The Poetry Kit
WORLD WARD II
(again for Cassandra & Suchoon
in thanks for listening)
© December 2006
PART ONE: Prince Ishamel, Caspar Hauser
Saint Francis on a Disc of Snow
Sometimes, you get really Blessed
Once, I wanted to go home again
Caspar Hauser I
Caspar Hauser II (“where there is no nerve there is no altar)
The Patience of Iron of God
When one chopstick is longer than the other
Thin windows in children’s prison
Nerve Pain & Tallow
No Fears Team can Iron
A Scythe in the Bone
PART TWO: World Ward II
Stop at the White
Iron till Steam Triangle Cools
Our Breaks, Blunders
Hunger Took me Out
North & South
“You Can Touch my Wings”
Stained Glass Quilt
World Ward II
Prince Ishamel, Caspar Hauser
Saint Francis on a Disc of Snow
A wood drawer slides open in the iced house: Icicles drip from stone:
snow covers porch ceiling albino like bone: & it is
still falling, whirling in an updraft, lifting as mother will soon:
If anyone from hydro is listening,
our submarine cables
(Soldiers do not write often of war
children of ward-
I would not
trade my life
with anyone. Listening to Mahler.
the insufferable dilemma of our mother’s life, will she not
feather-after-feather stayeth off death, pinion
Pure oxygen working for her in place of lung breath, that sombre minion, mission?
Sometimes you get really Blessed
Pewter-light spins a halo-plate:
a closure of desire: winter sun’s bluish a wheel &
a mother is released
a shaft at a time
Rub your two hands together like blocks of wood: ignite sparks.
Encouraging a sense of forgiveness & healing
she does not know if she’s
flakes whirl on a stack of snow,
she reaches up for more water asks will any love her now
(snow owl drifts in on silent pinions):
then her hands let go
Once, I wanted to go home again
Before snow, came frozen rain,
a forty-year magnolia tree
was bent & broken.
compass-drawn circles of silver
measuring the perfect round
eternity to step thru & on
as onto an airstrip: One war’s done:
A new one comes
Airfields spin blue cannon
Snow-plants Munitions-plants appear botanical from jets:
air letters go—
The Little Ice Age glows
sheer unrefutable Fate: First holds erect on stilt like poles, ccopper-wires leans
Before the water
once again seals over, makes it bend in.
root-grubber in planter dig on:
dream maps you design.
Radio Head I’m
a sombre color
tunnel thru ice this will suffice:
I travel 360 degrees on one dot fixed on reverie terrain:
We have always lived on Division Street:
You going out tall, might & mane:
me staying home in the brandylight, with the potted ferns & the heat
By force of Fate—if no heavenly plan.
One of us keeps watch till icy dawn
the rose on the vest I wear burning
open against gunmetal heaven.
My other stands watch keeps a vigil
early years in Yugoslavia swirling metals on blood sky span:
watching, wearing quilted down
When I blink awake watch-
fires in clouds beyond cannon
burn red exchanged for dawn
not an earthly
dawn I reach with my finger, translucent under fingernails burn blood moons.
Caspar Hauser I
stabbed to the heart
appearing in Nuremburg’s town gate, bleeding thru his quilted vest of roses
could not be more alarming than hours are now: iron doorknockers on Eternity..
Beyond the trees
from bed she see red sky piercing eyeball
over the River Charles.
“What is wrong/” I ask
knowing there is no way
we can move the clock hands back on the heavy Gothic Town Clock
to the hours
when we played with red wood
toys, dolls, clothespins before a white window.
Grotesque, the two clock hands of beaten metal: forever kiss, a twisted kiss:
not lovers, Leonardo Da Vinci airport behind, locked in their glacial bronze.
Caspar Hauser II
Where there is no nerve there is no altar
Where there is no nerve there is no altar:
What nearly killed me seventeen years ago
didn’t even graze you
An Asian man
wants to carry me
around in a velvet room.
