And Your Little Dog, Too
The terrier barking on the far side
of Oil Park affects you like haiku.
Bashō panhandles near the ornate
gardens of an Edo in 17th-century Japan,
while two gentlemen on a bench—inverted
temples of newspapers in their laps—
must be reading of the worst disaster
in Western history, of gentlemen seated
on the sinking floors of their last days.
(They do not look at the terrier now
rummaging the shrubs of Oil Park.)
In the photographs, one, slowly dying,
looks like you: Zen smirk, ink-stained lips.
It’s your nose they recognize: aquiline
plenty, promise of a long slide into an oblivion
the seated readers now know to be true.
Your nose: a message something terrible
has wedged between two lovers like an axe
on a davenport in a Victorian sitting room.
The terrier tarries. A young boy tumbles
near a box of sand, happy, you think.
Bashō means banana tree. Against the backdrop
of the apocalypse people will, it seems, fold
in on themselves like bad curtains. Peering out,
you barely recognize the gentlemen trying
not to look at your final moments for fear
they’ll see themselves. You should like to grab
those papers, punch through the dirty windows
of front page photographs, become your own headline.
Anyone who knows Japan fears the very sky
clamping down like a molar. Self-loathing is a well-
tempered machine, meaning it’s been beaten
so many times it runs out of spite. You run out
of same. So do it. The terrier is gone.
Graft a single photo of a Victorian gentleman
onto your thigh, and strut around Oil Park
like a haiku artist out of ink. Chop down
a banana tree. For surely, the apocalypse
comes first or last—both honorable
distinctions—to the devotees of oil.
Blood Orange Palinode
I circumnavigate the bright sphere
in my hand, a helix of rind downward
and unbroken by the knife I learned
watching Sicilians after dinner,
who negotiated such soft peaches
above the white mirrors of their plates.
Grown up to treat oranges lustfully,
tearing into California Navels years before—
brutal love for those distillations vanished,
as if uncloaking were itself enough,
and I’d prepare a hundred oranges for no one,
and never want a single slice.
This cream astounds me. I watch it swirl down
to rise again. Sugar is remote.
The spoon continues its wind-chime notes
like those in black storms, on porches, in towns
where lovers burrow into covers and stay there.
Walls shuddered, radios would grieve
for travelers. But there’s no storm. To leave
the door unlocked is hope. I’m locked in a stare
beyond the TV flicker of the tropics,
through windows, clear, forgetful of whose side
they’re on. Outside, the silence of the dead
of winter, the stripped birches, the cryptic
signatures their branches make. Love,
inside is the same. On the bread board
I carve your name faintly with a shard
of glass I find by the sugar bowl. The stove
pilot flickers in a thousand versions
of one flame. I don’t know why you’re here
each time I’m startled, why sleep becomes a mirror.
This hour, the kitchen light makes its incision
in the black, splinters the day in spite.
You’d appreciate this bitterness
I made turning a wilderness
of metaphors—all I’d thought to write—
into a way of touching you: familiar,
exhilarating. Your absence makes my own
body less escapable. The stain
of your lips when we lie down and dare
each other to discover something new in all
our bodies say: we keep eluding choice
and change. You become the single place
I know. You are why I never called
my lack of sleep a curse, why I sip
this coffee slowly down to grounds then pour
another, and another. Why this hour
and I were stained before I spilled one drop.