Healing, said the white girl
whom I loved, who was dating
a boy I wanted. Put it on.
What was it, summer?
I was wet
from reading Zhang Ailing.
The HK fog—
I broke the first one
when I punched a brick wall
in a fight with my boyfriend.
I shoved my wrist
through the cool circle of stone.
Then I bought this
Zhang had called China: exquisite, illogical,
very entertaining. Reading that,
I wanted to kiss her shoulder,
but she was dead.
Ashes, to be exact.
In Aloeswood Incense
she writes: concubines
used to draw up red cushions
and silk curtains
to entertain the foreigners,
who were always
free to leave.
Another gay. The first month
I started using the phrase
oh well, which meant
the same thing.
Picnic tables, a yellow sweater,
preening powerful eyes, Russian,
The saving grace
was the rooibos, I think:
the least erotic drink.
Jesus Christ, I said one day.
Can you get off that gorgeous bike?
Can you stop reading Rusty Morrison?
Can you not use the word,
By Bernstein, you idiot. Wake up,
the melody ends on a third.
A dead cow, technically. Ah me,
quoth good ol’ Voltaire.
With his silly bachelor’s smile.
What I’ll remember :
Candide himself, some “Pantalone” fellow,
and then «il faut… le jardin.»
In English, the missing verb
must mean something
like “watch over.”
The etta in operetta
means something too:
less, generally. Well,
all’s eel that ends ill.
Shut up your baby.
The answer’s imminent.
[MUDDY CHILDREN PUZZLE]
At the end of your playing, there is a voice, which is the voice of your father. The three of you, staunch and indignant, having just exited the plum-rain season, stand there watching his face. He says, at least one of you is muddy. You look at the other two, who cannot see that they both are muddy, and besides that, drenched with rainwater. But you see it. Father says, who knows whether or not they are muddy? No one says a word. Father asks again. This time, the other two both raise their hands, looking at each other. Then Father grins, and they all go inside. Later, you realize this meant you were clean.
After a while I thought of it this way:
It was a town underneath a mountain
crowned by snow and every year a river
rushed through, enveloping the dusk
in a noise everyone knew signaled spring—
a small town, known for a kind of calico,
made there, strong and unglazed,
a makeshift of cotton in which the actual
unseparated husks still remained and
could be found if you looked behind
the coarse daisies and the red-billed bird
with swept-back wings always trying to
arrive safely on the inch or so of cotton it
might have occupied if anyone had offered it.
And if you ask me now what happened to it—
the town that is—the answer is of course
there was no town, it never actually
existed, and the calico, the glazed cotton
on which a bird never landed is not gone,
because it never was, never once, but then
how to explain that sometimes I can hear
the river in those first days of April, making
its way through the dusk, having learned
to speak the way I once spoke, saying
as if I didn’t love you,
as if I wouldn’t have died for you.
[VELODROME] And of course
there was no way out. I thought:
winding would be the worst of it.
Not so. In fact, I came back
to the same river, I stepped in
more than twice. I loved the same men,
learned the same lessons,
suffered the same revelations.
I did not cut my hair. I did not
leave the cult of love. I did not leap
the comfort of sex, or sex itself
forever and ever amen. I did not call it off.
Turns out the exit was just an edge,
beyond which there was no more game.
And beyond the game, there was nothing.
Was it really me
who had wanted bull’s horns,
to be cut in the jaw, to be blinded
irreparably? I had wanted God
to take my second arm,
to hold it over T.O, over its one
bloodshot harbor and the blocky phallus
of #1 Yonge Street, the workwomen stumbling
black-booted over ice blisters and salt.
I had wanted to see myself
waving and waving under white cloud,
over white cloud, under again,
the pale fingers straightened
or bent back until they broke.