Phoned the butcher for Christmas turkey.
He’d had a flood
over wood sawdust-shined floor. The locker wasn’t well sealed:
mixed with water was dripping
into the shop below:
A quilt & dollhouse shop.”Nightowls”
I cut our connection.
Blood in a dollhouse.
in snow-globe, I’m
hearing waves lap, then freeze, thinking of Prince Ishmael.
Theatre? The thrill of getting it right
Flood. Bone & Gristle: God or Mammon:
Where there is no altar, there is no nerve
There never will be one.
You have a past
as lovers do.
Wick. An ice-light in the sky.
Everything I cannot do
I’ve severed, or accomplished
by muscle, Imagination.
In a building
in circumstances nobody could understand:
has its own
Her aid “hides” around the corner of
the “L’” shaped room
“L” Not for love
Her daughter, her golden-girl half a year in a dusky ward:
to be slid out: all the instruments botanical plants ashen.
Let’s face it:
She’s flammable, socketed:
She is down to the wick & has no past as lovers always do
to look thru proud: ancient oval mirror slightly swinging, candle-lit.
The Patience of Iron, of God
She rides the cutting rim of pain
with precision of a Swiss Army Knife: incisive, frightening
as anything that won’t quit. Exacto.
Bearing before me
like head of St John on a platter
or early childhood years:
like a Chinese
an albino candle
in the pre-
ward handful of years walking:
time. (Hitler & Himmel hobnobbing across the ocean.)
Hummer’s feeders in our winter porch hung
liquid ruby, crimson in the crystal cold:
The Glazier rolls past, chains on his wheel hitting rock-crystal ice: Black ice. One cuts with an Exacto knife:
One life will suffice.
Plate Glass “Cambridge Antiques” holds a rocking chair spilling with Steif toys:
black sheep, bears, chipmunks with glossy bead eyes blaze.
The shopkeeper is a woman
who pads, black stockinged feet on red.
I’m not a woman
in wheelchair & mock-fur
but a girl-child
fifty-five years before here:
in a children’s ward stretching
for white light, piercing shaft: no toy, but flute’s dark loss to play, gloss to kiss song from agony.
The original little red wagon has become a classic in continuos production for over 70 years, an American toy industry record. The Classic Red Wagon is the largest steel wagon and features an extra long handle for easy pulling. The durable steel wheels with real rubber tires offer a quiet ride. The no pinch ball joint and the no scratch edges keep finger safe from harm. A no tip turning radius prevents tipping.
When one chopstick is longer than the other
it’s hard to grasp rice.
When one leg’s longer than the other
you trip on ice
which slips beneath the feet.
For my thirteenth birthday I got new rods.
In photographs we tried to disguise my wheels:
I was a girl
not porcelain but pearl:
No steel & wood
“Radio Flyer” ball joint & no-scratch edges rather
Sister Kenny had designed: my world off-rhymed, slant, harsh.
I looked up Hacksilver:
“Medieval scrap silver melted down for recasting.”
“Bolt, button, clasp, cloak fastener.
The first wheelchair was wood it had scant grasp”
One Dark Sabbath slip of the lip cost the cloth, the life failure of hasp.
Thin windows in the children’s prison
lit one amazing save:
brown-yellow as old nicotine Russian grandfather’s lung-love
thin as isinglass slices
of Slavic black pumpernickel bread.
We kids--our prize came in
ribbons of steel
Hard to wrap our minds around:
We went to sleep
in one cell
woke in another one
going on radar, illness a blip on the screen
Such our transport our transportation:
wrapped me as girl-child.
noons lit my tongue
wrapped me as woman.
I learned to roll my narrow cell
into a ball
to pummel world, now flat, now rounding.
Nerve Pain & Tallow (polonium 210)
The radiation people.
“Depend-a’dor” rolls past. . .as I wait at the bus shelter
J’s wife has undiagnosable nerve pain.
