Made in detroit poems, p.7

Made in Detroit: Poems, page 7


Made in Detroit: Poems

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  he slept with them. A quiet night.

  Our ordered days can crack open

  like an egg dropped on the floor,

  its contents leaking out

  in a sticky yellow mess.

  A woman they had never met

  dying on their land, who knew

  how or why, the tub itself

  now a grisly souvenir,

  the police busy with questions

  they couldn’t begin to answer—

  and the one we all ask, why

  me? why us? why today?


  Looking back in utter confusion

  Looking back in utter confusion

  Sometimes I think I am a fiction

  and only memories strung together

  hold my life to some coherence.

  If all my lovers stood in a line

  what commonality would I see

  except luck good and bad,

  except need and accident,

  desperation like a bad cough

  recurring to convulse my body.

  If all the clothes I wore were strung

  on a blocklong clothesline, I’d see

  not decoration but roles, all

  in a row, selves slipped into, now

  too tight, too loose, too short.

  Discarded for a new foray.

  But if my cats were lined up

  I’d know exactly how I loved each

  their games, their habits, how

  they lived with me and died

  leaving me. If all the edicts

  I put forth, manifestos, diatribes,

  all those didactic moments came

  swarming, I’d duck and run. I

  was so sure. Then not. Then not

  at all. Yet I go stumbling on

  bearing my nametag still wonder-

  ing how I came to get here.

  Why did the palace of excess have cockroaches?

  Why did I get drunk so often in college? Because I was a writer and I had read many biographies of writers and they drank. If I was a writer and writers drank to excess, then I must drink till I passed out, even though that scared me. Why did I try mescaline, drop acid, eat as much hash as I could get in the late ’60s and early ’70s? Because all my heroes said that enlightenment came in pill form, through dope. I wanted to be wise. I wasn’t. I did not find much to guide me in my vivid hallucinations although I did speak with the dead. They had little to say except to resent their dying. I told them how I missed them but they didn’t listen. Blake said that the road to wisdom leads through the palace of excess, but all I got was in bed with a couple of louts and really bad nightmares that hung on like red fog after I woke.

  Cold water dripping

  on granite with patience makes

  a deep enough hole.

  In the Peloponnesus one April afternoon

  Wild red poppies blanketed the hills.

  As I perched on a sun warmed rock

  I felt breath on my neck. A half-grown

  goat looked into my eyes with her

  knowing yellow gaze, nibbled my collar.

  I had climbed halfway up a mountain

  and the sun stuck to my black hair

  a too heavy helmet. In the distance,

  small bells jangled. The cry of a circling

  hawk sliced the air like a scimitar.

  Bits of marble were jumbled around me,

  some unknown unnamed ruin that people

  once had cared enough to build, hauling

  pale blocks up a steeply angled slope.

  Temple, I wondered, to what kind of god?

  A god of goats, the yellow eyes suggested.

  She bleated for emphasis. A dancing creature

  horned and horny, celebrated with food

  and orgy, worshippers leaping and turning,

  feet pounding the ground, the feet that started

  poetry going forward one beat at a time.

  I had no wine, so I poured a little sip

  from my canteen on the ground and bent

  my head in homage to what had been

  sacred and in my mind, still was.

  The end not yet in sight

  It was a taut time, bitter and bitten.

  I lived part of the time with a man

  I had married but who had pried

  open the marriage years before

  so he could chase the young

  and easy girls sprouting around us.

  I thought of you as I cooked, burning

  liver. I thought of you as I bathed

  my otherwise untouched body

  gleaming underwater as if I swam

  in tears. I thought of you and I

  felt a hot acid pain in my gut.

  Longing ripped through me

  making new roads of absence.

  My desire was a strange creature

  that lived in my chest and ate

  at me with its ferocious teeth.

  I thought we could never

  really be a couple, because

  I was trapped in his plots

  and needs and secret angers

  like snakes under the floorboards.

  I was alone in a crowded house

  wallpapered with rancid blame.

