1. Dessert Prayer
Forcing the narcissi. Finally
I'd grown tired of the country
where sex is an offense and I
love you translates submit to me.
This garden's no oasis: the
mint beds rotted in a day, be-
tween two frosts the vermin moved in-
doors. All night I drank het pints, re
membering our cold-bound dialog.
May you be no one's memory.
2. Axe of Love
In the Kip's Bay Graveyard, and at Woodlawn's,
fall flowers between the muddy headstones.
A horny goblin ate up the late fruits:
the Gloom comes forever in thirteen moons.
You'd root between my legs -- your tongue like a
dry leaf, your hands within my hands are spines.
Fall colors flower all over the av-
enues: I am driven by these designs!
Not even in your heart is there sunlight.
Delicate, vacuous, like aquatones,
we flickered against the Martinmas yel-
lows; cruelty and vodka, your violins
of Ingres, keep us tethered and together.
Flowers and flowers in the grieve ruins.
3. Clashing by Night
The ticking brain, horrible as clock-
work. Help for pain is a faceless fuck:
to be true to you's to be a whore.
Night blizzards like armies plunge and strike
deep. Is it death, is it the half of
death unhurling the white curtains like
hospital sheets? Around the gift of
sugared trees, starved birds, eternal rock
I wove tight my ribbon of regrets.
(In the garden a silver lilac,
on the newsstands a red headline: Boom.)
The trees in the place of dreams are black.
4. In the Flower District
Remember: you metastasized out of a hole
in the ocean, stood straight up, got hold of a soul,
leaving the Cambrian behind you like a lost
weekend, and grew to be free and ever fruitful,
you, who'd harness the sun and seed the moon and stars,
you dreamed you were God, you called yourself immortal.
But before you trawled the ocean, omnivorous
with lights. They come and go in the old soup like gal-
axies. The solstice rises black as an oil mist.
Yourself or remembering yourself -- which is the ill-
ness? Forget yourself instead among the Xmas
Marvels and ladies who lunch, chairs to heaven, all
the seeds and leaves of the world, pretzel vendors and
Jewish lilies, the catatonic stopped in Greel-
ey Square, the hibakusha in her shop. She is
knotting the bonsai into trapped shapes. The mistle-
toe is a poultice, its poisons touch nobody.
But my touch is nobody's, your kiss is fatal.
5. Between Two Saints
Like the great pandemic you persist in me.
Grasping the half of growth, a dwarf rosemary
defiantly put down roots, gave spirits comfort,
here in the Northeast Corridor, at the de-
cline of emire. Even the kale finally foundered
under thunder and fog. Horn of your body! --
how proudly you calculate without thinking!
You made exceptions for nobody but me.
I went to bed hungry for anybody
but you -- night cough, pollution, dew of the sea --
but the dream host was hostile, male -- ritual
wounds, and the final genital of plenty.
Ice pierces the pane, staggers a furnace, cap-
tures forever birds in their severity.
Hearts collapse under the great strain. Whistling
past the graveyard, you persist like the rosemary.
1. het pint: A Celtic concoction whereby a cup of ale is just scalded
and whisked by driblets into an already well-whisked egg, the emulsion
is brought again to the scald and finished off with a fat finger of
excellent whiskey. Very bracing on cold nights.
Axe of Love
1. the Kips Bay Graveyard/Woodlawn. Where the Kips family are buried.
An unkempt picturesque little spot, not in Kips Bay at all, but tucked
into East 2nd St. between 1st and 2nd Ave. in Manhattan. Woodlawn is
a vast, well-manicured cemetary on the Bronx/Yonkers border.
2. the Gloom. Oct. 31 marks the start of true winter on the Druid
calendar, when late fruits are left unharvested to propitiate the dead
who roam abroad in force. Two weeks later St. Martin's Day ushers in
the Gloom or half of death, when nothing grows and man and animal alike
sicken and die. Sun on St. Martin's augurs a particularly devastating
half of death. Legend has it that at the End of Days the Gloom will
fall, and remain forever.
In the Flower District
1. Flower District. Home to Manhattan's wholesale flower and plant
trade between 6th and 7th Ave. in lower mid-town.
2. Jewish lilies, etc. I was thinking of the Rothschild lily. Xmas
Marvels are a violently showy species of amaryllis. Florists assemble
chairs to heaven from flowers arranged round wire frames shaped to
resemble large armchairs. By means of these remarkable carriages the
dead are said to ascend to heaven. Much in demand at Italian wakes
3. Greeley Square. A grim concrete triangle of ground at the SW edge
of the flower district inhabited by ex-mental patients.
Between Two Saints
1. Two Saints. St. Agnes' Eve on Jan. 20, the coldest night of the
year, when a sprig of rosemary under the bed-pillow guarantees dreams
or nightmares in which one's future spouse figures prominently. Thunder
and fog on St. Paul's Day (Jan. 25) indicate the half of death will
extend well beyond Mayday (in good years the beginning of the half
2. rosemary. Garden science to the contrary, I have seen rosemary
persist throughout winter on the mid-Atlantic urban littoral. Kale
inevitably succumbs by February.