This morning I was caught
singing Carol King in the shower.
My voice is not too good.
It sounds better on the way down
when I lean over to wash conditioner
off the nape of my neck. In one way,
it was wonderful to have the ocean
between us. I remember walking
through Stephen’s Green to deliver
small water color pictures I had drawn
in the post. So far away. I always thought
the words were you’re just time away
but I think they are actually something
different and more straightforward.
So it is like the Homeric battlefield
where there are always impediments
and obstructed paths to the loved
or maybe it is these which make up
the felt vastness of desire. In my notes
reading Frank O’Hara it says
“poetry is always part epistolary?
—in a fight with itself.”
My friend wants to visit a woman
who lives in Mexico City
but maintains the normal fears
and awareness of danger.
She is the only one I can speak to
about my spirit he says, If only she were
anywhere else in the world.
Some days it is enough
just for the self to glimpse that Scylla
and Charybdis lie on the horizon.
And then there are those things
that cannot be seen coming.
Even though Frank O’Hara
said he hoped to die for love,
it was a dune buggy that hit him
on fire island, a place so remote
traffic is thought not to exist.
Oh, those visible and invisible worlds.
So much desire and to be taken away
all at once. They are similar enough
so that it is perfectly understandable
to use word, world, and wound
interchangeably. Not knowing how to begin
the elegy goes on, repeating its tired verse.
Like Odysseus, we turn back from the river
and return home. No one is seduced.
No one becomes the sea.
In real life we are outnumbered
by microbes and rarely think of them.
Next to me, Jack is learning a dead language
and holding an cup of lemon rinds.
At the beginning of the assignment,
he is instructed to write the phrase
I am a human. Yesterday morning
part of my cervix was cut out with a wire
and I spent the rest of the day taking pain pills,
falling asleep watching crime dramas
only to wake up and start them over again.
I don’t know why it is that I want to cry
when my mother’s friend from college
tries to speak of the unspeakable past
or when I hear someone younger
walking behind me talk disparagingly
about being forced to watch Chinatown.
Today it seems almost too sad to bear
that we can enforce anything
and teach practically nothing.
The room was filled with nurses
and they made it so I felt and saw
so little. I don’t know
if it’s good to tell stories
that are only about crisis aversion.
In Frankenstein it is only the blind man
who greets the monster with kindness.
And people die so we know
of human flaw and pride. There is not
an easy answer. We can do much more
now that we have instruments
to stop the bleeding. The doctor smiles
to tell me I’m brave and look like my mother.
To be like Walton.
Immured in ice, unable to tell
land from sea. Perhaps the quest
for human mastery
began at the moment
in the Genesis narrative
when God divided the land from the water.
If this is true we may even mark the place
where time and boundary
fall off. What I want is dissolution
and not the science of deciding
what order material dissolves in.
How funny “the thing in itself” is
when thought of. Look.
A lady is hiking up her skirt
for a distraction:
to entertain the guests
and ward away the impatience
while they wait for their drinks
to arrive. Say it again.
Nothing is too elevated
to bear recurrence.