Precisely. That’s why you listen, despite yourself:
Not because I say that one original thing,
but that you hear something so completely
unoriginal, so proverbial
it stares you down like a mirror & says
nothing about being fairest at all.
Dancing in the living room
above your basement beat,
your rhythms a tide that swells,
breaks, waxes, wanes,
I make galaxy paths, a dervish
around the sofa and chairs
beyond the back door frame
into the far far box
of our now brown backyard,
undressed willows wondering
how such moves can be possible
so deep in the arc of winter's night,
how dancing can proclaim such hot red circles
in such a frigid square domain.
FIVE NOBLE LADIES
The five women
kneel, lean, recline, offer, pour--
exactly spaced, perfectly lit.
There is peaceful assurance in this:
I know where they stand,
confident they'll look the same tomorrow,
marble verbs in orderly action,
muses I can depend on.
Behind them (the atrium wall being glass),
I see kids playing in the snow,
red scarves unfurling,
blue, green, orange sleds gliding,
January trees twittering,
rainbow caps falling off,
woolen fingers shaping crystal Golems:
If I blink, everything changes;
even a camera nets only a moment,
and next week, snow gone,
who knows what children will conceive?
How I seek intransitive life in a transitive world,
where existence impishly tosses snowball meanings.
I admit there's an attraction to such blitheness,
to wearing experience as lightly as those sleds
etching their lightning down a winter hill.
But I tell you, I've always desired the security of stone,
to know tomorrow might be somewhat
like today, if not the statue,
at least the plinth.
Yet there you are, looking like a Dickens ghost,
pointing outside where the girls have blood
these marble ladies only suggest,
inviting me not to choose one for the other,
but, in a balance, to find a place for Galatea
both after and before.
HADRIAN'S WALL, LIKE MINE
I still go to my room,
metaphorically, but my room
nonetheless, going to hide
myself from the whelm of rage
that waits to make you--
whoever the you of the moment is--
dissolve, dissolve being too kind:
What I have in mind is mythic:
limbs shred, served as dinner
to unsuspecting guests--
the rush of seeing quartsful of you
spread across asphalt alleys:
Oh, some days I'd Lizzie Borden any one of you--
It comes on so suddenly--
so, I wall away in my room:
You only see me
walking away briskly,
or eating a larger mouthful,
or running an extra mile,
or working twice as hard so you can see
nothing but a good good-guy.
All of these are the room I run to,
ran to so long ago,
the thick, tall door shut,
a six-year-old and now a seventy-year old's best defense
against all that noise downstairs.
We have to keep the number of clients up; the school’s going to go under otherwise. I know the place is jammed, but what do you expect? No numbers, no school. No school, and you’re out of a job. It’s numbers kid. Those are the facts. Live with ‘em.
A School Director (1984)
Judith, do you have any idea
how much I want to put your face
between my hands, look directly into your eyes,
and make you believe in you?
I teach you according to a syllabus ten years out of date
concepts you’ve never used, watching you
anguish each time I’m forced by pedagogy
to call on you, 49 heads turning to your answer,
me tortured more than I’m allowed to say.
You’ll leave this overstuffed place
with the D I’ve created from F, watching you
exit thinking D your total worth.
I can give you all the favorite platitudes,
but you’ll only think me one of them,
the liberal white folk who just want
to bleed you, to force on you
a skill that’s not you at all.
Judith, I’m so angry you’re even here.
You should be shouting songs (I’ve heard you sing)
or creating wonderful art (I’ve seen the drawings
in your notebook)--your smile alone is art,
though your smile lately seems a memory.
I wish I could know (beyond a guess on my part)
what you feel when you face the cool eye of your mirror.