1909 - 1988
All day thinking of Mother,
that smile neither hidden nor forthcoming,
already hard to see
behind the crowd of students at her funeral.
For years after the divorce
she waited for a letter,
and even, I thought, after he died.
(In an alternate world, I go home
from the commonplace horrors of one's twenties
to find them - emphysema
bracketing his anger
in an intermittent shrug;
she strict and pellucid
and I, retroactively, more or less
successfully building an ego … No.
She still wouldn't have traveled.)
Uncalled, she cleaned
and made order
the length of her condo
and dreamt of a flying chair
and addressed me, painfully, as "you."
After she died, I sensed,
she moved far and fast.
This Is Just To Say
When we had money, we stopped there,
remember? You didn't need
another scarf, but hesitated
over the strangely Forties-modern earrings.
We meant to come back
for one of those ceramic-shaded lamps
with the mildly surreal fish,
and gazed for ten minutes
at the delicate cupboard in three woods -
asking, How would it fit
among the heavy, comfortable things
we accumulated after thinking
our living room would be aluminum and leather?
Nice now, in a way, to go in
to browse, and really only for that - i.e.,
that can be easily named - as I did
today. It's like
a museum when there's no question of possession;
and for a moment I entered
that slack-jawed, very American state
where everything rich
is admirable. The decorative salesgirls
were like (I could see it, now) museum guards
or curatorial staff.
Yet I alone was there to ignore
or smile at, and one could almost worry,
the market down for months.
*February 8, 2003*
Waiting to gasp,
or for that change in colors
and trembling that arrive
with nerve toxins.
Two gallons distilled water,
no functioning transistor, a mislaid
shots of a dozen bearded cow-eyed youths,
and the thought, How pleasant it would be
to club their skulls in pieces through their brains,
or to apply electrodes, turn a switch,
and watch them twitch.