She wants a house full of cups and the ghosts
of last century’s lesbians; I want a spotless
apartment, a fast computer. She wants a woodstove,
three cords of ash, an axe; I want
a clean gas flame. She wants a row of jars:
oats, coriander, thick green oil;
I want nothing to store. She wants pomanders,
linens, baby quilts, scrapbooks. She wants Wellesley
reunions. I want gleaming floorboards, the river’s
reflection. She wants shrimp and sweat and salt;
she wants chocolate. I want a raku bowl,
steam rising from rice. She wants goats,
chickens, children. Feeding and weeping. I want
wind from the river freshening cleared rooms.
She wants birthdays, theaters, flags, peonies.
I want words like lasers. She wants a mother’s
tenderness. Touch ancient as the river.
I want a woman’s wit swift as a fox.
She’s in her city, meeting
her deadline; I’m in my mill village out late
with the dog, listening to the pinging wind bells, thinking
of the twelve years of wanting, apart and together.
We’ve kissed all weekend; we want
to drive the hundred miles and try it again.
I want you and you are not here. I pause
in this garden, breathing the colour thought is
before language into still air. Even your name
is a pale ghost and, though I exhale it again
and again, it will not stay with me. Tonight
I make you up, imagine you, your movements clearer
than the words I have you say you said before.

Whereever you are now, inside my head you fix me
with a look, standing here whilst cool late light
dissolves into the earth. I have got your mouth wrong,
but still it smiles. I hold you closer, miles away,
inventing love, until the calls of nightjars
interrupt and turn what was to come, was certain,
into memory. The stars are filming us for no one.
Somewhere on the other side of this wide night
and the distance between us, I am thinking of you.
The room is turning slowly away from the moon.

This is pleasurable. Or shall I cross that out and say
it is sad? In one of the tenses I singing
an impossible song of desire that you cannot hear.

La lala la. See? I close my eyes and imagine the dark hills I would have to cross
to reach you. For I am in love with you

On the scales of desire, your absence weighs more
than someone else’s presence, so I say no thanks

to the woman who throws her girdle at my feet,
as I drop a postcard in the mailbox and watch it

throb like a blue heart in the dark. Your eyes
are so green – one of your parents must be

part traffic light. We’re both self-centered,
but the world revolves around us at the same speed.

Last night I tossed and turned inside a thundercloud.
This morning my sheets were covered in pollen.

I remember the long division of Saturday’s
pomegranate, a thousand nebulae in your hair,

as soldiers marched by, dragging big army bags
filled with water balloons, and we passed a lit match,

back and forth, between our lips, under an oak tree
I had absolutely nothing to do with.

To think of gratitude and to think of thank you cards
instead, the small panic of them, the pressure
to buy the ones with black and white Parisian photograph
covers and the blank insides, ready for your profound message,
you writer, you beautiful liar; you are supposed to be good at this.

So you write, Thank you for the flowers. I don’t know
what to call them, but they are pink and I plan
on taking them to bed with me in your absence. You write,
Thank you for the reminder you’re eight hundred miles away.
You draw pictures of hot air balloons and trolley cars and
inaccurate maps of the United States with dash dashed arrow
routes that point from one stick person holding flowers
to another stick person empty handed.

And when it is too hard to be thankful for anything
other than the fact that at least the two of you aren’t dead yet,
you call, despite the time zone difference and impossible hour,
to say, Walk west so that I can hear your footsteps better.
For Louise Crane


In your next letter I wish you'd say
where you are going and what you are doing;
how are the plays and after the plays
what other pleasures you're pursuing:

taking cabs in the middle of the night,
driving as if to save your soul
where the road gose round and round the park
and the meter glares like a moral owl,

and the trees look so queer and green
standing alone in big black caves
and suddenly you're in a different place
where everything seems to happen in waves,

and most of the jokes you just can't catch,
like dirty words rubbed off a slate,
and the songs are loud but somehow dim
and it gets so teribly late,

and coming out of the brownstone house
to the gray sidewalk, the watered street,
one side of the buildings rises with the sun
like a glistening field of wheat.

—Wheat, not oats, dear. I'm afraid
if it's wheat it's none of your sowing,
nevertheless I'd like to know
what you are doing and where you are going.
Love, it was good to talk to you tonight.
You lather me like summer though. I light
up, sip smoke. Insistent through walls comes
the downstairs neighbor’s double-bass. It thrums
like toothache. I will shower away the sweat,

smoke, summer, sound. Slick, soapy, dripping wet,
I scrub the sharp edge off my appetite.
I want: crisp toast, cold wine prickling my gums,
love. It was good

imagining around your voice, you, late-
awake there. (It isn’t midnight yet
here.) This last glass washes down the crumbs.
I wish that I could lie down in your arms
and, turned toward sleep there (later), say, "Goodnight,
love, It was good."
to be alone for a month is good
I follow the bright fish of memory
falling deeper into myself
to the endless present
the child's cry is my only clock

yet your singing echoes in corners
who clatters the red tea-pot
or opens the door with a bang
to look at the evening sky?
your typewriter lies silent
it is reproachful
I cannot make it stutter like you

I sit in the woods at dusk
listening for the sound of your singing
there are letters from a thousand miles
you wrote a week ago
like leaves from an autumn tree
they fall on the mat

it was your voice woke me
and the absent touch of your hand
Here I love you.
In the dark pines the wind disentangles itself.
The moon glows like phosphorous on the vagrant waters.
Days, all one kind, go chasing each other.

