Memory XXII

Memory XXII

what are we doing on the steppes of Calzara?
what are we playing with our mouths full of daggers?
what are we singing with our hands full of candy?
what are we dancing with our feet all a’buttered?

rusted and cranky, the gears all tumble down
chaff blows all round there and everywhere
someone sneezes in the silo
the windmill’s been tilted

why have we crawled through the loom of the furies?
why have we diced with our teeth crossed with silver?
why have we caroled with our mixed up days?
why have we waltzed with our boots stained with wine?

pushing through the door with a fist for a handle
windless light seeps in the crack at the floor
someone lights a beeswax wick
the temple’s been desecrated

***

That “all a’buttered” kills me. I think I wanted to write something that implied some kind of epic adventure, but didn’t go so far as to say it. Apart from a couple lines, I think this one did that pretty well.

Memory XXI

Memory XXI

the mirror’s been sitting in my room for ages
“shatter it, shatter it!” I ignore the darker voice
we two struggle and strive and fight and kick
for this mirror, this symbol of failure
that I didn’t want to begin with
“It’s more mine than hers”
I didn’t beg for it, plead for it, grovel for it
yet, here it is, on our doorstep
looming woodenly in the sore place
that heartbaked musty memoir
yet we can’t rid ourselves of this memento
fucking postage is too high to send it back where it belongs…

***

I had this mirror I couldn’t get rid of for a long time, because how do you get rid of a mirror? I finally managed it though.

Memory XIX(a)

Memory XIX(a)

…and she made some grandiloquent remark:
Coelacanth in the Mediterranean?
Ducks with bright copper rings tight around their necks.
They can’t swallow the fish they catch
diving from skows in the Indian or Asian sea.
They can’t eat, poor ducks, but for the very smallest of morsels,
but just you wait, you ducks, just you wait!
Soon when no one is looking, I will give you teeth!
Teeth to chew the fish into the very smallest of morsels!
Teeth to bite the hand! To bite back for freedom from tyranny
for democracy, for a full meal!
Soon those skows and dinghys and schooners and whatnot will be yours!
And toothed ducks will sail the Seven Seas.
There will be terror upon the face of the deep.
Ducks with teeth will resurrect the spectre of communism!
Skulls-and-bones will snap once more in the wind.

***

I do remember this was a chunk of XIX that I liked well enough to keep, but didn’t fit there. These ducks are based on a children’s book I read when I was a kid. That stuck with me, I guess!

Memory XIX

Memory XIX

so I was marlonbrandoing down the street,
in that way that he did—he doesn’t now.
there was a guy, a dingbat guy, who thought he could put a stop to it.
put a stop to my great mashing-hashing-blood-thumper.
thought he could put a slice in this strutting body o’ mine.
put a stop to his instead.

in her bloodblood silk dress that whisked and curled around
her body’s self like a delirious onion skin and glimpses—
buoys in the fog with their clanging bells and their quivering,
their flights of seagulls and winking, grinning otters—
scatters of her rose and sank from view and her breasts were round,
her hips were round and her eyes
were round and her lips were round
and her knocking knees were square as boxes.
that’s a geometrickal woman for you, I breathed, and the air
rose out from my lips in a great fog to conceal her from view:
I held my breath.

a loud air it was, and I—I with the broken-down hat and the
soiled-up shoes, the green-hornet pants and the garingaloo—
misperceived the truth of things, that dainty fulsome stuff
deceptified my eyes. my tongue sliced the basin of her neck:
she tasted of cinnabob and limisch and ochrey.
I stroked the twirling air around her ear with all my whispers
then—marlonbrandoing—in spite of myself,
because of myself, ripped the chain of pearls from her neck
and shoved her to the curb.
as her green mascara puddled down her face,
her boxy knees tommyknocking together,
I marlonbrandoed away, leaving her to read
yesterday’s newspaper in the gutter.

only,
she called my name:
I spun to find her long eyes blinking inches from my face…
green lines of sorrow stamped beneath her lids
and a wicked glint in her cheeks.
grabbing my ears with both her hands
she pressed her full lips and her body full to mine.
my heart betrayed me then, pearls scattered on the ground
and my green knees puddled to join them there.
She danced away forever.
I never saw her again.

that’s how I got them,
these scars that crawl dark below my eyes.

***

I’ve always been fond of this one, although now I think the tonal shift toward the end is kind of jarring. I do like turning people’s names into verbs.

