THREE POEMS, THREE POETS
Such pleasure one needs to make for oneself—.
She has snipped the paltry forsythia
to force the bloom, has cut each stem on the
slant and sprinkled brown sugar in a vase,
so the wintered reeds will take their water.
It hurts her to do this but she does it.
When are we most ourselves, and when the least?
Last night, the man in the recessed doorway,
homeless or searching for something, or sought—,
all he needed was one hand and quiet.
The city around him was one small room.
He leaned into the dark portal, a
shadow of himself, gray shade in a door.
His eyes were closed, his rhythm became him,
as we have shut our eyes, as dead or as
other, and held the thought of another
whose pleasure is need, face over a face. . .
It hurts her to use her hands, to hold a
cup or bud, or touch a thing. The doctors
have turned her burning hands in their hands.
The tests have shown a problem, but no cause,
a neuropathology of mere touch—.
We have all made love in the dark, small room
of such need, without shame, to our comfort,
our compulsion. I know I have. She has.
We have held or helped each other, sometimes
watching from the doorway of a warm house
where candletips of new growth light the walls,
the city in likeness beyond, our hands
on the swollen damp branch or bud or cup.
Sometimes we are most ourselves when we are
least, or hurt, or lost, face over a face—.
You have, too. It’s your secret, your delight.
You smell the wild scent all day on your hand.
Walking in Hills of Which One Has Seen Many Paintings
Your task differs: to leave
the world to its own particular
fragility: not to turn it to emblems the way
shadows of cows in a pond once
became emblems of the heat
of a summer day. Within borders of your
vision, imperfect frame, the sun
sets, shadows are allowed
to darken away. Others knew this landscape,
but you know there must
always be those who only watch
and, watching, wander off; while quietly,
quietly even the most suggestive
fragility undertakes its own slow
transformation, cedes to its own complexity.
Without fear or fault, the green
Expanse of it drops at acute
Angles, sudden and inconveniently,
Till laden branches bless the rest of the boulevard.
Here you too may mail a letter abroad,
Or unfold laundry,
Perform essential services, clip shade
In transient humidity.
Like a friend you’ve missed for years, except
That he doesn’t know who you are, or want to,
This puffy guy jogs up
Then down, then up the stairs.
I want to cry
At all costs: Look, quick wind, I’m one of you!
But each afternoon
The sun strikes, as in bowling,
And all is cleared away, although the wind
Competes: it cleans its area, then punches
Out as night comes on
And drops off the residues, rainily, later, in Queens,
Among the distant congregations. Somebody
Trots a cat on a leash; the smaller
Mutts look up a bit, unnerved,
And prance up, almost bounce, on their back legs,
Having their very
Own vertiginous day.
Nothing I say can satisfy those I care for.
Appropriate flowers grow harder and harder to find.
all from The Paris Review (156), Eds. George Plimpton, Peter Matthiessen, Donald Hall, Robert Silvers, Blair Fuller, Maxine Groffsky, Jeanne McCulloch and James Linville.