This offering is for all those love-poets who still believe in love, in all of its many-faceted forms. We here celebrate love in its sticky thorniness, believing as we do that gender is a thing with feathers. Poetry may not save the world, but it could just save your relationship. I disagree with Shakespeare–kind of–he says music is the fruit of love, but I say it’s poetry. So dig in–let the nectar drip from your lips, run down your neck, let the music of these words play on . . .
There were moments you slew me,
With a grindstone of curses
I’ll cut off your head to bring the rain
This god with his liver dangling beneath the ribs like a bell
I will ring it till it peals, peals, peals
Plastic trinkets in an offering box
A skull with spine attached
A shaman greeted you and beat
you lightly with branches
It was a blessing, a welcome to this city
Milagros pinned to a shrine
Calcium grins grim
Face to face with volcanic stone
I’ll never forget, my enemy or my lover’s shape
Cradling a head in my hands, memorizing the bony plates
Below the cobblestones
Temples built over temples
Riding the lake under the bed of the city
I’ll cut off your head to bring the rain
Wear your hair and face to the temple
And light the braziers, the belly
A stone bowl carved to hold a beating heart
Be away from him.
My wild flock
Of bright red
His sweet and golden fruit.
Orange lilies are not an apology. Maybe crimson columbines, if you picked them naked,
were caught by a ranger in your all-together, and given a ticket, yeah, then maybe it’s an apology.
If you offered your herbarium of pilfered wildflowers you’d pressed and labeled: “Flowers of the North Fork of the American River, of which I am most proud,” with taxonomic rank penciled in next to each entry: class, subclass, order and species, then maybe it’s an apology.
A recognition somehow of effort, not a florist phone call delivering flowers unseen.
Orange lilies are not an apology. And don’t even think about roses–don’t–no matter the color. A rose is just a weed in the cornfield of this argument.
Maria Garcia Teutsch
Let’s take off our clothes and fool around.
We can roll all over
like dogs off-leash at Lighthouse Beach. Let’s rummage
through each other’s body
like a Fourth of July blowout sale, pawing through the orgy
of tweed and twill, silk and sequins swirling up in flurries.
The Buddha says don’t argue until it’s necessary.
Let’s shuck oysters,
wash them down with dirty martinis,
the table littered with pearly shell. We can fill
the bathtub and pretend we’re looking out
at sunset over Tomales Bay. Your breasts
are lanterns flickering on the water.
Your hips are still California’s golden hills.
This morning I opened an e-mail from Texas
that said I’m going to hell and you don’t really love me,
but if I repent, though my sins be scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow.
Darling, it’s good to know we have options
but for now let’s get triplet Chihuahuas,
carry them around in patent-leather purses.
Drag your guitar out from under the bed
and sing “Rose of My Heart” again.
I’ll hunt in the garage for my zills and coin-covered bra
and do the three-quarter shimmy down the skinny hall.
Let’s not think about our children, miles away,
doing things we’d rather not know.
Haven’t we carved enough statues?
You remember the meadow I rented for you.
You wanted it sunny and edged with trees.
I paid the old woman a hundred dollars
so I could lay you down under the sky’s blue marquee.
The longer we’re together, the less I can tell you.
But hasn’t it been a long day?
The President of Infinite Sadness is sorry
she ever ran for office. She imagined
she’d be like those brawny angels
who lower you into the tubs of warm mud at Calistoga.
But monkeys are gorging on peanut butter
so science can prove fat makes you fat,
and the workers who grow roses in Ecuador
are poisoned so we can say it with flowers.
Tomorrow we’ll write letters. We’ll try harder
We’ll turn down the thermostat and bicycle to work
and you’ll swish plastic bags in a sink of soapy water
where they float like the jellyfish they’re mistaken for.
But tonight let’s bring Bessie back for an encore.
Don’t you want a little sugar
in your beautiful bowl?
Let’s make some rain, let’s invent skin,
give me your glorious, gorgeous, generous thighs.
The ghost of my mother’s in the basement doing laundry,
offering the damp clothes that extra little shake.
Wouldn’t she be happy
to hear us nickering and neighing?
Wouldn’t she be happy to know
death is feeding elsewhere tonight?
I’ll dust your eyelids with cinnamon
and braid those old feathers into your hair.
Morning will find us asleep on the roof,
our faces blank as the new day, just the mockingbird
in the neighbor’s tattered palm
whistling a tune that sounds a little like a Persian raga,
that twangy sitar, raising the sun.
On Love, On Representing It
We are so alive!
Planes and stars hang among stars
which I saw from the roof of the ineffable.
I distilled almost to vapor.
Meanwhile, the violation
of social distance defines
the panic element
of sex, the marvelous panic, the hoarder’s
closeness of gorging the flesh, but none of this
is love, only a coarse moon, orbiting but cold,
producer of tides and fickle odes,
but itself an emblem of the impassive
and worse, unable to sustain life.
