The Body


What happened is, we grew lonely
living among the things,
so we gave the clock a face,
the chair a back,
the table four stout legs
which will never suffer fatigue.

We fitted our shoes with tongues
as smooth as our own
and hung tongues inside bells
so we could listen
to their emotional language,

and because we loved graceful profiles
the pitcher received a lip,
the bottle a long, slender neck.

homage to my hips

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

To the Man Who Shouted “I Like Pork Fried Rice” at Me on the Street

you want to eat me
out. right. what does it taste like
you want to eat me right out
of these jeans & into something
a little cheaper. more digestible.
more bite-sized. more thank you

come: i am greasy
for you. i slick my hair with msg
every morning. i’ m bad for you.
got some red-light district between
your teeth. what does it
taste like: a takeout box
between my legs.
plastic bag lady. flimsy white fork
to snap in half. dispose of me.

I Sing the Body Electric

I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.

Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?

Fever 103°

Pure? What does it mean?
The tongues of hell
Are dull, dull as the triple

Tongues of dull, fat Cerberus
Who wheezes at the gate. Incapable
Of licking clean

The aguey tendon, the sin, the sin.
The tinder cries.
The indelible smell

Of a snuffed candle!
Love, love, the low smokes roll
From me like Isadora’ s scarves, I’ m in a fright

One scarf will catch and anchor in the wheel,
Such yellow sullen smokes
Make their own element. They will not rise,

The Last Word

As if your half-witted tongue
Spoke with an eloquence
Death bestows, I heard your voice
Muffled through the dark
Layers of cemetery loam:

“They found me black-suited
In the shuttered half-dark, my eyes
Dug like claws into the clouds’
Soft feather-turnings. What kept me
Separate the broiling sun

Of intellect now shone on fiercely:
In the sheep-pens stinking
Of dung and lanolin,
I buried my face in the ewe’ s
Swollen side and listened


I'm at a double wake
in Springfield, for a childhood
friend and his father
who died years ago. I join
my aunt in the queue of mourners
and walk into a brown study,
a sepia room with books
and magazines. The father's
in a coffin; he looks exhumed,
the worse for wear. But where
my friend's remains should be
there's just the empty base
of an urn. Where are his ashes?
His mother hands me
a paper cup with pills:
leucovorin, Zovirax,
and AZT. "Henry
wanted you to have these,"


Your dying was a difficult enterprise.
First, petty things took up your energies,
The small but clustering duties of the sick,
Irritant as the cough’ s dry rhetoric.
Those hours of waiting for pills, shot, X-ray
Or test (while you read novels two a day)
Already with a kind of clumsy stealth
Distanced you from the habits of your health.
In hope still, courteous still, but tired and thin,

from The Changing Face of AIDS: V. Elegy for the AIDS Virus

How difficult it is to say goodbye
to scourge. For years we were obsessed with you,
your complex glycoproteins and your sly,
haphazard reproduction, your restraint
in your resistance, how you bathed so slight
yet fierce in our most intimate secretions.
We will remember you for generations;
electron micrographs of you seem quaint
already, in the moment of our victory.
How difficult it is to claim one’ s right
to living honestly. The honesty
you taught was nothing quite as true