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For Women Missing Or Dead

1.

Somewhere a woman walks through the world.
She is not thinking of me.
She is not thinking of lupine or trees.
She is not thinking much of anything.

The world takes notice. Her shoulders
pull hands from sunlight, air
parts for her will, and her breasts.
Don't you feel foolish

last man in the world?

2.

At times I think you've always stood
on some small hill, above me.
You watch as I--naked, committed, weary--
slide to warm unfriendly waters

below to prove what happens today. A dream?
I don't think so. We happen
once or twice as love, if at all.
We take our love with ease, and departures.

3.

My summers consisted of sand
and Kitten James.
Outside of that--and fish flies in the morning--
every summer was about the same.

The one in which she said no,
the one in which she'd never say yes
not to sensual questions
but one request for which, until this day

I have no name.
Every summer, since then, has been the same.

4.

The trees I could do without
though they were there.
The lake was Huron and large--
a disturbance so vast

inconsequent, what mattered was
the line we could not walk:
straight up the beach and home,
loaded again on love.

The shortest distance between two points
is seldom what it seems.

 

5.

Three girls, three T-shirts, three wet small
bathing suit bottoms, down,
these girls have come down
from whatever hill they thought they must climb to.

They have never known man.
They are familiar with hills, and with each other.
One of the girls is attractive to me.
Two of them are attracted to her.

Caught in such love, so many worlds,
I watch from my own small hill.

6.

I will never know how I lost her
She will never know
I still ask.
Was it a cream dress in a white car

on a green night, in Michigan?
She came to a bad or a good end, yes,
and that was some time ago.
Since then we've grown remarkable

like love which, swearing to forget,
cannot remember how.

7.

Everything brings to mind
some other thing. For example:
the music of the flute, for you
is peace, floating, insensate, calm.

But not for me. I think
of tangled hair and lips compressed
anywhere, even among thighs
or thieves or someone else's flute

playing to amaze all analogy.

8.

The fine black hair. Her wall of plaid.
She tipped back in her chair.
Mocking, flash slack laughing eyes.
Yes, you flirt with many men, but

gave me your number. 'Please phone,'
you said, 'I think you might be wise
to write a poem
about someone who loves like me.'

9.

Love is a name that's given perhaps
where no name was before.
Let me call you Anna or Geda or Sari--
whatever. But please let me call you

for you are where there was
nothing before.
A simple velvet band restrains
your hair: a fact of bondage

Lady, open, my living in your name.

10.

Beer. Eggs. Ice cream. Six in the morning.
The softest thing I've ever felt
is you, watching me
partake of that, after our night of love.

You did so with absolute wonder.
Soft, because curious, you cared
as I cared. Selfish, so much
we circled the lake all day, looking

for objects to tell each other through.
  11.

Ecstasy! we rolled all night beneath the moon
When we got up
there was still the hill to clean, the shore to vacuum.
Water returned the raft, a postcard view

and morning, a small French maid in red
instead of black, white pleats, her skimpy shoulder straps,
flossed a bit with feather duster
and every time I kissed her (you, my darling,

out of sight), quivered like the dawn she was.
12.

You think God gentle?
I find him exceedingly rough.
Come, let us not settle
such lofty matters at once. To bed!

There two angels, obdurate
composed, straddled each of her knees.
What's wrong? she asked.
Not sure, I said, but I think I have

a headache. And watched
those subtle bastards take her as she slept.

13.

I touch the dawn white milk warm body
of a woman. 'No, not the moon.'
Her sleep is like the clock
that tells me it's just about morning.

I've never met an analogy I didn't like.
What time is it?
Eternity
Surely a thought to put one's socks on to.

14.

The shared spread legs, tits, eyelids, me
muttering. I am what you take, I cannot
give. And so I entered the spoken word
and received just that: Lady

after, we began to feel.
You told me that you liked knit scarves
and I said, Yes, I had a friend or two.
Posthumous, we thought of love

of what and how it's made.
15.

The girl, I recall, wore a bright yellow dress.
She stood in a black train station.
That's simple enough. And Syracuse, New York.
Where do we go from there?

Not forward nor backward in time,
trains, imagination. I'm
inclined toward all, worthless as many.
I end up with a girl. A yellow dress.

