1 /// Mom’s rock collection
My mother used to spark out back,
cancer patient headscarf round her brow
and little black John Lennon glasses
so people don’t ask a lot of questions.
Come the ritual of the rocks, she’d dig
them up, the great, the small, aground,
the stones, she’d lay them round to
show their shape, the self-formed soil.
And with a dreamy impish grin, she’d look
about to check for neighbors, then,
from tucked behind her slender pinna,
draw out the doobie, long and slim.
“They don’t speak, you see; their tongue
is that beguiling primal hush.
Their dialect is different than the sky’s,
different than the deferent grass’s,”
“And while you’re talking about grass”
(Though, like a stone, I hadn’t spoken)
“I always swear I won’t smoke shwag,
yet here I am.” She’d inhale and cough.
“This shit just makes me paranoid.”
She’d then survey her other progeny,
the progress of the rocks around her,
paratactically ordered and hoarier than me-
Up near our house, they could get quite large.
Some had ridden in on glaciers, others
followed those big boulders that romped
along like drunken klutzy coulters.
But they hadn’t fallen in these holes;
they had grown the earth around them, stolid,
the great ascetics, they were like prophets,
they heard the trembling of the world.
I cried when she tried to make me listen. What I
heard darkened my heart. They mocked her in
silence; they were no better. Each one a kind of
vatic erratic; like hers, their tiny minds disturbed.
2 /// Mom took us places
Sunday morning at the morgue,
she liked to show us all the corpses,
they and the world, mutually blithe,
in that inﬁnite blindness of the mind.
“Some people try to dive headﬁrst
into the weekend,” she said, “They say
‘This time I’m gonna be so happy, my face will
open in the sun. I’m going to smile – !’”
3 /// Mom’s boyfriend
He steals in, spectral,
right at midnight,
long drawn buccaneer
face cast upward,
gemstone jewelry dangling,
pointing hands like darts,
punching holes in space,
along all axes.
Face become dim,
marks onto the shadows.
His sharp teeth
twinkle in the moonlight.
“Now think,” he says,
“about the sun,
the sun down valley,
wind that whistles
in our heart.
We do not speak,
we look ahead.
We think such things,
they are so wretched,
they leave no gentle Christian relief,
just an evil with no people.
You think the end,
with no last goodness
to redeem you,
just that most sinister,
thin of twine, a love,
so simple to untwist,
its bits all strewn about, with
no last man with one last
grain of salvation sand.”
“Now hush,” he says,
then falls like thunder.
Old, old, he is so old!
The years have peeled,
one by one, the pellicles from
his spirit carapace.
no matter what,
I cannot trust him) out there
he repeats like thunder.
No! now he is young
once more! He
kips down on the cot
with me, coordinate of a
thundering plunderer, he can’t die,
begins again, in the wellspring
of eternal springtime.
A great whisper is the world,
a shallow breath,
brief, unvoiced, colorless.
So soon it’s hushed and then
So soft I fall asleep,
can’t pinpoint now
his exact position.
In a different life, he was
a rustler, he was a rhyme.
He is the world – ! He turns away.
Head on my pillow, I smell
his smokey face retreat.
His ghost eyes, blue and white,
extinguished out there in the night.
4 /// Once I saw her looking at her vagina in a hand-mirror
I saw from
over her shoulder
as she tilted her hand
and the mirror showed her
self beset and full of gravity- then
spun from a turbine,
from gleam to
and when one saw
it changed it-
self to see it how
it saw it-
on a film reel never screened:
I imagined that
the glass reflected
to her secret past.
I saw her and her friend from girlhood,
children sitting in their slender way
already winter, before a window,
toddlers, bored already
with people who say they are in love.
(in fact, reflecting)
feeling the universe from within,
about the genesis of the world
with words they’d heard
from string theory lectures,
a formal “Supermystery,”
linking speculative half-dimensions,
like a Rozier balloon.
From these pseudo-science tertulias,
a voice that
not that Echo,
not Penelope, not Eurydice,
you can’t help hear them in me -”
spinning with misgivings)
“- what about my own unity?”
I thought of that christening gown
each one thinking
all the while
it was hers.
when they’d learned to write,
they kept records
of all events
in such frivolous detail that
those slithery sheets
where Echo’s photo is still
she got trapped, hair-a-flap,
the wind that flew about her face
had gathered into the force of the past -
That, or mom had turned into
an Echo -
I saw she couldn’t see the mirror game for what it is:
A language full of promises,
to themselves, – they’d never meant to keep,
limpid, full of light, but finally thin.
The two – they seemed to have made – so many lies, everyday,
of the perfunctory sort we thought so pleasant.
Now we find them intolerable.
Though it may be murkier
we’ll take nothing less than the truth – from her – anymore, – as she sees it.
Although she may just be – conforming to – our expectations. – Actually, no,
she doesn’t realize we have no designs. – So then
what we thought was right, yes, just now,
Damp echo in a cavern.
The secret is – the secret that – on that mirror – was just glass
set on a polished – silver-colored-secret – so that, – at last,
nothing was reflected back -
5 /// A drive with Mom
My mother died a fortune teller, interred
in imbricate thin brown skirts, with hoop
earrings on her storied lobes, with roses
and scarves up her sleeves.
While alive, she had conditions, demands,
to make predictions, like ice cold gin and
a GMC Gaucho van, in the dark,
inebriated and enraged, to drive around in.
Then one night, Beefeater’s on her knees,
knees on the wheel, she turned to look at me,
and said, “time to tell,” undid her bandana
and the finfoot of forgetting floated from her hair.
“When the future comes, a shaft of light will
fall upon the craggy wrinkles of his whiskered jaw.
He will turn his holy head and all the world will
shift away, pivot to our frame, then askance.
“He will lay waste to the succession of days,
mark the arrival of a cycle of night – right fate in
a world forgetting itself, coming undone like
a yarn puppet, untwined yet maintaining its shape.
“The new world you will see manually.
A subtle touch and it will give like sticky pap -
the feel of the fiber, the cloth in your
thumbs will be at every instant as never before.
“You will unceasingly try counting to three,
you will never succeed – the future’s demesne has
its rules. What pain to leave a numbered world -
we’ve outpaced it! Some disagree yet -”
It was too late; the future was gone.
Like a semi-truck that had hit us side-on.