We Call This A Summer

Young love, we call this,
twenty-five, wading in a rough sea;
we take the salt waves full in the mouth.
Side-by-side in the green Moroccan-tile shower
we strip off our shorts and shirts
and wash the sand from our skin.
This is how an oyster makes a pearl.
This is how a starfish grows a new limb,
moon-bright in the tide-pool constellations.
These are the jellyfish stranded on the sand after high-tide,
purple as a bruise, sharp-tongued in their small deaths.

We return to the shore again and again,
driven by the humid air inland.
Sunburned, scoured by the sand,
my hair coarse and bleached,
here we are again, waist-deep,
chest-deep, lifted and pummelled
as by a bare-knuckle boxer. Young love,
we call this, and we fight like anything to
stay afloat. At night the moon
lopes across the water and I wear your jacket;
I’ve pocket full of cobalt seaglass,
and a book of matches, and furious heart.

We call this a summer, hot as asphalt,
green as dune-grass. We call this a summer,
wild as the grey Atlantic waves, or as a fistfight,
or love.

Poetry: Orrery (Suffice It To Say)

I. Uranus
A message erased
before you had a chance to read it,
but it read like a harness, like strong arms,
like charcoal and red clay, and who am I to talk?
Murmurs in the dark (the sweeping dark of starlings)
and what washes in on the high tide
are a message erased before I had a chance to read it.

II. Neptune
When like Lot and his family we fled that darkness
empty as a moon and naked of atmosphere:
suffice it to say I never looked behind me.

III. Saturn
A solemn morning, damp with the dew on the cedars,
and my hand is in yours. Consider this a diagram,
mechanical and systematic, of the solar flares, the
cold dark lunar night, of the calendar year
with the pride of empires
and the wild, fair roots of a laurel tree.

IV. Jupiter
If nothing else,
we have the intricacy of our moving parts,
the cogs and gears of your late nights,
Angostura bitters, steady patience
like a vein of amber fed intravenously
into my wrist. The magic tricks, ink or
engine grease on our knuckles, white teeth
nipping the flesh of a lychee or perhaps your neck,
a Galilean moon in either hand and
one in my pocket for good measure.
No, I can hang on; I can wait.

V. Mars
What doesn’t kill us makes us
furiously in love.

VI. Earth
Some thorny problem or another,
I suppose: desert cacti, garden roses,
mountain pines, field thistles,
it’s all one. If you listen very close,
you can hear the hum of the
very core of the planet.

VII. Venus
Here it is, laid out to the best of my honesty,
sweet, and spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon,
and stubborn as anything.

VIII. Mercury
Blue-black ether for miles between us,
and all I can think of is the minutest things:
the rim of your skin eclipsed in sunlight,
an eyelash on your cheek for luck;
suffice it to say almost any word
will suffice.

IX. Solas
Consider this a chart of the stars by which,
God helping us, we can painstakingly calculate
the way to land. (And ah, my darling! There is
milk and honey there.)

Song for the End (Resurrection Sunday)

From the bed of murder and treason
I wake to the smell of jasmine.
Standing in the doorway staggered,
I wonder like a child at this new world.
What blinding gold light in the orchard!
Saturn swung close and heavy on the horizon,
daring and sweet, the milk of galaxies,
the pulp of Jupiter tumble at my feet,
the honey of mercy: for the debt of my
crimes is swallowed in his riches!
He has taken my Master away and I
am left speechless, a freedwoman.
He has taken the sting from the
spider Death, this King of the Jews, this
Lamb of God. It is finished,
and I’ll forevermore read this page:
The End. The End. The End–

Lady Macbeth in a clean white shirt
laughing and crying where the almond trees bloom.

Song for Mourning (Good Friday)

A ruby-throated humming bird in a tin can
bleeds from the sharp edges of what contains him.
The sky is dark with sulfur and vinegar
as I take my verdict straight, no chaser.
Somewhere in a field, Abel breathes his last;
somewhere in the desert a goat
bleats bleakly as it carries off the sins of Israel.

I am the thorns of the curse
grown knee-deep around the tree of the curse,
and he wears the thorns of the curse for a
crown as he hauls the tree of the curse up towards Golgotha.
The sky is dark at midday, today.

What I want is simple; it is a brutal knife.

Song for Immanuel (Maundy Thursday)

The bells fly to Rome,
the angels gather,
the wine is dark in the house of feasting.
The lameness in my bones need not
wait for the troubling of the waters, for look!
the Son of Man is here.
Underfoot the palm branches bruise
and the heat beats like brass on my neck.

Here is the house of healing,
and who sinned, that we are thus blind:
we, or our fathers and mothers?
But the writing in the dust, on the wall,
the broken bread, the sweat, the silver,
tumbling along with the churning of the water–
God with us, and He will save his people from their sins

The wine, the wine;
the blood and the wine!

What I want is simple; it is far as stars.

Song for Sinai (Tenebrae)

Today as I pray, half-asleep, at dawn,
thin the parsley sprouts, sweep,
fold laundry like I’m folding cards,
I recollect that I am not whole.
I am the charred tongue, rough and forked,
I am the brazen feet gone molten with lust,
I am the silty water, slick with oil, churning
and heaving in the gale-force winds.

I look at you and am blind,
sighted a long way off and
met by your broad compassion
as a stubborn shore meets
wave after wave after wave.
Salt and light in my coastal fractures,
you scour me clean, but today
I remember: ashes to ashes, dust to dust–

what I want is simple; it is everything.

superbly situated

you politely ask me not to die and i promise not to
right from the beginning—a relationship based on
good sense and thoughtfulness in little things
i would like to be loved for such simple attainments
as breathing regularly and not falling down too often
or because my eyes are brown or my father left-handed
and to be on the safe side i wouldn’t mind if somehow
i became entangled in your perception of admirable objects
so you might say to yourself: i have recently noticed
how superbly situated the empire state building is
how it looms up suddenly behind cemeteries and rivers
so far away you could touch it—therefore i love you
part of me fears that some moron is already plotting
to tear down the empire state building and replace it
with a block of staten island mother/daughter houses
just as part of me fears that if you love me for my cleanliness
i will grow filthy if you admire my elegant clothes
i’ll start wearing shirts with sailboats on them
but i have decided to become a public beach an opera house
a regularly scheduled flight—something that can’t help being
in the right place at the right time—come take your seat

 

we’ll raise the curtain fill the house start the engines
fly off into the sunrise, the spire of the empire state
the last sight on the horizon as the earth begins to curve
Robert Hershon
 
Easily my favourite love-poem.