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She Hates Numbers

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Pretzels & Chocolate, a poem

jim-valvis

PRETZELS & CHOCOLATE

(rented room, cigarettes)

I am eating pretzels
and they are hard
but splinter into salty crumbs

with the merest bite
they only satisfy
part of my tongue

(rented room, cigarettes)

so I pick up the chocolate
greedy for it to melt
against my palate

sucking the firm square
feeling it mold to me
the way I imagine

my body molds to yours

(rented room, cigarettes)

retaining the character of sweetness
to complement the salt
to balance my mouth

I am eating chocolate
thinking of us
together

(rented room, cigarettes)

illustration mockingbird mimus polyglottos

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Pregnancy, a poem

illustration pregnancy

Pregnancy, a poem

(after Alice Neel’s painting, Margaret Evans Pregnant)

Puffy hands clutch the seat
of the ruffled boudoir stool
to keep the woman from tumbling
to the floor, injuring
more than dignity;

her cumbersome belly bulges
taut, looms over the
bewildered thighs
like a great question mark.
Around her delicate knees

are small white dimples;
the pulse in the blue vein
revealed within a pale breast’s
transparent skin
taps in dreamy rhythm and

though her hair is unkempt,
her eyes gleam with gentle
confidence, patient sureness
that she will pass through
the coming ordeal of body

unharmed, spirit intact; that
everything in the world,
all the movement both inside and
outside her flesh, will emerge
from its hiding place at last….

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Blood Mother, a poem (sculpture in the Orsay Museum, Paris)

illustration blood mother
Blood Mother, a poem (sculpture in the Orsay Museum, Paris)

She is made of wood, a silken hardness that begs touching.
Should anyone reach, trail a fingertip across her flesh,
the man in straps would speak, his mumbled words rasping
through the stopped air, turning beating cells boorish,

piercing desire’s heart, killing a love so old, so pure,
it has no real name. Such is obvious from the way she stands,
lifting her heavy hair, each hand the careful cynosure
of being — she drapes the primal fiber like garlands,

letting it flow free only to capture the thickness of trees.
Her eyes are closed. Under abraded lids resides the look
everyone knows: pupils enlarged by pain; simple refugees
from knowledge received of the body, woman’s final textbook.

The belly asks first. It says come, reside here within me,
neither cold, nor afraid, nor desirous — twirl and dream
of nothing but this spare salt universe, wear only veins, silky
wisps of hair, discreet, pale limbs enfolded by soft cream.

Her feet nourish the ground, her head becomes the forest.
Walk where her shadow falls, seek the margin of her arms,
soothe your tired neck in mother’s lucid heat, hedonist
entity you have become, set in blind motion under charms

worked by no laboratory scientist in a trim white robe.
Rather, you emerged redly from a thousand other deaths,
one messy cauldron holding shapes; the patient, springy web
of chosen elements drawn together, joined by many faiths.

The breasts want, too. Child, they sing in unison, nourish your
body with our thin white blood — suckle, cradle the nipple deep
against the palate, pull the flow from a dozen small pores, gnaw
strong like a velveted vise, drink true until you swallow sleep.

The need to believe is more than skin. Need is the whole glossy
image on this lonely wall; what it means to be such a mechanism!
She never schemed for her fey power — nor does she expect mercy.
You exist, mere fragile accident, in perfect jeweled synchronism.

Not as simple as punishment, nor as complex as grace, her skills
for life reside at a place men cannot enter, no fault of their
own. They build instead the world, of brick, stone; shy stabiles
meant to appease longing, courageous memorials to light, to air.

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Heavenly Dances, Heavenly Intimacies, a short story

illustration heavenly dances heavenly intimacies

Heavenly Dances, Heavenly Intimacies, a short story

“Isn’t there any heaven where old beautiful dances, old beautiful intimacies prolong themselves?”

Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier

How can I be “dead” to any of the men I once loved?  They are not “dead” to me.  Not even H.  How can I be “dead” to H.?  They — even H. — are each as alive as when I was with them; as alive as the first time they touched me, whether tentatively or with confidence; whether softly or roughly; whether with passion or mere lust.  It is shocking and appalling how H. lurched so radically to the right after 9/11.  He began that journey to the Tea-Party-Mad-Hatter-Neocon-Bill-Buckley-Wall-Street-Apologist-Fringe-Brainless-Faux-News-Right when Ronald Reagan was shot; I was with him the very night it happened.  We had a short affair, right then, because we started thinking the end of the world had arrived and we decided, like the crazy college students we were, to get married to celebrate our courage in the face of chaos!  I realized very early on (but still way too late!) I was embarrassed to be seen in public with him.  Did you ever start seeing, and marry someone whom you later realized you were embarrassed to be seen with?  Perhaps the person in question was “dorky,” “geeky,” dressed “badly,” or had questionable “taste.”  H. readily admits he was a “dork” in high school.  He was on the debate team; need I say more?  When you can’t bear to be seen in your lover’s/spouse’s/significant other’s/partner’s company, things usually don’t work out.