This nerve pain--It comes from another world
just when she thought she had found God.
The poisoning has left a cloud floating above Anglo-Russian relations.
The bone marrow is dissolving
no more white cells
all hair is gone
Brother Donkey is half done.
At the bus-shelter a woman chatters about the “Royal Wippineg Ballet”
“Emory” the blue heron cranks over.
American textbook letters loom in cumulous clouds & mare’s tails.
Up the hill & down the hill:
North side covered with ice shell--hell
the great unwashed
floating in a cloud:
South side whistle-clean
Tallow for Saint Tom.
(The last Chinese Take-in we got was done in wax.)
the sides of the candle contain globules
maps of deformed lands: the flame spits:
the nerve-man comes, arrows to target whom?
Nerve-pain & Tallow-Candle-Hill slid white against the night are melting.
We live only in this box of bones
drawn by a string of air:
jaw to footbone:
A wrinkle which cannot be ironed out comes..
You tell me of the “vestibule” in your childhood: I tell you of mine
a delicious collection of little things:
roots in jars, rusty nails, antique buttons;
hungry for intensity
driving the tongue into the socket:
These many eroded things, small, charm: stone porches with glass
rubber gloves, old iron rakes, rusted, Radio flyers.
cream in the cold coffee
The radiation people are flying under Leonardo Da Vinci
Moscow to London.
Eggshell-springbells wind round & round
the great unwashed rising in albino towers in my dream:
another wrinkle develops
The very difficult final years return
an eggsheen gloss covering them:
Natural & supernatural fears
cannot be steam-ironed
Faith, we have none:
That cloud from the iron’s another disease rolling in.
A Scythe in the bone
to feel the marriage slip away
When you came to me my rehab was still locked in place
Now slipping its lock & bolt,
geographies in sandgrains.
But oak, polished lectern
the books: and above all,
the two sons endure-- are carved in stone.
World Ward II
Stop at the White Light,
A sale of ancestors’ relics are piled
in orange crates.
at a wayside
where are burned
tires to keep blood warm:
Old Joanie doll from our knotty-pine first-floor landing.
“I want white toys for my mice for Christmas” said the child.
In a forest of felled oak branches tables are piled with old snow
as for a feast
outside a restaurant a site diners have abandoned.
Stop at the black
stair: Go at the green.
Stop at the white
the string plucked
the goods stacked
the song sung.
In Medieval cold
wearing colors of the Middle Ages
I look up again stop on a dime:
A cloud wrapped the feathers
I don’t find God.
Instead, Sabbath Snow aisles of emotion constricted, narrow:
instead drained emotion of Low Bone-marrow.
Iron till steam-triangle cools
flourish at the sweep of a pen
then be flattened.
School wax & wane. Strike till you’ve had things
harsh & bright
with God: Then
strike till the light is white
the songs get brighter as the dark crystallized:
My twelfth summer glazed to
filled, not with grains of sand,
but afterburn ashes
of the best girl
I’d ever held in my arms.
(for Cassandra, on reading about your childhood)
Our breaks, blunders
The cracked teeth blown out of my mouth from a fall on marble
when a crutch slipped at age thirteen
Dante, a sapling, fur on the upper lip. Beauty is in the breakage of porcelain.
Mirrors cannot lie.
We can roll them away
give me back the story
of long legs
the way the army
the girl, like taking back the soul, on judgement day.
when they rolled me into the ward
down the list of wrongdoing, my tongue began:
“I am a child.
don’t belong in a grownup ward”
It was then, dazzled, & dazzling them:
like a tumor
fear was growing alongside ecstasy?
I never found God
but how prove
he didn’t’ find me?
a tree from fork to topmost branch rocked oceanleaves, observed
a suburban road
from a bonnet
no longer necessary, like knees & hands & a pew, to pray.
learns to sway:
the boy’s stalk grows stronger every day.
with the mercury
garrets & all I had to say. I was becoming odd.
turn into a mystic’s sanctuary.