A black train station.

16.

The ridiculous swirl the water makes
going down the drain
is like that curve: a single hair of yours,
the solitary darkness I took and kept

from you. All you left me
was water and darkness
showing up so bright against the rest
I suppose you were here once

but wouldn't prove it then, by me,
couldn't now if I had all of you.
  17.

I cried of course when they told me
you were dead.
Frankly I'd forgotten already,
Brigadoon

(you called me that when, good for a night,
a day, I failed to return)
Your nineteen-year-old body bruised to the touch.
Not dramatic this:

the simple erratic division of cells.
'Now it is the hand of death
that grants
the gift of life itself.'
18.

'This sleeve contains your negatives
Use them to order
enlargements, extra prints, posters
' I never took a photograph of you.

Isn't that strange?
I, so eager to preserve
what cannot be, what cannot stay
never thought, indelible girl,

to keep you in that way.
  19.

I nearly forgot your face today.
It was there
in the morning
when I left the house.

You of course have been gone for years.
Comparisons are ludicrous.
I merely had tea for lunch.
I will not go back, no, never

for what is still there.
20.

What I learned in the tub this morning
gazing on my sad, beautiful body
was: William,
stop trying to think of ways to die.

The water was not that hot,
the day--not possibly--that good.
The thought of you, enough.
Up, out. Even the mirror, in a steam fat way

was, yes, I hate to say it,
a simple invitation.
  21.

I've begun to embrace my loneliness.
Is that bad, or good?
Who knows. Stagnant, I went out one night
to find a young girl

or let her find me. I did. She did.
She said I looked like a thief.
And right, you know
sizing up, with such dull alacrity

one who'd tried to steal you again,
Love, from her.
22.

The girl sent down to page me
was a woman I loved
so long and not so long, ago.
The resemblance was casual, of course

enough to make me grateful.
Thanks to whoever sent her
-- my Lord of Odds--some tricks
though cruel

are kind, if accidental.
Remembrance is: to forget in very large words.
  23.

'Never seek to tell '
Next day she told
my friend: 'Last night he said
the most beautiful thing to me

I've ever heard, or been told.'
Last night I don't remember.
Otherwise I would be sure
to claim her.
24.

Let's not stop now, she said
and rearranged the title
of my dream. I made
a tune of it and danced a round

until she cut me to the quick with:
exactly what I had in mind.
She fell asleep. I cursed her mind,
having had enough of it.

I should have settled for
another theme, another body.
  25.

Was it really such
an overlarge wish?
I put on my sweater
and plans for Children of Paradise.

When I got to your place
you laughed at my sweater
my tickets in hand,
said you had plans

and took me out for a night
of bowling. You won.
  26.

Left hand, right hand
affection for folly
that rent free shark smooth
truth walk down, 0

I love it! Condolence that's neither
accord nor acclaim
this living room ain't big enough
to look at you, Girl.

All this jazz is all we have.
That's music.
27.

You and your Persian carpet swimming pool.
That inlaid floor, its gold and blue
on which you float, no dream,
nearly asleep in your nakedness.

If only I could jump on you!
Infinite oscillation. Woman in water.
What can I do?
Dismiss the servants, drain the pool.

Even that would fail to arrest you.
Laughter echoes in every tile
and down you go. A declivity, no girl I know
-- a history of liquid, mobile ladies.
28.

Lady, do not deny me.
I've got the softest hands in Christendom
and the hardest cock.
I only brag on occasion

and this, tonight, is ours.
Lady, you've got the hardest eyes in Christendom
and the softest twat.
Tonight, let us be true and good to one another.

29.

Should Lohengrin go soft
or Jenufa go hard
I too am seismograph of feeling
all. For all

the good hard will I muster, court
I'm soft. Can man be soft?
This lover who must push so hard
to be, to make the world

go soft, his will. He works too hard.
Forgive me. Forgive yourself.
30.

Living is that bitter, yes. The only
language we have left
is this, our late night sometimes
drunken, always acrid love

It's not that bad I suppose.
In the morning, our always in the right place
bruises compared, we use
adjectives like 'raw, brutal, beautiful'

and fall again to love that's never cold.
  31.

