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Award-Winning Poems

 

 
IN THE LIMBO OF LOST WORDS

After our love, I lie in the shadow of your shoulder
and drift to the sound of the seventeen-year locusts outside,

their lonely tenor buzz that rises and falls together
and as suddenly stops, and flares out again.

Their rhythm sweeps against the sides of the house,
rustles like late leaves, a soft desperate rasping,

the ave, ave, ave syllables of air, skin against skin.
When we came upon her yesterday, inside the chapel shadows,

the young soloist abandoned herself to the words she sang,
her translation like an absence of language. Her music

cast itself away and away, pulsing on, until the silence
of an empty room took its place, where the heat of day

is only lamplight through the stained windows.
It filters across the dusty floor. It lights

upon a pale blue wall, indiscriminate in what it touches.
And the mocking, mating voices of the locusts return again

in their regular pilgrimage out of the earth,
out of the dark, into the shadows.

From Dime Store Erotics

 

 
THE CORONARY GARDEN

1.

What a fine package
you've come wrapped in.
A swathing of hospital cotton,

from the brisk whiteness        a tulip unfolding from
    each wrist.

A conduit, first here then there,
your blood in its orbital system
circled safe in its chamber until

you let it out. Why did you let it out?

Plasma makes a great adhesive, a sticky blessing
between us. But I'm not the wounded one.
They stick      together, my fingers,

to the windowpane where I touch it.

 

2.

With tulips, "sometimes a rascally roote
produces a gallant flower."
And there are "some tawdry colors

that may be fringed with beauty."

My hand on the windowpane         it leaves a mark.
The blood makes it tacky.
A transport medium the doctor says,

rinsing his in the cleansing water.

Food, excrescence, lymphocytes, oxygen,
the red blood cells like cheerful donuts --
all on my hands

my hands a testament to your profusion

 

3.

and you oblivious
to the leakage we found together,
the doctor and me, him patching you,

me scooping up the shape the red assumes

as it coagulates into your palms,
into glue and glove,
the doctor shaking free of it,

and if I loved you better

would this mortal scene stay unwritten?
They "love an airy, moyst place," the tulips,
their fabulous tongues.

The flowers you choose for your coronary garden

 

4.

will crown your head when you die.
You grow the tulip "for it is the pearle
of the coronary garden," with ivy, vervain,

roses ferried from Egypt , asphodel,

any twining plant that might make a garland.
The garland         it rides out many occasions.
When Hippocrates cured the plague of Athens

by lighting fire to the city, the fuel therefore

was largely made of garlands.
Even a child may plait a garland.
Even a child can wear a light corona.

My hands        your blood beneath the nails.

 

5.

like a red manicure.
Now your arteries are like a garden,
bacteria thriving there and blooming.

Are you drunk yet

on the failure of the systems?
Can your lungs support the fluid
as it gathers and collects?

Can your heart percolate?

The rue of your garden        it wards off drunkenness.
If I loved you more, wouldn't I have noticed
the grinding at the lip, the ataxia, you cumbered

by the darkness?

 

6.

Despair needles you with its whisper,
it is agnostic, it believes in irony,
like a fly's buzz it is perception, a busy

blood clot that says alive, alive.

I'm not the stopped motion, the straight line out.
Your garlands are "convivial, festival, sacrificial,
nuptual, honorary, funebrial."

That spring, when we strolled in the rain,

you bent to the stone wall's alyssum --
bloom, stem, and root, you tore a handful free.
Against your mouth the petals

were a mass of stars winking out.

 

7.

Now the heart beating in its wash,
nearly bled out.
Shall I braid a garland of rosemary, myrtle,

and what about apium,        also called celery,

which bears the metallic scent
of blood in its leaves?
Shall I bring you celery?

Outside the body blood doesn't belong

the doctor says.
You lay there whitely smiling.
If I loved you more

why would I want to taste it?

 

 
THE MOWERS

I'm looking at the intersection
            of thigh and cloth,
                        oh at you,
where, caught in sunlight,
fabric adorns you.

Muscles shifting
            beneath skin, tendons
                        maxed out at their task --
you're only scything
the field's fallow grass

down to stubble
            but I grow my fingernails long
                        so they may graze you
and I paint them pink
to glow against your tan --

thigh to kneecap
            to the calf's demarcation.
                        Who knows why
we love each other this way?
Your shout of laughter,

it arcs to me
            across the hillside
                        where I weed away chicory,
other riffs of green
and the stinging

nettle, its rosary of pain.
            I press it against my palm
                        and cross over to you,
bearing a stigmata,
red's rising tide.