You ran with your dogs
I ran with my
Later, impatient with orthopedic device & my infirmity.
a refugee—voluntary—I see:
man & woman
like man & woman
from the Swiss clock house: the sundial says Hour Zero “Mystery.”
Downeast beauty is in Mother’s old robe, iron-blue
which she wiped her hands on
after doing dinner dishes
till the hips were worn
with holes. Now she has an ache in hip socket & palpitations. She bore two boys.
Homely beauty’s is in the box for Salvation Army.
I take my
to the garret & try
dotted Swiss organdy, frayed, throwing shadows on the mirror’s other side.
Roughclad saints find bliss in The 40 MPH sign
turned upside-down by snowstorm
beauty in the swan as in the wren’s eye. My disfigured teeth.
And when you die
& when I die
we will enter the Iron Hour: Eternity.
December 2, 2006
Hunger took me out
Hunger took me out:
drove me home
Thirst keeps me soldiering.
You climb into a tall four-poster bed.
You are a child.
A moon full as a bowl of candle oil
A small person surrounded by large persons with huge shadows
your wit: feet knit path to school & home from it.
drawn between harsh
& tender God, shaded by church-going.
Phrases that must never leave one:
You write an extraordinary poem
to push the wagon.
a cart of children.
of the pure.
How dare write of final hours?
This earth’s scary: this
is no home.
catch the lash
(Everybody has a shape
a depth & shallows.)
When the ultimate hour comes,
Will you be walking one of the dogs?
a smooth & one a feathered one? Bred to run & shine.
It is amazingly small town
Three White hens,
Woods reflecting fireplace flames,
face reflecting emotions
oval mirror framed reflecting emotive face, the four-team of feelings:
to the reality you know
Artists live in history
none can touch.
curtains luff out & in:
one so hard
Love has long been the leading line
that you drink it up as from a cup.
Mystery deep as ever:
I want to wake & shake sister to say for half a century I have lived in half a body.
Translucent Mozart plays.
No more gnarled night
than when I realized
I was paralyzed.
Slowly, like crystals it dazed:
flicker the wick wire,
fire higher & higher.
Sweet Jesus & Harsh God
At the rim of language, I plunge in: Deeper & deeper:
A change from life into eternity. Then,
Our great dignity’s tested by death
I mean our freedom.
To set one’s foot blissfully out of this world when the 'parting of ways comes.
(last three lines are a paraphrase of Thomas Merton)
North & South
I live upNorth.
Dixie’s riddled with superstitions
I wear a black dress
as Emily wore white:
She color of dawn
Me of night.
An ecstatic child, birthed in melancholy whose horizon was Eternity.
“You Can touch my wings”
Peacocks in Ice
Today first Sunday of advent Sabbath after ice storm
See one bedraggled
peacock one peahen not behind bars but on a jagged fence
in Beacon Hill Park, closed at the height of the storm:
outside the children’s zoo: beyond bars on wood fence
his cobalt frozen
At close range. Statuary. Sanctuary.
I recalled disparate things Little windows lighting up in peacock’s eyes:
my late beloved who couldn’t tell a lie. Next
the boys stringing fairylights above meatfreezers at the market
then the child playing an angel who said
“if you’re gentle
you can touch my wings.”
Last Swedish girls all blonde & Lutheran
candles in their hair for Noel.
“Take then off. Blow them out!” I warned the girls.
“You could catch fire.”
They smiled, bland angels on Christmas cards.
They went out into the wild Southern night
blackout on horizon.
replaced by ward children who burn for all time:
Honored past language
we yearn for the fire-born, for what loneliness cannot repair with speech
for things beyond.
Stained Glass Quilt
(Ohio, Japanese for good morning.)