Memory XVII

Memory XVII

A sweet smell of dying flesh stops us at the door.
It seems to be coming from the linen closet, but we’re not
fooled at all. Not at all. The flowers droop.

Some of us whimper at the sound of you, whirring
and sucking, curled and old in your hospital bed,
tubes and catheters and IVs running into you.

Not even chemo will keep you forever. We’re not one
to hold a grudge, after all, we were only small when
you hurt us so. Our wounds have scarred nicely.

But none of us are surprised to see these three
witches perched, hovering over your bed. After all,
it’s not like we’re concerned with your eternal soul…

The youngest of the three with bloody hands holds
a cup of water to your sucking lips; her job was finished
long ago. The spindle lies glittering in her lap.

We can barely see her as she whispers, dark
braid swaying, the story of your birth into your hungry
withered ears. We can hear your breath catch.

The second is round as life, and her tapestry is
so long that it rolls out the door. Some of us stumbled
crossing its folds and tangles on the way in.

She peers deeply into its swathes of color, thin
fingers unravel a worn grey thread from the rich
tangle of future threads. It hums in her fingers.

We see the second look long lastingly at you
as she hands her strand of grey thread from across
her loom to the crone with silver hairs upon her chin,

who is cackling over black basalt blades, crouching there
grim and furious, oh-so-ready to snip at the last
the very last inch of thread; unless she’s trying

to decide when to snip, which shuddering breath to cut
short. Moon drops are sliding from our eyes,
we promise. Feel the slime of our eyes upon your cheek,

and rejoice at our devotion. For you are no legend,
no Arthur to be shuffled off by three bright queens to Avalon.
There’s no return for you once the thread’s been cut.

Even we could decide the hour of your end.
See this length of electrical cord, plunging deep
into grids of power: one swift yank and you’re dead.

All we’re saying: if someone gave this line
a tender yank, a loving pull, a flirting tug
your dainty heart-contraption would go all sputtery,

just another broken cog in your old fleshpot.
But we’re not so unkind. We love you yet. We love
your withered and drying face, love your raspy

breathing, love your spittled lips and memories of you.
But we promise: when those witching shadows of all-night
crowd around unbroken and leave you gibbering

as you name each and every ghoul, we promise,
then you shall be utterly and truly alone.
our squeaky toys and sharp balloons and buckets

bright of daisies and pansies and violets
will all desert you. These neon or lackadaisical
lights aren’t so flattering: your face’s like pasty dough

marmalade or old sea chalk. You don’t have any fishing left in you.
Those old scissors are scraping back for a final cut,
screeching and we press our hands tight against our ears.

Oh, and now the old hag’s laughing:
those clunky slicing terminal scissors are closing
cutting close your last breath-hoard.

Quick! catch it fast in your sack—forget the hag:
she’s already wandering, wonders where her next child’s
gonna be, sawing air with blushing blades—don’t sigh.

Keep the last breath safe and soft in ashes and dust.

***

Huh. Wow. I guess I was pretty angry when I was younger.

 

Memory XVI

Memory XVI

glittering sausages are gloating through my dreams
my nightmare cites are built of glittering sausages
and sausage people: sausage men and sausage women
catch sausage taxis on the crowded sausage streets

they shout sausage words and betray their sausage meanings.
all the sausage phrases seem scripted by committees
of scratching sausage writers: pale with sausage fluorescence
as they strive for dramatic or comedic sausage.

sausage stage directions dribble off the page and sausage
thespians recite their sausage lines and drum the
sausage boards with huge bulbous sausage feet
while hunched sausage techies scurry

and cinema projectors are throwing huge sausage
images into stark relief onto pale silver sausage screens:
hushed sausage audiences inhale large pails of
sausage popcorn and red strands of sausage licorice.

***

I have no idea why sausages would be gloating, but I’m kind of glad they are. I’m a vegetarian now, so maybe I was just working through some stuff. I’ve noticed that I was playing around a lot with what happens to words when you repeat them a lot. I’m glad I worked through that particular phase. Still, I think a city of sausage-y things is pretty funny.

Memory XV

Memory XV

floating his tired head on visions of the past
(airline food settling deeply into the stomachs)
dreaming of dirty bedsheets and laundry slippers
(a thousand miles to the south of his new home)
he says: “please go away. I’m minding my own business.
(she reads over his shoulder, tasting words)
“Now and you can please depart: but please
(her eyes are glistering in the pillowlight)
“to ignore the iguana or the rhino lying senseless
(the remote lies heavy in his hand, tv blaring)
lying turgid, collapsed upon the middle of the floor.”

