No one says Paris anymore.
There's no such thing as Paris, no
Café de la Paix, no Titian's Entombment
in the Louvre or Hotel La Sanguin
on the We Buy Gold guy. I have a thing
for debauched hucksters in ape costumes.
Before that I loved the girl who holds the sign
Some women make a pilgrimage to visit it
in the Indiana library charged to keep it safe.
I didn't drive to it; I dreamed it, the thick braid
Since it's just me here I've
found the back and stayed
there most of the time, in
rain and snow and the
no-moon nights, dodging the front
I used to put up like a yard
gussied and groomed, all
edged and flower-lined, my
Uncorked, I had a thought: I
want the want
I dreamed of wanting once, a
quarter cup of sneak-peek
at what prowls in the back, at
what sings in the
wet rag space behind the garage, back
where the rabbits nest, where
I smell something soupish, sour and dank and it's
filled with weeds like rough
cat tongues and
the wind is unfostered, untended,
now that it's just me here and
I am so hungry
for the song that grows tall like a weed
grows, and grows.
When I was a
my ma said a woman gets
tired and sick
of the front yard, of
kissing the backside of a
There is a force that breaks the body, inevitable,
the by-product is pain, unexceptional as a rain
gauge, which has become arcane, rhyme, likewise,
unless it's assonant or internal injury, gloom, joy,
which is also a dish soap, but not the one that rids
seabirds of oil from wrecked tankers, that's Dawn,
which should change its name to Dusk, irony being
the flip side of sentimentality here in the Iron Age,
ironing out the kinks in despair, turning it to hairdo
from hair, to do, vexing infinitive, much better to be
pain's host, body of Christ as opposed to the Holy
Ghost, when I have been suffering at times I could
step away from it by embracing it, a blues thing,
a John Donne thing, divest by wrestling, then sing.
What is it you feel I asked Kurt when you listen to
Ravel's String Quartet in F-major, his face was so lit up
and I wondered, "the music is unlike the world I live
or think in, it's from somewhere else, unfamiliar and unknown,
not because it is relevant to the familiar and comfortable,
but because it brings me to that place that I didn't/couldn't
imagine existed. And sometimes that unfamiliar place is closer
to my world than I realize, and sometimes it's endlessly distant,"
that's what he wrote in an email when I asked him
to remind me what he'd said earlier, off the cuff, "I don't
recall exactly what I said," he began, a sentence written
in iambic pentameter, and then the rest, later he spoke of two
of his brothers who died as children, leukemia and fire,
his face, soft, I'm listening to Ravel now, its irrelevancy.
The barber, with his mug of warm foam, his badger-hair brush.
My mother and sister and me and the dog, leashed with a measure
of anchor rope, in the hospital parking lot, waving good-bye
to my father from his window on the 7th floor.
Just him and his tumor, rare as the Hope Diamond,
and his flimsy paper cup half-filled with infirmary water.
The lump in my throat, a tea party cup left in the garage all winter,
holding the silver body and wing dust of a dead moth.
The barber, sweeping the day's worth of hair into the basement,
remembering how he'd traveled to Memorial
to lather the face of the dying man and shave him smooth
in his raised hospital bed and sometimes he shaved the faces
of the dead as a favor to the mortician.
Wondering how this particular life was the life that had been chosen for him.
The barber, walking home in the dark
to a late supper of torn bread in a cup of heavy cream.
Even the mayor's wife sipping from a teacup
wreathed in Banded Peacock butterflies wonders, in her loneliness,
why me? Why this cup?
transparent stomach fat as a coin purse. Beak too big for its face, like a baby
wearing huge sunglasses. Tuft of white fuzz, oh darling old man. Always
The grief, when I finally contacted it
decades later, was black, tarry, hot,
like the yarrow-edged side roads
we walked barefoot in the summer.