Hong Kong Harbor

On this side of the window
A shower of chrysanthemum.
Outside, torrential rain.

From this distance the world appears mute.
But if somewhere someone is singing
It’s because someone somewhere is listening.

If this were the last day of my life, would I know it?
And if I did
Would I pretend otherwise?

 

Published in The Nation, November 13, 2006.

Hong Kong Harbor

How I Know She’s Coming Home

For Jodi Lister

Her apricot soap French milled and expensive
Is wrapped in violet tissue paper
And hidden in the medicine cabinet.
In the dish on the sink she left behind
A bar of Ivory.

Plain and substantial as a baseball
That’s for me.
Five thousand miles away
And she does not want me to use her soap.

I unwrap it and hold it as carefully
As an antique netsuke. Its perfume
Rises like a summer morning
Reaching through a screen door.

When she’s here I receive strict instruction
Not to use her creams, shampoos or powders.
Although I may touch any part of her body I please
Her beauty products are taboo.

Yesterday, it removed bus exhaust and sweat
Leaving her face soft and damp,
So when I kissed her it was like touching moss.

Today, I run water, make a lather and inhale.
Although it’s my face that looks back from the mirror
It is her scent that slips into the room
Like a secret hushed from the lips that held it.

 

Published in Meridian: Best New Poets 2007
Fall/2007.

How I Know She’s Coming Home

My Life Runs From Me To You Like A Spooked Horse

1

The world is ice.
The world is thorn.
It doesn’t matter how often you ask
No one will ever love you
The way you want to be loved.

2

They won’t, not for a moment,
Put down their forks. Won’t
Lean on their shovels
Or hang up the phone,
No matter how beautifully you sigh.

3

The days turn over, one by one,
Like the cards in a game of stud poker.
Hands, cock, hair.
One is closed.
One is limp.
The other thins.

4

Wind, moon. heart.
One you can’t see.
One is vain as pastry.
The last is hollow, hollow, hollow.

5

Enamored with the rough edges of the world
I dream of friction and of the sparks
That fly from your flesh
When it’s scraping mine.

My Life Runs From Me To You Like A Spooked Horse

Containers

1

That things must be contained is a sign of their inherent instability. As Yeats observed some time ago, life is predisposed to “come undone.” Undone, unbuttoned, discarded, that’s just how it is, despite of our best efforts at practicality.

Bags, baskets and boxes are filled only to be emptied of their contents. Lids, seals, screw tops of varying ingenuity will unfailingly fail. Even the body, perhaps the most ingenious of all containers, is not impregnable. Once the spirit is called, it will leave its shell vacant, adding it to the piles of waste left behind. That things are intended to unravel, that our best adhesives and latches will prove inadequate to the job, should, in no way discourage our desire to contain them.

I’ve a 50-years-old penny in my wallet. Although minted the year I was born, there is no reason to believe it won’t outlive me. I may lose it before I myself am lost, or it may be recalled in a great government-sponsored copper drive, but I prefer to think that it will survive at least as long as the 2,000-year old Roman coin I also keep in my wallet for luck. What is certain is that while the penny will likely remain physically intact, it is just as likely that its original meaning will be lost. Which is, of course, just another way of saying, this penny will be pitched.

Yes, every treasure, including those hearts we cherish, will be dust and so swept up and removed somewhere. Boredom, global warming, a collision with an asteroid, these and 10,000 other fingers will empty even our most clever containers. Which is as it should be. A match unlit is worthless. A toothbrush sealed in its plastic sheath will not fight a single cavity.

2

Giovanni’s daughter Sophia is allowed to run freely through Bar Pitti. She visits the regular customers who all adore her and makes new friends as she dashes table to table. She does not appear to be contained until her mother calls out, “Sophia eat something. Sophia, come eat your macaroni.” So, I see, I am mistaken; she is contained, even if by something as elastic as a mother’s love.

Containers