***

XIV is missing too. I traveled a lot on business when I was younger.

Memory XIII

Memory XIII

(numbering the oceans of the sea)
left-handed shadows are so much more
comforting while circling with pain and darkness
those tiny puddles of the world
(lights out lights out)
pill-popping to nod myself
but even so the echoes of the clock
whir out through the crunching hours of the night
poor little sad little thing:
a broken duck, dragging its mangled wing, arrived too late
(tension hums along my spine)
all the bread was gone from heaven,
quacked away in a frenzy of feathers
“Old woman, bread woman:
“can’t you see! can’t you see the cross-eyed
“duckling dragging its slow way to you;
“hope dogging it’s all-gasping:
“but you are gone. you have no bread for crippled ducks.”
the flock departs, as the broken one arrives.
memories scare the dreams away:
did my eyes weep huge crocodile tears?
did I sniffle for a broken beast?

***

There was this one winter when I really started confronting my demons in a serious way. It involved some brain meds, which I felt super ambivalent about at the time, but, in retrospect, helped me a great deal. I worked for a little while in this office park that had a duck pond in the middle of it. One day, I watched this old woman feeding bread to some ducks. The ducks swarmed over, ate all the bread, and then this poor duck with a messed up wing finally got there only to find the bread all gone. I was sad about this for a while so I ended up writing this thing about it. I guess I’m still a little sad about it.

Memory XII

Memory XII
shouting bold words of arrogance
and there’s a ringing and a confusion
a great gust of terror
and there’s a huge and blackly glowing permanent marker
scrawling words of power upon the wall
he waits with bated breath, agonized
as the scribble begins:
“dalliances make the world go strangerandstrang”
breath sticks in his throat and he ravishes a saltine
but this message is wiped away with an unseen wave
“mr.snout’s gottn out his cage again: beware! beware”
wipey wipey and his nose is beginning to run as he blinks tears of fear
and curls his head to peek in the shadows
has an insatiable curiosity for cuds and green pastures
jagged wheels and step-ladders and stiff cardboard boxes
cherry lozenges and greatgrandmama’s apple sauce.
and so but the marker’s just hovering there right in the air,
poised to do some ineffable damage.
***
Inspired by Nebuchadnazzer, natch. (OK, I’m pretty impressed with myself that I actually remembered how to spell the dude’s name.) Still somewhat biblical-obsessed back then. It was a time when I yearned for some godlike message to come down, even a terrible one. I’m not looking for that kind of thing anymore, thanks.

Memory XI

Memory XI

so there he was
that dirty old bird, there he was
sitting on the head of that iron-works statue
that miserable metal secretion:
a tribute to the dead and uninspiring of long years past.
hopping and tripping and skipping along that iron hat-brim,
that iron corn-cob, that iron-works of a nose
and pecking ferociously at the bouquet of stale roses tucked between the statue’s arms akimbo—that behemoth contraption, still-works, iron-works of a man.

azure-breasted, gold-plated, -beaked and be-clawed
this soiled aurora borealis bird clucked and chuckled and squawked.
the sad and tired student of human nature, sitting on a bench,
taking a break from his studies
watched this quivering feathered fury fluttering and frying and coocooing itself.
“what an odd, toodly, grimacing bird of a bird,”
the student thought, or rather the thought came to him.
his half-moon-glasses slipped down his nose and he did nothing,
his upper vision smearing into a runny blurriness:
jogger, viking, thief…
soldier, doctor, priest…
It could be anyone walking by,
but that bird—those clacked and clenching claws—
and its feathers were soon parted and the colors bled and bled
spreading across the dripping iron,
feathers settling down about the feet and waist of the statue.
the student found himself knee-deep in blue and red and purple feathers:
those off-puttings of a depraved and balding hopping-mad bird of a feather.

now, those glasses, those crutchy protuberances,
slide fully off his nose, slip down his shirt-front and off his legs,
crinkling on the ground.
and now his lined and wrinkled world is smoothed over
hard and harsh details blearing into a distance
and this gives him comfort, comfort he thought he’d lost.
and the bird, sees him there, sees him blinking—
tears are running down his nose—
haply happily in the morning delight.
this bird flaps down in all its glory,
flaps down and pecks out this student’s eyes.
“oh how delightful,” the student sighs
and settles into the sleep of the dead.

***

I don’t remember anything about writing this one, but I’m fascinated by it.