Woman at a Window
I see her as a portrait:
caught behind liquid transparency;
framed; tear-eyed; her pale face
distilling weak light.
As if suspended,
she stands at her window for hours.
The disintegration into sobbing;
the glassiness of the stare:
these draw me to spy
(no, too harsh a word!) to study her,
even though I wish it weren’t so.
If I could erase the distance between us,
we might converse about death,
violence, a star-crossed affair
that’s causing her to cry.
And if I could tell her that we’re alike,
our worlds equally askew,
I might see reflected back at me
someone other than myself.
Borrowing Anne Sexton’s Attire
I’m thinking of a black dress.
I’m thinking of nakedness.
I’m thinking of becoming an Anne Sexton wannabe who, like a white-trash Marilyn
clone, reminds the world of how dead skin is shed as ruthlessly as a poet discarding
words for the sake of the rhyme.
I’m thinking of a song, of The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator. Serenading myself till
twilight, I drink my whisky neat.
I’m thinking of feet and metre, of dactyls and trochaics, of a villanelle my friend Sylvia
stole, the lament we shared.
I’m thinking of a woman’s voice, of bitterness callused by bad choices, bad marriages and
I’m thinking of a tour, of readings where I wear a red gown and nothing underneath. My
cigarette half-cocked, I listen to an inner voice, tender as a girl’s, persuading me to soften
I’m thinking of the children I never bore.
I’m thinking of letting go. Not an oven, but a closed garage and a car.
I’m thinking of the other side, of the paradise of having years trickle from my bones until
old age has drained me, a borehole drawing off the sap.
I’m thinking of a Massachusetts Pine. Return me to it; bury me amongst its roots.
I’m thinking of a suit, skin-tight as a coffin or a collected works. The Complete Poems: an
epitaph. Arriving home. No escape; the end.
No snags, I promise,
simply a gift so that we might part smoothly,
our points of difference buried.
The distance between two spikes
might once have measured our connection,
an infinite world of tenderness there.
But now, it’s enough
that each sharp star speaks of something long gone.
Perhaps you’ll take this cactus with you;
grow into it from afar,
rooted by it wherever you go:
Ulluru, Rio, Arizona.
Perhaps you’ll leave it behind,
allow it to stand in place of you,
holding your memory
in the same way a picture might,
or a closed book on a shelf in your room:
a silent, internal way,
the way of the animate,
the wrist-watch, the ghost.
I’ll tolerate either choice,
for some winter’s morning
you’ll fly home to darkness
and you’ll know that you’re alive,
because you’ll stroke this cactus,
recalling the moment it was offered,
and it will prick you,
and it will hurt.
Everywhere, a bird sees suggestions.
That bruise upon the headland
is a stray magpie prowling
through chechian grass.
That finger of sand
is a beach parted
by the movement of water.
Those flashes of lightning
are the sun shining
upon the retreating tide.
That vision across the harbour
is a city hidden beneath
a blanket of mist.
And that ghost disappearing
into the sea is a cormorant
pretending he isn’t here.