’s not too far. She’s my encounter.

I beat her like a bell. I recline

in the bower where you used to mount her.

You borrowed me on the flowered spread.

At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Take for instance this night, my love,

that every single couple puts together

with a joint overturning, beneath, above,

the abundant two on sponge and feather,

kneeling and pushing, head to head.

At night alone, I marry the bed.

I break out of my body this way,

an annoying miracle. Could I

put the dream market on display?

I am spread out. I crucify.

My little plum is what you said.

At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Then my black-eyed rival came.

The lady of water, rising on the beach,

a piano at her fingertips, shame

on her lips and a flute’s speech.

And I was the knock-kneed broom instead.

At night, alone, I marry the bed.

She took you the way a woman takes

a bargain dress off the rack

and I broke the way a stone breaks.

I give back your books and fishing tack.

Today’s paper says that you are wed.

At night, alone, I marry the bed.

The boys and girls are one tonight.

They unbutton blouses. They unzip flies.

They take off shoes. They turn off the light.

The glimmering creatures are full of lies.

They are eating each other. They are overfed.

At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Her Kind

I have gone out, a possessed witch,

haunting the black air, braver at night;

dreaming evil, I have done my hitch

over the plain houses, light by light:

lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.

A woman like that is not a woman, quite.

I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,

filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,

closets, silks, innumerable goods;

fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:

whining, rearranging the disaligned.

A woman like that is misunderstood.

I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,

waved my nude arms at villages going by,

learning the last bright routes, survivor

where your flames still bite my thigh

and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.

A woman like that is not ashamed to die.

I have been her kind.

Consorting With Angels

I was tired of being a woman,

tired of the spoons and the post,

tired of my mouth and my breasts,

tired of the cosmetics and the silks.

There were still men who sat at my table,

circled around the bowl I offered up.

The bowl was filled with purple grapes

and the flies hovered in for the scent

and even my father came with his white bone.

But I was tired of the gender things.

Last night I had a dream

and I said to it...

'You are the answer.

You will outlive my husband and my father.'

In that dream there was a city made of chains

where Joan was put to death in man's clothes

and the nature of the angels went unexplained,

no two made in the same species,

one with a nose, one with an ear in its hand,

one chewing a star and recording its orbit,

each one like a poem obeying itself,

performing God's functions,

a people apart.

'You are the answer, '

I said, and entered,

lying down on the gates of the city.

Then the chains were fastened around me

and I lost my common gender and my final aspect.

Adam was on the left of me

and Eve was on the right of me,

both thoroughly inconsistent with the world of reason.

We wove our arms together

and rode under the sun.

I was not a woman anymore,

not one thing or the other.

O daughters of Jerusalem,

the king has brought me into his chamber.

I am black and I am beautiful.

I've been opened and undressed.

I have no arms or legs.

I'm all one skin like a fish.

I'm no more a woman

than Christ was a man.

For My Lover, Returning To His Wife

She is all there.

She was melted carefully down for you

and cast up from your childhood,

cast up from your one hundred favorite aggies.

She has always been there, my darling.

She is, in fact, exquisite.

Fireworks in the dull middle of February

and as real as a cast-iron pot.

Let's face it, I have been momentary.

A luxury. A bright red sloop in the harbor.

My hair rising like smoke from the car window.

Littleneck clams out of season.

She is more than that. She is your have to have,

has grown you your practical your tropical growth.

This is not an experiment. She is all harmony.

She sees to oars and oarlocks for the dinghy,

has placed wild flowers at the window at breakfast,

sat by the potter's wheel at midday,

set forth three children under the moon,

three cherubs drawn by Michelangelo,

done this with her legs spread out

in the terrible months in the chapel.

If you glance up, the children are there

like delicate balloons resting on the ceiling.

She has also carried each one down the hall

after supper, their heads privately bent,

two legs protesting, person to person,

her face flushed with a song and their little sleep.

I give you back your heart.