The snow unfurls in dancing figures.
A silver gull slips down from the west.
Sometimes a sail. High, high stars.
Oh the black cross of a ship.
Alone.


Sometimes I get up early and even my soul is wet.
Far away the sea sounds and resounds.
This is a port.

Here I love you.
Here I love you and the horizon hides you in vain.
I love you still among these cold things.
Sometimes my kisses go on those heavy vessels
that cross the sea towards no arrival.
I see myself forgotten like those old anchors.

The piers sadden when the afternoon moors there.
My life grows tired, hungry to no purpose.
I love what I do not have. You are so far.
My loathing wrestles with the slow twilights.
But night comes and starts to sing to me.

The moon turns its clockwork dream.
The biggest stars look at me with your eyes.
And as I love you, the pines in the wind
want to sing your name with their leaves of wire.
I think of you
and the continents brilliant and arid
and the slender heart you are sharing my share of with the American air
as the lungs I have felt sonorously subside slowly greet each morning
and your brown lashes flutter revealing two perfect dawns colored by New York

see a vast bridge stretching to the humbled outskirts with only you
Standing on the edge of the purple like an only tree
and in Toledo the olive groves’ soft blue look at the hills with silver
like glasses like and old ladies hair
It’s well known that God and I don’t get along together
It’s just a view of the brass works for me, I don’t care about the Moors
seen through you the great works of death, you are greater

you are smiling, you are emptying the world so we can be alone.
Late night and rain wakes me, a downpour,
wind thrashing in the leaves, huge
ears, huge feathers,
like some chased animal, a giant
dog or wild boar. Thunder & shivering
windows; from the tin roof
the rush of water.

I lie askew under the net,
tangled in damp cloth, salt in my hair.
When this clears there will be fireflies
& stars, brighter than anywhere,
which I could contemplate at times
of panic. Lightyears, think of it.

Screw poetry, it’s you I want,
your taste, rain
on you, mouth on your skin.
Skin remembers how long the years grow
when skin is not touched, a gray tunnel
of singleness, feather lost from the tail
of a bird, swirling onto a step,
swept away by someone who never saw
it was a feather. Skin ate, walked,
slept by itself, knew how to raise a
see-you-later hand. But skin felt
it was never seen, never known as
a land on the map, nose like a city,
hip like a city, gleaming dome of the mosque
and the hundred corridors of cinnamon and rope.

Skin had hope, that’s what skin does.
Heals over the scarred place, makes a road.
Love means you breathe in two countries.
And skin remembers--silk, spiny grass,
deep in the pocket that is skin’s secret own.
Even now, when skin is not alone,
it remembers being alone and thanks something larger
that there are travelers, that people go places
larger than themselves.
from Dear Sal

I am coming, Sal.
In a beat-up Plymouth, powered by stars.
Down a road of stars through trees of stars.
Every button of my brand new suit is a star.
My cufflinks, stars, I wear a star in my lapel.
I washed my hair with a handful of stars.
The sky shaken loose, I lathered my beard.
I’m coming to you with a bouquet of stars.
With a blanket of stars & a basket of stars.
With a bottle of stars & a banquet of stars.
For years I have pulled stars from my body:
Here is the joy, here is the grief, here is
the slaughter I have shaped into stars.
I have polished the stars & buried them.
Stars of my nipples, stars of my knees,
stars of my vertebrae, stars of my lungs.
An orchard has grown, it is heavy & yours.
I will gather the fruit & transport it to you.
See how it falls from my pockets & armpits.
My bones are stars & the stars are for you.
My wound is a star & my wound is for you.
We’ll hold these stars to each other’s lips.
& drink the ghosts from each other’s stars.
I am coming to you with a wedding of stars,
a meadow of stars & a chuppah of stars,
a book of stars with our song written in it.
If the hush returns with its claws unbroken
we’ll be there Sal, with stars in our knuckles,
stars in our hammer, stars in our singing.
A volley of stars will pummel this country.
The absence, eaten by packs of stars.
A voice will speak in the voice of a star.
A voice will speak & the river will stand.
The river will stand & I love you Sally.
I love you Sally & the river will carve
our names into the dark.