Your purple earrings
sit on the edge of an earthly sink and I inhale
your age of sage and pine, I inhale
a particularity that could eat
everything for a thousand years
like a collapsing star, some angel
of nervous light, our shape
in a mirror, a forest, a garden.
But nothing will stand in, nothing will complete,
not even the coast road we took,
the views stunning, then a rockslide
halfway closed the way and what else to do
but pose with the ocean
behind us in its currents
and distant liners and the moon a vivid coin.
Tonight, the kiss I’ve dreamed of,
the kiss of a lifetime, is here.
And now we hug and kiss
and kiss and love–
exploding the moment,
as if we were an extravagant bouquet
of burgeoning buds and stamens.
Like creatures dashing through the forest,
we tumble into each other’s arms,
our mouths and leafy boughs entwined.
Some strange and wondrous magnet
is drawing us together
like orbiting stars, carrying us
beyond the dust of ourselves.
They Forget to Tell You
Here is the part of the story all the cards and first date performers forget to tell you:
Of which there is always at least one. You know this.
What you may not know, is that today a lone sailor took a tiny boat out on choppy waves
while I sat on a rock a few miles away recording how today was another day of mourning for the way someone would jerry-rig a buoy to look for rays
and the way another might forget sunscreen on the back of her neck and turn a painful red
and for how he sang while he packed, licked spoons on their backsides, lost socks in drawers, or took pictures of her in a certain light, and lost the film
or for how she would lose her voice, and root around in the bottom of her bag for her keys
and for how he lost so badly at cards, he cheated to avoid losing
for how he had always wanted to sail but lost the will– who doesn’t fear the open water, the unknown conditions?
The lone boat with its lone driver waited for a ferryfull of people to pass and didn’t wave, but held still in the open water
and kept holding– not moving, not changing, but holding–
then turned in the direction of the harbor, starting the motor which I could not yet hear
as the water kissed the hull,
and the hull kissed solitude
and this was a love song.
The milkman greets the hairdresser. The hairdresser greets the window washer. The window washer greets the street sweeper. The street sweeper greets the priest, who greets the mayor, who greets the housewife, who sends her children on their way to school this Tuesday morning. The children greet the puppies that follow them, then scowl and send the puppies crying home. The puppies lie down and greet their own crotches, then greet the cats. The cats greet the milkman. The milkman greets the tourists, who point at a sculpture. The sculpture greets the jewelry maker. The jewelry maker greets the chef. The chef greets the butcher. The butcher greets the baker with fresh lard for baking a limone-semolina cake. The baker greets the winemaker with a slice of sugary grape cake. The wine maker greets the wind that pollinated the grapevines where the grape cake grapes grow. The wind greets the gardener, who greets the pigeons, who greets bluebirds, who tweet to the doctor. The doctor greets the poets. The poets greet other poets. These poets greet a curvy dressmaker. The dressmaker greets the fine lady who had been waiting every day at the café for five days for her dress to be repaired and returned. The fine lady greets her and the café manager, who greets his miniature infant twins, who greet the angels they brought with them. Each one greets this crisp sunny day.
Orson Welles never existed? Or Vienna?
I’ve never seen The Third Man but what if
I had? Would I have faked my death
or made sure of hers? What if
there were phones that took selfies
ten years ago, when I shook my head
and told myself I’d met a crazy one, a woman
as likely to eat me as love me, who left me
staring at myself in window panes
as dusk slicked the world with darkness
and there I was staring back, lost or
in love: I couldn’t decide which. But
a picture: if I’d studied myself in a phone
tucked like a mirror in my hand, I’m sure
I’d have seen the truth. And what if
there is a single truth? I’ve been to Vienna.
It’s as if there was never a war. Until you look
past the cobwebs in attics, shuffle through
pictures and old letters, all the other secrets
hidden away in trunks and unmarked boxes,
or look into the eyes of the last lingerers,
who worry a little more than the rest of us
about what awaits them in the afterlife.
I feel like Sylvia Plath. And so what?
But what if I’d never returned her calls?
What if I’d looked into her eyes the first
time I heard her lie and called it
what it was: her truth. What if
I’d thrown her clothes into the street
that morning I read what she’d done in
a trail of texts on her phone, as she slept
with my son on a bean bag chair
in the next room. What if I’d walked
next door and borrowed a gun.
What if I’d written down her lies
like a list of wishes sung blue into the cold
space of cupped hands, her hands
as she walked home from another lover’s
crumbling tenement, walked home to me
still asleep in the predawn wheeze of our son’s
humidifier, asleep certain that my wife
had come home hours earlier, was drunk
and motionless a foot away, her hair
tangled in her own hands as if she’d
tried to climb free of a nightmare
and found herself in bed with me.
I remember her once offering me a lank
length of hair and lifting her chin
as if to say, Here, wrap it around
my neck. As if to say, Please.