First thing we should do / if we see each other again is to make / a cage of our bodies—inside we can place / whatever still shines.
My loves are here: wrists, eyelids, damp toes, all scars, and my mouth
pouring praises, still asking, saying kiss me; when I’m dead kiss this poem,
it needs you to know it goes on, give it your lovely mouth, your living tongue.
It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?
I finally figured out that I’m solitary by nature, but at the same time I know so many people; so many people think they own a piece of me. They shift and move under my skin, like a parade of memories that simply won’t go away. It doesn’t matter where I am, or how alone - I always have such a crowded head.
And I have stepped into your dream at night,
A stranger there, my body steeped in moonlight.
I watched you tremble, washed in all that silver.
Love, the stars have fallen into the garden
And turned to frost. They have opened like a hand.
I read my books until
I nearly broke their spines, and in the cotton field,
I repeated whole sections I’d learned by heart,
spelling each word in my head to make a picture
I could see, as well as a weight I could feel
in my mouth. So now, even as I write this
and think of you at home, Goodbye
is the waving map of your palm, is
a stone on my tongue.
a good moon when it hears what we’ve done
tugs at our hands
—John Cross, closing lines to “cool,” in Staring at the Animal (Tupelo Press, 2009)
A bouquet of clumsy words: you know that place between sleep and awake where you’re still dreaming but it’s slowly slipping? I wish we could feel like that more often. I also wish i could click my fingers three times and be transported to anywhere I like. I wish that people didn’t always say ‘just wondering’ when you both know there was a real reason behind them asking. And I wish I could get lost in the stars.
Listen, there’s a hell of a good universe next door, let’s go.
I’m addicted to the little slash marks,
the looping, crossing, cutting, slanted marks.
The black type on paper,
the language, the letters
that come together and tell stories,
the heavy sweating men,
the storyteller at his loom,
the boat ride down lazy English rivers,
the lithe knights
the fainting princess
ah, the evil witches.
I’ve always been addicted,
to the right word,
to the wrong poem,
to the women with calluses
to the story that distracts.
To the death
and rebirth incarnate,
to the key hanging around your neck,
to the drunken poet,
to the crack of the binding
like that of the bat,
to the illustrations
to what’s behind the door,
to being one of them,
for 24 years
to be one of them,
to be one of them
and to hold in my hand
the stories I drink
the ink that turns my mouth black,
and changes my words from the heartache inside
to the kind you can touch
and yes, I know, I’m going to die trying
but at least I will have died passionately,
like they do in stories.
“I realized that you had no power over me, that it was not you alone who were my lover but the entire earth. It was as if my soul had extended countless sensitive feelers, and I lived within everything, perceiving simultaneously Niagara Falls thundering far beyond the ocean and the long golden drops rustling and pattering in the lane. I glanced at a birch tree’s shiny bark and suddenly felt that, in place of arms, I possessed inclined branches covered with little wet leaves and, instead of legs, a thousand slender roots, twining into the earth. imbibing it. I wanted to transfuse myself thus into all of nature, to experience what it was like to be an old boletus mushroom with its spongy yellow underside, or a dragonfly, or the solar sphere. I felt so happy that I suddenly burst out laughing, and kissed you on the clavicle and nape. I would even have recited a poem to you, but you detested poetry.”
—Vladimir Nabokov, from “Sounds,” in The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov (Vintage International, 1997)