There's nothing deep between us now
I fear, but time
and time is never enough.
Would that I were an historian!

I could love you as much, I suppose
as fingers loved Napoleon,
Leicester Elizabeth,
Hitler boots, or Cleo her long fat barge.

Screw history! Pass me, dear, if you please
your newsprint body, my daily need.
32.

'Bobbie Burns was good to all
his gerlls,' you said
and I, of course, that night
had not been good to you.

I wish myself dead
and Burns alive,
loving however you would have me tonight,
never, perhaps, a legend

but lucky, doing good by you.

33.

A funny life, I said. You live it dirty,
you live it clean. It all comes down
to pretty much the same damn thing.
Beggin' your pardon, my companion said,

but when did you ever live clean?
Ah, you should have known me after.
After what?
Why, after my dear Lady, you.
  34.

I turn my back to the beach.
Out there, the ketch lulls,
fish smacks idle, and buoys sing.
I prefer the wharfs cold underside

cracked, rusted, downright demolished
in fact, awaiting
reparation that will never come.
The moral here is not what it seems:

I love by chance, not choice
and what I choose is often downright wrong.
35.

Take it away, Horatio. Death.
You go there now, then maybe
I'll come back. I found it
no different--those weekends,

those Friday afternoons. Of course
we had nothing to drink
but believe it or not
little or no great matter. Love?

I hate to tell you.
It was the same, the same.
  36.

I say enough attention has been paid
--dust, blossom, horseshit, rain--
to small things. Put
your clothes back on girl, please, we are all

late getting started, today. This world
was made a long, long time ago
for no one I remember.
I do not care where you are today, or what you feel--

that sad barometer, yourself.
Enough attention has been paid.
37.

Why at the beach, surrounded by
fruit, fine flesh, fish, gesture (water
by that bound) so many
alert young eyes, lips, navels, my life

this dream, all attendant human satisfaction,
why am I miserable still
as mad as Manley Hopkins, just as unhappy?
Jesuit, I confess

I find you in everything, still.
Others here are simply loving, walking.
  38.

Waiting to be happy or sad, we wait.
The sea by which we sit is
a condition, small, that seldom comes.
Close at hand is all too close, we know.

I've learned my lessons, read
all the wrong right books: my love
beside me, still too close at hand.
Never, I say, never

have I been so lonely . . . she knows
and returns, with her eyes, the prospect
sad, of what is.
  39.

Your teeth, lips parted, white
as the belly of the passing jet you lift them to,
eyes squint, gazing at this going
north to Alaska, or south to the Pole.

I'm not quite certain just what this all means.
I have designs on your mouth,
Designs largely selfish. I wish
I was a passing jet, my belly white

smiling at this simple reflex and
the lover, cursing, sitting next to you.
40.

Beautiful is when we least expect it.
And where. This ivory basin
full of your underwear, rinsing. My hangover.
It leaves me unable to sing.

Strange tea. D.H. Lawrence.
A girl--you--sits by the window, knees propped
(close to a perfect chin), sun washed
eyes, spectrum

--ecru, olive, hazel--wondering
just who the hell I am.
  41.

People complain of too little,
I say there's too much
love in this, whatever, world.
Narcissus wasn't such a fool

settling for what, the rest uncertain,
he found in his own pool, but
I watch you talking and think
I could talk myself

into loving this girl. You stopped.
I even liked your silence.
I could silence myself, the pool,
into loving this girl.
42.

Frankly, I'm downright pleasantly embarrassed.
A grown man, hiding like that,
some kid behind a tree. And all
I gained was access to your home, a life . . .

A home! A life! If I could
I'd weave a quilt of such soft down
such luxuriant color
you'd sleep, each night, safely what you are

and rise, deserving
richness that the quiet day affords.

43.

I think I've transferred the love of God
to women. No loss
(there are so many of them). Even
Krishna was confused,

knowing just where to look to find
the milk maid's daily round.
'Welcome attention of one who knows
your unique qualities;

romantic involvement part,
a very large part, of your scenario.'
Even the horoscope has become a woman
and dammit, she's getting personal.
  44.

I don't know exactly how this happened
but Lady, your choice
is Mexico: the place, the country, yours.
I would have picked Greece.

