October Again and Again

               I think your face is beautiful, the way it is
               close to my face, and I think you are the real
               October with your transparence and the stone
               of your words as they pass, as I do not hear them.
	               -- Bill Berkson, October

October again
and again it's full 
of you. Can you feel
this small sadness 
as it climbs inside 
and undresses you.
How an orchestra 
of hands can promise 
to be noteless.  
Outside everything 
is beautiful and dying. 
Can you feel this yawning
mouth that only wants
and wants. The intimacy
of small talk without 
the immutability of its 
damage. Is it possible
to fall back asleep
in your contours
without subverting your 
heart into a hallway.
I know I didn't get it right
the first time. 

Can you feel that. Inside me
something insatiable
comes to life.
It reaches up my throat
with its claws. Wants
to be petted and fed
cold milk. Wants to show up
on your doorstep. But aren't I
an expert on restraint. Again
and again. I practice small refusals.
I do not touch. I throw out 
the milk. I try to unremember
the sound of you laughing.
The way your face looked sad
but honest in some moonlight.
The way time continues to elapse
patiently. A heart that beats 
slowly and sadly 
still beats. Still ventures
to unremember. What 
could you have stored up
to tell me anyway.
After all this time.
What would you 
say to me
if you 
were not 


Cloth hangs thick as curtains: floral dresses
and saris with their oriental prints.
Patterns from the tropics.
Fabric from the moon.
My own clothes now
are navy and dull from so many cleanings.
These are the pants I wear to work.
The sweater I wear to meetings,
to my lectures, with no comment
or complaints to my supervisor
or his supervisor.
I know myself well,
it is a lifeless body draped
without vegetable dyes or the soak
of the earth, raw hands to knead
the knots and stitches.  I am clearly not
of this same earth
as I see my face distorted
in the curve of the shining rods
on the racks.
                             These clothes are almost free,
relinquished by those who once owned them, by those
who first imagined them, holding the design
in their mind and finally
made them, stitch by stitch.
There is sadness in such a tender craft.
For now they belong to themselves, aging
in the light as it streams through windowpanes;
they are safely apart from the world,
yet part of the world, made of the world
as it flashes by the bars of my body
and does not peek inside.
Look at me, I’m begging
these bones to open, to open! and yet
I am trapped
in this box of glass:
every speck of dust is illuminated.


Dear Astrid

Loneliness is the human condition.
Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you
allows your soul room to grow.

Never expect to outgrow loneliness.
Never hope to find people who will understand you,
someone to fill that space.  An intelligent, sensitive person
is the exception,
the very great exception.

If you expect to find someone who will understand you,
you will grow murderous
with disappointment.
The best you'll ever do is to understand yourself,
know what it is that you want,
and not let the cattle get in the way.



Excerpt adapted from White Oleander, by Janet Fitch.

Panicked Animal

After everything, I couldn’t stand to be alone
in my bedroom, so I started sleeping on the couch.
Then I couldn’t stand the couch
so I slept outside in the grass,
but I couldn’t stand the grass.

So I slept in my body, strung from my ankles and my wrists
like a hammock. When I couldn't stand my body,
I chiseled myself out of it. This use of knives
broke my heart, because it was an act of violence.
My weakness broke my heart, because Julia comes from Jupiter.
The meaning of my name broke my heart because I would rather
be beautiful than strong. My vanity broke my heart
because I am a scholar. My education broke my heart
because universities are mostly lonely places
and knowledge, in the end, is empty.

My emptiness ate me alive; I was starving to be whole.
The thought of wholeness broke my heart
because it is elusive and I could not have it.
So I tried to rationalize wholeness
as the mastery of all interests: I walked into the yard
trying to vomit and pray simultaneously. I fell asleep
while whispering a love song. I was empty empty
empty. I've had enough heartbreak
to fill every inch of this house.  Really,
I was drowning
in a room I couldn't stand.