Still, I put in ten dutiful years, trying to make amends for my mistake in marrying H.  The second he started making the big bucks, he dumped me.  He left me for my best friend!  I guess I deserved it, not taking control of my own life & filing for divorce two weeks after we married.  And I guess I deserved how my ex-best-friend S. ruined me, as she subsequently did.  She was in charge of the whole group we had socialized with:  dictating how everyone in our “circle” should think, speak, act, or react.  H. was dead wrong about most everything, but, to his credit, he was dead right about her.  At the time I thought him merely woman-hating, but I see now, even though he did hate women, there was something more than simply being a “woman” he hated about her.  He was covering up the fact he loved her by pretending to hate her.  Now, I have no desire to see her, not ever again.  She is definitely “dead” to me.  Yes, I understand intellectually, a living death (call it shunning) can happen to anyone.

The upshot of all this boring history?  I’ve been waiting for something a long time.  I can’t blame anyone but myself for my unhappiness, not anymore.  There is something dispirited inside me, something empty, drained, and beaten — something sick, something tired, something that has surrendered.  I gave up, when?  When my first ex-husband arbitrarily said no to children, breaking his solemn vow.  When I realized I couldn’t find happiness outside myself — not with an old love, not with a new love, not with any of my subsequent husbands, my friends, my eventual children, or my family.  Yes, to casual acquaintances and virtual strangers I am “happy, happier than I’ve ever been.”  And it’s true!  I’ve never been this happy, this contented, in my life.  Yes, there are still problems.  My oldest son is still half the world away, fighting an endless war on behalf of my “country.”  My youngest son still has an ignorant, racist, rabidly conservative father.  I am getting old.  My face is melting.  My neck is turning into a wattle.  I am drooping.

Still, I cannot imagine any of them, the men I have loved or made love to, being dead to me the way my former best friend, S., is dead to me.  Yet that is how they must feel about me, the way I feel about her.  Wanting her removed from my memories.  Wanting never to have met her.  Not missing anything about her.  She wants to see me, I heard from a mutual friend I still speak to.  I don’t want to see her, or even see the mutual friend.  I don’t even want to get as close as that!  Because of reasons.  Top secret, NSA, DOD, CIA, FBI, SEC, IRS, FDLE, GPD, ACSO reasons!  No further comment!

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MY ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY

of, like, not dying!  from a nonmalignant brain tumor!  in my frontal lobe, 35 cms. in diameter, had been there for between 17 & 34 years, they said.  donated the tissue to UF’s mcknight brain institute thingie, took a month to cry, woke up, started asking for stuff i’d forgotten i enjoyed because i just thought i was tired all the time, my husband dumped me, that’s okay, he needed dumping his own damned self!  so, here i am, 53, alive, happy, energetic, writing TONS, making new friends, etc. etc. etc.  and, like getting my ENTIRE FUCKING LIFE back in order, which hubby darling had let slide during his ten years of freeloading off me!  like, everything he wanted got done, and basically nothing i wanted got done.  so, there was that little tidbit.  but, to get back to the point, like, dude, i am totally alive & enjoying myself!  for the first time in probably 20 to 25 years!!!!!  or whenever that frontal lobe thingie started affecting me.  how big does something in the most sensitive, the most HUMAN part of the brain have to be to affect you?  probably not all that big.  so, you can see how by the end of that little “episode” i was SORT OF TIRED.  not tired now.  and single!  and happy!  and, i have a really super hot boyfriend!  who is NICE TO ME!  who wants me to succeed at what I THINK IS IMPORTANT.  so, like, damn!  things are looking up!!!!!!

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the eternal conversation, a poem

IMG_1265

The Eternal Conversation

Hard wood portends on my truth, I long to burn every tree,

I long to sift the gray ash of discontent

for the few teeth and bits that remain.

My body is full of small holes,

the better to let you pass through me.

You old vagabond, the sun is you,

the sun is your heart, the sun is your eyes.

Look at me, I will blind you, you will remember nothing.

You will remember only how it felt to come inside me.

I melt men like sugar cubes.

Give me fountains of blue wine to drown myself in.

Let me swill from your fountains.

Let me piss in your bed and make you love it.

Only give me glory and work,

and I will tell you all I know, gladly.

This is what I know.

