Three Times

“My theme is alwey oon, and evere was—Radix malorum est Cupiditas.”
~The Pardoner’s Tale.

And we together, wrought
by a thunderbolt of azure
eyes and snow white boots;
tales taught by a pompous
ass; and a love as giving as
a striking moon.

And I, hypocrite, solely
taking at every promise
to give only, proferring
failure to each eager hope,
loving desperately in
atonement for every
poisoned bottle and stab
at Death.

After three times a decade
in receipt of more than
just desert; still guarding
rotten relics like a cankered
banker; grasping like an aged
beggar for another day,
another hour in your company;
and never bearing to think
it profligate to assume.

Beloved, you are my full
compass. My sustenance,
my respite, and my cure.
The branch to my root,
the vein to my pooling blood,
the opening to my every door.

And greed–if my resilient,
teeming yen for you be such–
must coat my every evil organ
like the finest mist.

[for Julie]

When You Find Him

When you find him,
remember

the nights you wondered,

the days you hoped and
were disappointed,

the evenings you argued with
the disbelieving.

When you find him,
watch the muscular flowers
take from the daylight,
the branches
bend low to your touch.

When you find him,
Breathe deeply,
As a victor breathes:

believing and unconcerned,
accepting the gentle tingle
of proven instinct,
satisfied impulse.

When he finds you,
Tell him I told you so.

[for Emma Shield, 1996]

You Told Me Silence

Do not speak unless you can improve on silence.
-Proverb

You told me silence
is confidence, not needing
the proof of noise.

Arrogant, my tongue
stiffened in the foreskin
of my cheek, only occasionally
emerging pink
and proud in posture
and accusation.

Father, I love you —
but you were wrong.

Without warning,
how could I recognize
this conscript of
cowardice?

Deserve

If I earned pardon
from all concerned, together
with permission to resume
childish routines by
virtue of this forgiveness…

If I built striated muscles
to pull out all past moments,
like rotting teeth,
and replaced
them with fine-feeling porcelain…

If I, through a lifetime of
thankless service, should silently
claim the gentle right of forgetting…

I would never dare
deserve this touch of yours.

(for Julie)

A Moment Without

small me / sweating after nightmares.”
–Michael Ondaatje

If there hadn’t been
a moment without
you,

I would never have known
thirst.

My lips are dry as dust.
My tongue is abrasive, unyielding,
each swallow forgetting liquid,
each pocket of cheek preparing
to crumble as ash.

If there hadn’t been
a moment without
you,

I would be unfamiliar
with the anxiety of ending.
Ignorance would guide me
into prayer for
gentle conclusions, naivete
would greet me
each dawn.

If there is another
moment without
you,

I will sweat through
the waking nightmare
squeezing life from
my pores —

I will struggle again
to believe hope
will quench me.

Detroit International Airport, April 1997.

[For Julie]

Suns and Mothers

I.

“He feels he is not valued so he will risk destroying himself to deprive her altogether.”
–D.H. Lawrence

“I am your mother,”
she insisted tearfully.
Of course
I love you!”

“There is no
of course!”
I countered.
“Love is nothing
if not an effort!”

Later, I confess —
like an ass,
and to prove
my deathly point —
it was my pointless intention,
my purpose,
to stop —

drinking distant, acid toasts to my
suppurating ego,

treating time and life
as a waiting room
for my caterwauling pride —

only to learn she
was right all along.

II.

“if we love each (shyly) / other, what clouds do or Silently / Flowers resembles beauty / less than our breathing.”
–e.e. cummings

A zygote,
150 cells or less,
compared with the many thousands
that make up the brain
of an ant, and yet
such consternation.

Three months we waited,
enduring weekly ultrasounds,
truculent doctors proclaiming
thirty-four weeks the
goal for continuing to live.

Bedrest and vitamins,
television, and the earned
possibility of sleep,
all to make that
zygote Zach, three pounds of
greater love,

and possibility of greater violence than
I once thought possible.

Contemplating hard-won nothingness,
only to discover there would never
be nothing again.

And another,
two months in hospital this time,
punctuated by daily doctors
and the maybe of tomorrow
and home.

But then there is Lucas and a tunnel of light,
and the question of how in the world
this world will ever understand what
it has wrought and received.

III.

“Ye do it to me.”
–Proverbs.

 

Against this world overwrought:
right, left,
and up above,

we discover other mothers,
grandmothers, seraphim-dreaming
of our health and happiness;
the frequency of phone calls and flowers,
the back-fence considerations of

marital imperfections and maternal expertise,

the nuptial invitations
of Christopher and Sarah,
made to laugh so all that may hear
may laugh with them.

And there are Rory and Rowan and Molly
to balm the loss of our so-small ones
made big by time and trial;

there is
Ivi reading off the deck, listening to
Lucas sing and loving Dylan;

Sunanda offering Lucinda Williams,
premium parking and the art of accounting;
Susan recounting travels to Scotland
and Baltimore and beyond,

all to value other
little big ones.

In a world that clearly doesn’t care,
there is caring and concern and consideration;
in the struggle to feel valuable,
there is value freely, blindly offered.

There is an intelligible world,
at least within this perimeter;
there is the never nothing in this
desert of deserving.

IV.

“come on sweetheart / let’s adore one another / before there is no more / of you and me.”
–Rumi

Now, we are Mum.
We are now Dad.

And in them,
through them,
we have always
been each other.

We are now the
children of our own,
and each
other’s, children,

and we are now
the only parents
sharing histories
we can neither
recapture or escape.

And it is of our course
that we
love each other.

There is no more time to pretend.
There is no possibility of any other outcome.

It is love, of course,

and it will breathe clean,
returning, jagged-joyful
gasps until long after there
is no more of you and me.

[for Ivi, Sunanda, Susan, and Julie, of course]

 

Montreal, 2015.