I give you permission -

for the fuse inside her, throbbing

angrily in the dirt, for the bitch in her

and the burying of her wound -

for the burying of her small red wound alive -

for the pale flickering flare under her ribs,

for the drunken sailor who waits in her left pulse,

for the mother's knee, for the stocking,

for the garter belt, for the call -

the curious call

when you will burrow in arms and breasts

and tug at the orange ribbon in her hair

and answer the call, the curious call.

She is so naked and singular

She is the sum of yourself and your dream.

Climb her like a monument, step after step.

She is solid.

As for me, I am a watercolor.

I wash off.

Aan mijn minnaar die terugkeert naar zijn vrouw

Ze is er helemaal.

Ze was voorzichtig voor jou gesmolten

en aangespoeld uit je jeugd,

aangespoeld uit je honderd favoriete studentes.
Ze is er altijd geweest, liefste.

In feite is ze verrukkelijk.

Vuurwerk in het saaie half-februari

en zo echt als een gietijzeren pot.

Laten we eerlijk zijn: ik was maar tijdelijk.

Een luxe. Een heldere rode sloep in de haven.

Mijn haar wuift als rook uit het autoraam.

Venusschelpjes buiten seizoen.

Zij is meer dan dat. Zij is wie je hebben moet,

ze heeft je praktische je tropische groei ontwikkeld.

Dit is geen experiment. Ze is één en al harmonie.

Ze let op roeiriemen en dollen van het bootje,

heeft wilde bloemen bij het raam gezet bij ‘t ontbijt,

zat bij het pottenbakkerswiel ‘s middags,

heeft drie kinderen voortgebracht in dit ondermaanse,

drie engeltjes getekend door Michelangelo,

dit alles gedaan met haar benen wijd open

tijdens de vreselijke maanden in de Kapel (1).

Als je je ogen omhoog slaat, zijn de kinderen daar

als tere ballonnen rustend aan het plafond.

Ze heeft ook elk van hen door de hal gedragen

na het avondmaal, hun hoofden intiem gebogen,
twee protesterende benen, mens tot mens,

haar gezicht uitgelaten van het zingen en hun kleine slaap.
Ik geef je je hart terug.
Ik geef je de toestemming -

om in haar te gaan, kwaad

bonkend in het vuil, om de teef in haar

en het begraven van haar wonde -

om het levend begraven van haar kleine rode wonde -

om het bleke, flikkerende licht onder haar ribben,

om de dronken zeeman die wacht in haar linker polsslag,

om de moedersknie, om de kous,

om de jarretelle, om de roep -
de vreemde roep

als je je zal nestelen in borsten en armen

en rukt aan het oranje lint in heur haar

en de roep beantwoordt, de vreemde roep.
Ze is zo naakt en bijzonder

Ze is de som van jezelf en je droom.

Bestijg haar als een monument, stap voor stap.

Ze is sterk.

Wat mezelf betreft, ik ben waterverf.

Ik ben afwasbaar (2).

(1) verwijzing naar de Sixtijnse Kapel

(2) verwijzing naar de Bijbel : « zijn zonden afwassen »


The Expatriates

My dear, it was a moment

to clutch at for a moment

so that you may believe in it

and believing is the act of love, I think,

even in the telling, wherever it went.

In the false New England forest

where the misplanted Norwegian trees

refused to root, their thick synthetic

roots barging out of the dirt to work on the air,

we held hands and walked on our knees.

Actually, there was no one there.

For forty years this experimental

woodland grew, shaft by shaft in perfect rows

where its stub branches held and its spokes fell.

It was a place of parallel trees, their lives

filed out in exile where we walked too alien to know

our sameness and how our sameness survives.

Outside of us the village cars followed

the white line we had carefully walked

two nights before toward our single beds.

We lay halfway up an ugly hill and if we fell

it was here in the woods where the woods were caught

in their dying and you held me well.