This.

Pretend you’re my father:  your one spurt of joy

caused me to begin ticking in your pocket.

Pretend you know my name.

Pretend you have always been with me.

Don’t forget me, don’t forget to wind me up,

don’t break the thin gold chain attaching me to your heart.

I am not a cat, I don’t have a plaintive past,

I can’t meow for attention.  I could try to scratch you,

but you would only fling me away in hatred, off to the floor.

Yet away you go, with soap to pass your outrage,

cleansing your sins like so much dry grit.

You boil your soup of amnesia,

burn your tongue with it,

lose the ability to taste anything, ever.

You are like a tourniquet of the breast,

keeping me tied to the earth.  I never let myself float,

I was always afraid I would never return to sanity.

I am an old vagabond, I will die without you.

But that is nothing new.  You abandoned me

on my first day.  You didn’t care what time it was then.

All you cared about was yourself.  You couldn’t live

your promises.  You are nothing.

You have no heart, you have only your tired words.

Taunt the people who are less fortunate than you.

Make them suffer even more, that is your duty and function.

Speak nothing without hunger and death

being always in your mind — these are

the only real problems.  This love, this is an illusion.

There is no love.  There has never been love.

There is only madness, heat and passion.

The game is to force myself out of myself,

into the bigger picture.  I want to be everyone,

all at once.  To rid myself of these cramps.

To stretch the labored muscles, to tear them,

to rend them from the bone, to flay the entire beast

and let it dry in the sun until it is harmless meat.

Dance with fossils without ceasing life.  The past haunts

but it does not weigh down our joy.  We can weep

and laugh simultaneously.  We do not need drugs for this.

I am finished viewing sickness at last.

I have no more patience for dying.  I will bury the dead,

but I will not visit their graves.  I will plant flowers

to bloom in perpetuity, then I will take my filmy scarves

and fly away toward joy.  I will sprout wings,

they will carry me to my own heart.

Those who have passed under my hand won’t suffer,

I am a slim ivory blade, sharper than a razor’s edge.

I am skillful at dispatching those who love me.

I am the merciful murderess, the killer who weeps

as she cuts the veins, sorrow for the blood but joy for the heat.

The others I have jettisoned are always sad,

they think of me with mingled regret and malice,

but they shouldn’t mourn, they’re better off without me,

this I know for I know where I have buried all the dead.

Courage for life, alleys are for the party afterwards,

the wake for the soul.  The body remains upright.

We live without life, we breathe without air.

We fuck without coming.  We give birth

without understanding the process.

The hospital where I will say my last good-byes

to everyone who harmed me, everyone who tried

to caress me.  I built the building, I know its every corridor.

May we all have a plain dance upon dying.

May we go stately to our blessed rot.

May we laugh as the teeth fall from our jaws.

I hope to see my destination, at least from a distance.

Will it be like a train through the mountains?

Will the air rush in to meet me?  Will the air

be like a baby’s kisses?

I see an old vagabond, moronic or just born,

and it is a mirror I stare at.  I have studied all the books,

but can remember only one thing.

Despair is a waste of time.

With artists, we dance my young age and love,

but white hair and rigor mortis are just around the corner.

I can get through anything in one minute segments.

I can breathe the pain through myself,

I can detach it from my body.

I am told when I was sleeping I was at my best.

That is when I hurt no one but myself.

In dreams, I am kind, I am eternal.

Respond to me, you seller of happiness.

Money can buy everything, didn’t you know?

They are only lying to you to keep you down.

The raw chicken sits on the board, weeping juice,

and it is cold under my hands.  To lift the carcass

takes more than I have.  How did my mother,

my grandmother, manage it?

I have been a good feaster of pain —

I have made the banquet from whatever bones were left.

I have seasoned the food until it does not remember

from whence it came.

Riches, I have dispossessed. I work hard

for tomorrow’s bread.  Someone will take care of me.

The poor are patriots, the poor can pass through the gates

into nothing special.  I am nothing special.

I am a very special nothing.

I have been asleep until I heard your voice.

I thought you despised me.  I tried to touch you,

but you were far away, and could not sleep.

You lost the paper with my name on it.

You forgot everything I taught you.

You old vagabond, you are maudlin and past.

I am the future.  I am the young blood,

the hawker, the fresh pain.

I hear what you say, I am only a poor man

but I will live to bury you.  I will live

until my energy is spent.  Then I will

tender my resignation.  Where is my combat pay?

The only true war is the war to be true.

Sharpen your teeth on my bones.

I have undressed the apple that moored me

to the board of my clothing.  There is no nakedness left

beneath this flesh.  I have fucked a thousand like you.

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