  I could see no doors, only

  windows in which you wandered

  just in the range of my sight.

  In the cage of my gone-bad

  marriage I turned my gerbil

  wheel of despair ever faster.

  Loving clandestinely

  I carried my love for you hidden

  like cash stuffed into a bra.

  Cooking, cleaning, sitting with

  friends, I was secretly absent,

  my inner attention cocooned

  around your face.

  I called myself idiot. Fan-

  tasy was a drug; I was its

  addict, rushing to consume

  it every moment. I dreamed

  the impossible escape

  to your bed.

  It was like a song I couldn’t

  keep from taking over

  my brain where it repeated

  repeated repeated. Stupefied

  with desire, nothing I did

  was quite real.

  Only those moments we stole

  before planes, in the woods,

  while he went off with girl

  friends or buddies, that

  was my true and only life

  until it was.

  The visible and the in-

  Some people move through your life

  like the perfume of peonies, heavy

  and sensual and lingering.

  Some people move through your life

  like the sweet musky scent of cosmos

  so delicate if you sniff twice, it’s gone.

  Some people occupy your life

  like moving men who cart off

  couches, pianos and break dishes.

  Some people touch you so lightly you

  are not sure it happened. Others leave

  you flat with footprints on your chest.

  Some are like those fall warblers

  you can’t tell from each other even

  though you search Petersen’s.

  Some come down hard on you like

  a striking falcon and the scars remain

  and you are forever wary of the sky.

  We all are waiting rooms at bus

  stations where hundreds have passed

  through unnoticed and others

  have almost burned us down

  and others have left us clean and new

  and others have just moved in.

  What’s left

  What marks does a marriage leave

  when one of them has gone

  into another entanglement?

  A bottle of wine chosen, forgotten.

  A old cat dying slowly of kidney

  failure. Some books no longer

  valued, music of another decade

  they used to dance to, back

  when dancing was together.

  A green wool sweater abandoned

  in the corner of a closet. Railroad

  tie steps they buried in the hillside.

  Trees they planted now taller

  than the house. A mask, a wooden

  necklace from foreign travels.

  Pain drying up like a pond dying

  from the edges but still deep

  enough in the center to drown.

  Corner of Putnam and Pearl

  We rented an apartment on Putnam

  and Pearl at a stop sign where music

  blared from cars all night boasting

  their taste before they gunned away.

  The top floor under the flat tar roof

  was sodden with heat. Next door

  on the steps of the halfway house

  men drank from paper bags.

  Always some dog was barking

  like a saw cutting into rough wood.

  Sirens blasted tunnels in thick

  air and below, someone cursed.

  Oddly, we were happy there,

  our love still moist and sticky

  a mousse that had not quite jelled

  but sweet with ripe strawberries.

  You came home at two reeking

  of smoke and garlic, high from

  restaurant drugs and afterwork

  drinks with kitchen crews.

  I banged away on my Olympia

  typewriter, trying to pay off

  debts from my bloody divorce.

  We were growing into each

  other, tentative roots like fragile

  tentacles exploring the other’s

  body and brain. By the time we

  moved, we’d knotted to a couple.

  Bang, crash over

  Breakage. Yes, splinters, the shards

  pierce my brain. In each friendship,

  a new self grows different from any

  other of the selves we make and unmake.

  In every love however small as marbles

  children roll in their palms and stare into,

  we become. In the big ones, our faces

  change and never quite resume.

  So a piece tears off after the final

  quarrel, after the argument that burned

  the night to cinders and a wind of grey

  ashes, after the wind has dispersed

  even the last smear of ash and nothing

  nothing at all stays but a friendship

  whose dead weight hangs from your

  neck like the sailor’s albatross, quite

  murdered but still of sufficient weight

  to bend your back. Your neck hurts.

  Words clot in your throat like blood.

  A lot of you hurts. Pain grabs attention

  but is boring as it spikes and drones

  on and on. Shut up you scream at it

  at three a.m. But in the end months

  years pass and you forget. Almost.

