Published By: Cherry Grove Collections, 2003
Turning The White Flowers Blue
Marred by the stillness of summer,
no leaves churning, not one let go today,
the white hydrangea stands in its soilbed,
a virgin awaiting reprieve.
And me, playing at being a man --
I must divest myself
of the weight in my pockets,
too much loose change, mostly pennies
warming themselves against my thigh.
The question is always what to do with them;
flip them perhaps off my thumb
into puddles, sewer grates,
a donation box for disabled children,v
or, most obviously, plopped into fountains,
yet somehow I am never satisfied.v
I long to make a difference,
leave my mark on this garden.
I want, just once, to inspire a geyser
with one penny thrown arbitrarily into the shallows,
each ripple turned violent, heretical,
swelling beyond the city limits --
that single penny
by which my own desire is revealed to me,
brings me again to the hydrangea,
windswept and desperate for color.
Finally I make my move,
pushing pennies into the rich soil,
deflowering the flowers,
one after the other, again and again,
the resignation of earth to these coins.
All that can be hoped for
are a few days of light rain,
easing the flowers to blue.
The Hollowness of Things
Things are hollow if you believe they are.
Perhaps the juncoe flies without wings,
his body, a pinhole at the center of the sky,
held up by faith
and divine expectation.
Perhaps the wind is one person's deep sigh
carried on forever, or a moment held in time:
the mistress of a Carthaginian
general in 200 BC, blowing bubbles
off the head of a stick.
At its worst, the heart wants to be hollow.
The body would be hollow all the time
to be filled up again and again.
Some say the head is hollow when asleep,
though why am I dreaming?
A life can be hollow, by choice or consequence,
the same way an open grave greets the sky,
and I once saw a woman hollow out a cantaloupe,
cutting the orange meat into cubes,
and served with a handful of cashews.
The hollowness of things can be measured
by what was once there, the heft
of noon, its piercing light, a white scarf
around the day, settling now into evening;
an empty bucket, and the single drop left
to squander itself;
the carcass of a seagull, both eyes gone.
Hold it up, and see the sky through its head.
The houseplants are in love with the forest
they long for it
late at night
when dissension is everything
They are leaving
sometimes all together
though mostly one at a time
They dream an arboreal geometry
one leaf then a second
until the tree is made
One day I'll return to a greenless house
and white spaces
my life an apocrypha
and if I am still able
I will open all the windows
The Man Who Refused To Sneeze
Not that he eschews the world, his wife,
her equine body convoluting the sheets as she sleeps,
and the sun like a shout through the window.
If someone asked,
he would say the armpit is his favorite part of the body:
only there does mystery flourish.
He would say he prefers pimento olives,
their scarlet oath.
He would argue a woman in a negligee
is more alluring than her body, bare, resolute.
He has difficulty shaking hands,
thinking the gesture too obvious,
though often bumping elbows with a stranger moves him,
and making love, the silent pledge between her body
and his own tears into him.
He is witness to the knot,
though rarely feels the need to untie it.
People come from all over to praise his economy,
not knowing he prefers to stand alone at the window,
not understanding solitude prefigures his life,
and the shadow, not a compromise
of the object itself, but the dark
rupture of possibility.
Though he opens his mouth to speak,
his words carried forward on the air,
his body remains a monument
to the privacy he keeps.
So the fact he refuses to sneeze means
he sneezed once,
and felt foolish
giving so little of himself away.
Were it possible, he would sneeze a sneeze
to confound the universe,
start the world spinning backwards,
rip his heart from his body,
send it soaring to the moon.
But it is late,
and he must lay the book down
before going to sleep.