4 poems from Singing and Dying
I still regret
we never did it.
You know the Fifties, when everyone pretended sex
You weren’t allowed to say virgin
but still supposed to be one
until you got pregnant and the jig was up.
Don’t ask don’t tell until…
Long days, long nights, long cold
showers praying for a period.
“If only---I promise not to sass my mom, not to give
my dad a heart attack, not to stay out ‘til midnight
in my boyfriend’s jalopy.”
As long as I’m lamenting, I wish I could’ve grown up
in the Paris rage with Hemingway and Gertrude Stein
or reckless in the fin de sičcle with Toulouse-Lautrec
or even in the honest Stone Age with Fred and Pebbles.
She didn’t give him a heart attack.
He didn’t give her flack.
Why bother to lament
since we’ve lived through it all and we’re still alive
to piss and moan?
Equinox: September 23, 2016.
(Equinox is the day before your birthday as when you were born)
Fifty years ago I was waiting for you
at the Equator.
It was the Equinox, eerie day, no shadow on the ground at noon
hardly any night. Desperate for sleep, I prayed you would soon arrive.
In the twilight
I addressed the birth announcements Colombian artist
Hanibal Gil printed:
Wood block of mother fish with baby taking the lead.
That was our path. I was waiting for you
at the Equator, our lives on the fly.
We lived through the Equinox and progressed
into Libra, your stone still a sapphire,
corundum which held over a spider, will
kill the beast. Plenty of spiders here in Colombia plus snakes
and potholes as the jeep bumped me along
drenched with waters from the Atlantic and Pacific, in the dark
to the hospital.
"I'm done with this country.
The beat up roads, the spiders, la violencia, the Farc,
the lack of infrastructure, worry about thieves, my stolen sapphires
and kidnappers. I'm going back to Iowa.
"The sweet corn stolen from my garden, stalks and all.
I'm going to take my baby home to safety."
But then I was in the delivery room and your father said,
"We have a son."
Back in my room filled with anthurium and glads
I was glad, glad glad, fortunate to have my fourth and perfect
child at the Equator, a Libra, a diplomat who could weigh each side
of the sun and the moon, who could solve the conundrum,
to begin my life swimming with you who grew into a peacemaker.
I loved this country at the equator!
I loved this country of the sun!
I loved my son!
Now fifty years later, even the Farc
has made peace. I know you had something to do with that.
You who bring delight and the light into each Equinox.
We die of a stroke or a heart
attack," My brother thundered. "Don't forget
our parents watch over us. Every week
I go to a funeral of someone who weighs a hundred
pounds less. Dammit!
Our parents keep us alive. There is only another blip
on your élan. You have more books to write, to edit.
You will cry over my bier first
or cry over my beer, hah! As the English say,
keep your pecker up."
Cancer/never in my family but here it is.
After the needle biopsy of the breast
my life speeds into diagnosis and procedure.
Words new to me. Lobular means not the duct
but the milk lobe. Cancer takes on a life
of its own. I enter the booming tunnel. Cables resist
the magnet with a racket, sounds of the piano tuner
at the twelve-tone scale. Then a wood pecker.
When the storm swept through my garage,
flooded the boxes of pictures and letter I forgot
I stored, I fell in love with each blurred page,
left in wake,
felt the survivors suffering twice,
once in writing, once in destruction. My friend wrote
my books were about aging
twenty-five years ago. He and I age on
though our mates have passed.
My editor wrote I carried icicles in my poems.
Letters from Linda revealing the meds
she must take break my heart.
It hurt me that she never told me how sick
she was. Thirty years later I can see it right
Time and tragedy read through the lines.
Love letters. “We’ll be happy and free
as ever when we’re together again. Please come
join me in San Francisco for as long as you can…”
A good letter, sincere, but nothing about protection
from the torrent to follow, and it did, it did.
I didn’t go to him. I followed my hard destiny.
We must rescue what we can,
let go the broken heart,
bleeding ink all the way down the street.