  Sins of omission

  Suppose hell were a room

  where the lovers you broke

  up with, the spouses you left,

  the friends you discarded

  all were waiting to question

  you, with no time limit ever

  but the explanations could last

  halfway into eternity. Who

  wouldn’t sooner leap into

  a fire? There is no excuse

  for the end of love or for

  the fact that it never started

  its engine into that lovely

  roar but just coughed again

  and again until you gave up

  and got out and went off.

  Some friendships are just not

  sturdy enough to bear the daily

  wear and weight. How to say,

  but simply you bored me.

  Then all the people you did

  not help, the ones you hung

  up on, letters unanswered,

  loans denied, calls not returned

  that endless line will be snaking

  through the horizon, waiting

  to demand what you would

  not give, life’s unpaid bills.

  Even if we try not to let go

  Our minds cannot hold the dead.

  They seep away. Their voices,

  gone to silence no matter how

  hard I try to cup them in my ear.

  Their faces come apart, cubist

  explosions of dark eyes, blue,

  grey green, her nose, his flyaway

  hair, the crumpled skin of hands.

  Did she really say that? Or was

  it April instead of October? What

  year did measles hit? The color

  of her red dress with fishscale sequins.

  Did the glass break when he slammed

  the door? He told that joke forty

  times at least. Then suddenly he

  laughs in my hair and I know him.

  How we come apart in death,

  not only our bodies decomposing

  but our lives, stuck in random

  pieces in the brains of others

  who loved or hated us, who carry

  us in memory or in their genes, who

  slowly must let us drift like autumn

  leaves down to the final ground.


  We lie inert half open and spent

  like flowers just past peak, loosened

  but gloriously scented. When

  a couple loves intensely, we

  are even closer after sex than

  during. More content. We still

  touch but lightly in a kind of lull

  that is totally complete.

  We never ask, how was that

  for you, because we know.

  Practice makes whatever

  of perfection we can have.

  No longer joined at genitals

  but in a larger longer joining

  two meandering hard flowing

  rivers melding into one.

  We lie at peace on the sunporch

  the woods all around us, wrens

  tittering, a dragonfly just over

  us on the translucent roof,

  two cats snoozing one on each

  red cushion and Xena watching

  those wrens through the screen.

  Everybody is safe. Today. Now.

  The wonder of it

  The wonder of it, building a home

  in one another after so many false

  starts, collapses, fires set

  intentionally or by default,

  paper houses the cold winds

  blew into shreds.

  Our foundation was tentative

  enough, part-time. We began

  with a rickety lean-to propped

  against the walls of previous

  matings. Then brick of trust

  by brick we laid

  this structure in which we

  dwell, decade upon decade,

  adding a room here, a bay

  window to let the sun come

  in, a new roof to keep out

  the wind and snow.

  Repairing is work that never

  lets up, always some leak or stained

  wall, loose floorboard, burnt

  out plug. But we’ll never leave

  this house except feet first

  on a final stretcher.

  Marinade for an elderly rabbit


  I could use some time in a marinade

  myself. Perhaps Madeira on winter

  evenings. A nice refreshing Chablis.

  Champagne would be ritzy but ticklish.

  A nice dry martini bath on hot days

  would soften me up nicely.

  Some days I feel leathery

as a snapping turtle. Some days

  I am dry as burnt pie dough.

  Some days the winds of trouble

  have left me scorched and crumbly.

  Sometimes I’m just a bald tire.

  Yes, prepare me a marinade, dear.

  Soak me in it overnight. Tomorrow

  you’ll find me far easier to digest.

  Contemplating my breasts

  Strange, these soft lumps on my front.

  Like men with their pricks, women

  whose breasts are large tend to be

  somewhat obsessed with you.

  We are always having to watch out

  for you, pick out bras with the care

  men spend selecting a new car.

  Can’t lie on my stomach for long.

  Watch you don’t get bumped too

  hard. Notice blouses won’t button

  when otherwise they fit just fine.

  Men stare at them when addressing

  me as if my nipples were talking.

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