This is your fantasy. I will not bother you.
That rust robe always, if you wish
--like laughter, old loves, a soft child--
shall stand between us.

Yet won't you remove it once, just now?
I'd place you on the beach, no fantasy,
a land of ivory and clay,
a backdrop for your freshness being born.
  45.

Poetry, like soap, is a miracle.
The one Picasso thought
he might turn into, sitting
in his tub. But didn't.

He was merely Picasso. Picasso is not poetry.
My father is Picasso. I am Picasso.
You are Picasso, in the nude
and pretty much otherwise. I

am you in the nude and Picasso and you
in the nude, my father
and--Jesus! in this tub--
what a miracle we are, what elemental soap.
46.

Making poems about love is easy.
It's easier by far
than making love, though either
task is facile

when compared
to keeping this gift that cannot stay.
Love, I do not wish to step
into this river twice with you.

Once is enough. Enough.

47.

When we come close we are far away.
'I am sick,' you say '
of your ruthless world of paradox.'
All right: when we come close

we are close. 'No better,' you say,
'Cause now you just don't mean it.'
What I mean and what I see, impossible
unlivable, and often downright insane

is the world I inhabit with you.
Put me away. 'I'd miss you,'
you say, 'stuck in my own small world
of intimate paradox.'
48.

There's little love in this, Yes
living cannot be looked on
for more than what it is: All.
So think of us, Love

as whatever was found
as leftovers. The cupboard after
great love or some large war
enough to sustain

whoever lives there, however wrong--
the ones who stayed behind,
baked in the dust of the hero's wagon.

49.

Your laughter most, that's it--
that's what I'll remember.
As if the person, whole, released
has shaken itself free, from all,

into some marvelous tantrum.
And then your smile (those
cigarette kisses). The ingredients
are obvious, I suppose,

like good life which
--when it comes--
takes everything
--itself and laughter--by surprise.
50.

I stopped by, a simple invitation.
I thought we'd go cycling, nice
to follow your ass from here to Morro Bay.
You were gone--no hassle, no alarm--

for good. You'd up and quit this place.
No word. No single token.
You were never here. You won't be where you are.
Love is what I would have turned you into

if I had gone away.
  51.

I could stare at my feet for hours
waiting for you to phone.
I could stand on the beach on which you sit
each noon, but

I'm done with watching and waiting.
Overmuch. That is the stuff of youth.
Good luck. Yes, one at my age learns
to go beyond, which means

I have done nothing for hours,
waiting for you to phone.
  52.

Riding my bike up hill I think
how hard it is to push to breathe
a bike up hill how hard it's been
to love you, breath, life, breath

then setting the gears in high and down
hill going two miles a clip and all
stops open loose I think how little
time so long a stretch and breathless, wide

firm in the seat like a prophet
I know it was worth it, worth it.
  53.

'Perhaps only the sailor who made it
knows the secret, and
the secret is gone like the sailor.'
A history of scrimshaw. A puzzle, like love.

I'm beginning to find you everywhere,
my secret, my ivory girl.
You are in my head, yes, but also in my body.
Did you know a lighthouse was constructed

once that overlooked Niagara Falls?
And no boats sailed there.
  54.

When two ships pass, their sails,
a dacron white, are one
for longer than it takes to happen.
This all occurs in the mind of course

for should they collide
the shudder of those sails, the splitting hulls,
remain for just a second, maybe two.
This is the way I've read the world

of love, often
with a silly, pleasant preference.
  55.

My favorite words: ubiquitous
capacious, lubricous, undulant-
my myriad, Girl
are words for you, come see

what grows in my succulent garden.
0 will you not come see--Kore, Regina--
this small effulgent tree
(another favorite word)

I have grown for you
with the help of Latin and Greek.
56.

The poems have all gone out of my forehead.
They've evacuated my chest, my groin, my legs.
Abandoned my clothes, my soul . . .
I have nothing more to do with you, Ladies.

The poems are over there, on the table.
If you touch them I will kill you.
They are not a small thing, flowers, easy to place
of your own accord. They are not a gift

for you, but words I save
for one who knowing their worth
shall throw them away, someday
in a place where nothing has been thrown before.

I am that selfish.
The poems, the loves, were that good.

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