Photography by Jackie Sheeler
( New York, New York )
poem and audio link
You tantalize me as the swollen fruits of summer
have teased pollen from radiant tiger lilies
reaching up from ditches by the road.
I am morning on a day you wished for
when desire doesn’t submit
to the lock and key that dims with time,
or the yawning of an inactive heart,
the distance in my chest.
We could meet on a dusty road in Mexico
where stray dogs run in syncopation,
where one door closes and another opens,
while our bodies ripen in the rusty sun.
What I cast away is my accusation
that you kept the best sections
of blood oranges for yourself.
Out of an irrational fear of feeling lighter
I accuse myself of murdering an unnamed solid.
I would ask you to wait, but I keep moving,
as species of birds
recognize the discoverer for whom they will be named.
You absorb me and never question
the difference between reflection and subcutaneous.
The sun gives us one more hour of humidity and salt,
as my tongue licks across your skin for its lack of water.
Static in the air forms a small natural disaster,
a personal tornado
brewed in the brush you pull through my hair
that falls into silk against my back,
against your forehead, or your chest.
This lets you sleep in the dim light
while I work among the harsh words of afternoon.
Walking among our favorite dead poets
and the ashes from cigarettes they used for punctuation.
When our vectors cross again,
what I don’t want you to know,
I will shield myself from revealing.
Now I am different.
The past is misplaced among old boxes of shoes
and ceramic lamps.
That is why I can be here with you
and when you grow tired, I’ll be gone.
Everyday, I exchange by fax, poems with my friend the poet, Frank Lima.
He had a dream about all the older poets he’s known who are gone. We
spoke about how much they are missed by us and the poetry community.
Around the same time I was listening to Grace Kalambay, a young poet
whose poems are set to the music of a single acoustic guitar which
were filled with longing.
I wanted to write a poem that combined the sense of emptiness and
longing with the paradox of a human tendency to isolate, or push
away, that which we long for the most.
When I was a child, I loved having my hair brushed by my father. As
an adult, it’s still comforting when a loved one brushes my hair. I
wanted to work with the idea of a comforting act like someone
brushing your hair stirring up emotional static electricity or a
This was written in the summer and as Frank and I always talk about
Mexico, which are constant images in his poems, I incorporated the
dry dusty heat of Mexico into the poem. I got the idea of tiger
lilies tantalizing bees with their pollen and had a vivid image of the country ditches teaming with glorious flowers that no one
thought were particularly special.
The end of the poem refers to the way we attempt to protect
ourselves. It concludes with a promise to only be as ‘present’ as the
other person is willing to accept, which reinforces the sense of the human condition and 'aloneness' or isolation.
Next - Marge Piercy
Current Issue - Winter 2006