Bet has done a stained glass quilt design:
“leading” made hand-dyed
her first attempt
at stained glass
My first attempt
at crutch walking
I held handles like glass rails:
dark as leading
in Chagall’s Jerusalem windows:
parallel bars, my fist of nails.
World Ward II
Iced Peacocks: after the world war
remind me of the year in the ward. No homesickness.
We were flesh with souls, we were firefox:
We were spines
with no wires
We slept in cots, clip-boards at the end spelling likely fate: we could spy on one another. We glowed after the master switch was thrown
we had swallowed radium
This children’s military insulation was high on a high near West Point. We were wakened up at five a.m.
icy cold aluminum bedpans slapped on bony buts, the paralyzed wounded, called by last names:
feet toes waving, or paralyzed: flag of spirit flung.
rarely talk of war of death, ward-children.
Yearning to be with other kids
The soil in Europe
Why do I return
To kiss them on the cheeks, to say goodbye to them.
We learned the quick
from the older kids & on stairwells on plinths, smoking. Taking deep lung-drags in Reese jackets.
Maps of streets leading to brick primary schools:
schoolrooms smelling of vanilla, butterscotch blond floors, snap-maps of Italy glossy clay-based papers scrolled down enchanting: maps of Ireland
in our temples with the blue veins.
Such pride as the Head Matron’s could simply step down
us. Farmable airplane lighter. Corners, night agony, tucked in sheets.
We could have a nightmare sleep
still triumph in day. On shoulder-wheels, Stryker frames.
The Brothers Betrayal
Body & Soul
Sixty years later
of the ward return:
braces, couches, buckles, hosts
edges scrolled with these. But illuminated
of the Medieval manuscript however, one nurse’s love.
I am old. .I am carved with sleep’s geographies
eyes still green
more opaque after two cataract milkings. A clarity is gone
clearly than ever
these lands return:
the military salute of matron.
soup for lunch
two New York girls
from eastern European background
one on crutches
one with violin bow
home for lunch from P.S. 87
A chorus of Holocaustal
came home with you, little sister.
How do a sketch for a Botticelli?
Color is necessary.
I was a twelve year old with budding Botticelli
now the issue of desire.
in a doorway
The way I sat on the edge of the bathtub
when a girl
like the ironing
touch my wings
if you are careful.
In white sequins
in a porcelain bathroom.
Wanting to be riding the rim of a city in a bus:
crystal teal close & far from folk again
Which city would I chose?
those god-forsaken hamlets.
These four walls
Had you had daughters
instead of sons
you might have dressed them in grosgrain ribbons, ink blue.
at age 11
is off to Germany for winter vacation
from shipboards clean as chalk in
Will she land in Munich?
Frankfurt, a pool of murky metals.
What if earth’s burnt
brown & beige?
out of music.
blue ribbons, bowler hats gone into the Seine, the Hudson.
A writer of 67
hands cupped around coffee mug in Schraft’s
I blow smoke-rings
the age twelve:
to be 12 again, Ballerina, hospital child.
When you have two children
there are many ways
they can blow your cover.
Aunt in her mock
jacket over the typer
asked a question of her
what it was to be a child, post-polio, strapped on a tilt-table elongated by atrophy to a Giacometti
the cream of the crop
hours long as the torso of a dancer
light short, December An Ember
Your waist was
as my neck might have been by the loop of the iron lung.
I too have a flair for gossip
papered with memory
in a dormer ceiling
to my feet
I never wore.
the girl flies over the land which firebombed our kin.
When my longleg braces
were buckled on
did I dream of being a swan?
No child to raise,
I scan catalogues
of grosgrain: standard, striped, polkadot
These four walls.
Caress: flying under Leonardo Da Vinci
Canadian early December afternoon
sepia sunlight catching corn like a fork
this side of Holland
as matzo, the burn-folds in it golden:
An iron boat
stands in a window reflecting like my half-smile, Mona Lisa: Where will an iron boat sail on, what waves command?
spinnakers reflected in cobalt windowpane?