I'm writing a lot. Maybe you've noticed. But I've also been revising a lot, going back to poems that never quite satisfied me, reworking them. Two of these have finally unlocked for me. The first, "At Night, In November, Trying Not to Think of Asphodel," over a year old, was a bit unwieldy, in construction and conception; now I'm really pleased with it.
AT NIGHT, IN NOVEMBER, TRYING NOT TO THINK OF ASPHODEL
I’m no use for parties, for the idle language
which is all how hellish are the days
and dark or where did I find
that thread count or what do I think must be
done about whatever. So I smile
and nod and never say much,
happy to be thought impaired
or mute and when asked
to name what I couldn’t live without
were I marooned on a desert island,
I say oxygen. Not a book and its pages
slipping from cheap binding
and not an album
that’s not an album
but summer’s totem forever
and not one deft lover
and not the red ringlets
of her hair let down in a grotto beside the sea.
To be consigned there,
to that island, that home
to the fetish of consolation,
is nothing I ever want
to want. To be stripped of desire
as if it were a bandage.
But here in the night made of alarms,
a train shambles
through the dark
and it’s hard to hear the trees speaking
the language we made
for them. Or I did,
thinking of you
who taught me regret.
There are nights when I dream
of stolen oranges.
How we ran away with the sun in our arms.
And there are nights
when I cannot speak,
not even to the wind
in the strange tongue of the dark pine trees.
The other, "Laws," is more recent and also unwieldy, in that it's out of control, jumbled. Similarly happy with its new form.
I forget where it is that ice cream is illegal
if carried in one’s pocket but I love
such a plague. That time was spent
codifying the acceptable methods of melting.
That I’m saved from the mess
I might make of myself
and summer and denim
were I free to stuff my pants with vanilla,
whipped cream, a candied cherry
so deeply unnatural
in its siren red, its off-world sweetness.
And then in San Francisco
we could never roll
down Telegraph Hill
the brass bed your mother gave you
like a burnished anchor
to fix your bedroom with the weight of sentiment.
We could never do that,
not in body armor
or in dragon scales
or invisibly bubbled in comic book pseudo-science.
We could never do it.
But permission might come
were we insured
to experimental levels
and every living limb strictly evacuated
and left alone to begin
breaking one law by observing another,
gravity, were all this
to come to us
just as we wanted,
I would lie down
beside you and dare the morning to push.