And now I must dream the forest whole

and your sweet hands, not once as frozen

as those stopped trees, nor ruled, nor pale,

nor leaving mine. Today, in my house, I see

our house, its pillars a dim basement of men

holding up their foreign ground for you and me.

My dear, it was a time,

butchered from time

that we must tell of quickly

before we lose the sound of our own

mouths calling mine, mine, mine.

The Truth the Dead Know

For my Mother, born March 1902, died March 1959

and my Father, born February 1900, died June 1959

Gone, I say and walk from church,

refusing the stiff procession to the grave,

letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.

It is June. I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape. I cultivate

myself where the sun gutters from the sky,

where the sea swings in like an iron gate

and we touch. In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones

from the whitehearted water and when we touch

we enter touch entirely. No one's alone.

Men kill for this, or for as much.

The Abortion

Somebody who should have been born
is gone.

Just as the earth puckered its mouth,
each bud puffing out from its knot,
I changed my shoes, and then drove south.

Up past the Blue Mountains, where
Pennsylvania humps on endlessly,
wearing, like a crayoned cat, its green hair,

its roads sunken in like a gray washboard;
where, in truth, the ground cracks evilly,
a dark socket from which the coal has poured,

Somebody who should have been born
is gone.

the grass as bristly and stout as chives,
and me wondering when the ground would break,
and me wondering how anything fragile survives;

up in Pennsylvania, I met a little man,
not Rumpelstiltskin, at all, at all…
he took the fullness that love began.

Returning north, even the sky grew thin
like a high window looking nowhere.
The road was as flat as a sheet of tin.

Somebody who should have been born
is gone.

Yes, woman, such logic will lead
to loss without death. Or say what you meant,
you coward…this baby that I bleed.

45 Mercy Street

In my dream,

drilling into the marrow

of my entire bone,

my real dream,

I’m walking up and down Beacon Hill

searching for a street sign –


Not there.

I try the Back Bay.

Not there.

Not there.

And yet I know the number.

45 Mercy Street.

I know the stained-glass window

of the foyer,

the three flights of the house

with its parquet floors.

I know the furniture and

mother, grandmother, great-grandmother,

the servants.

I know the cupboard of Spode

the boat of ice, solid silver,

where the butter sits in neat squares

like strange giant’s teeth

on the big mahogany table.

I know it well.

Not there.

Where did you go?

45 Mercy Street,

with great-grandmother

kneeling in her whale-bone corset

and praying gently but fiercely

to the wash basin,

at five A.M.

at noon

dozing in her wiggy rocker,

grandfather taking a nap in the pantry,

grandmother pushing the bell for the downstairs maid,

and Nana rocking Mother with an oversized flower

on her forehead to cover the curl

of when she was good and when she was…

And where she was begat

and in a generation

the third she will beget,


with the stranger’s seed blooming

into the flower called Horrid.

I walk in a yellow dress

and a white pocketbook stuffed with cigarettes,

enough pills, my wallet, my keys,

and being twenty-eight, or is it forty-five?

I walk. I walk.

I hold matches at street signs

for it is dark,

as dark as the leathery dead

and I have lost my green Ford,

my house in the suburbs,

two little kids

sucked up like pollen by the bee in me

and a husband

who has wiped off his eyes

in order not to see my inside out

and I am walking and looking

and this is no dream

just my oily life

where the people are alibis

and the street is unfindable for an

entire lifetime.

Pull the shades down –

I don’t care!

Bolt the door, mercy,

erase the number,

rip down the street sign,

what can it matter,

what can it matter to this cheapskate

who wants to own the past

that went out on a dead ship

and left me only with paper?

Not there.

I open my pocketbook,

as women do,

and fish swim back and forth

between the dollars and the lipstick.

I pick them out,

one by one

and throw them at the street signs,

and shoot my pocketbook

into the Charles River.

Next I pull the dream off

and slam into the cement wall

of the clumsy calendar

I live in,

my life,

and its hauled up