“They that dally nicely with words may quickly make them wanton”


Should I take this time, while the children are in school,
to untrim the tree? Standing in the dish we let go dry,
it looks well-preserved, as if Christmas were still
in our future; would it spare their feelings if I dismantle
piece by piece its grandeur, or will I amplify
their sense of loss, to de-jewel it without ritual?

Epiphany, we drove by a painted camel on a church lawn
— or what, after hard freeze, is lawn’ s avatar.
No magus, Jefferson Davis brought camel brawn
to Texas to aid in the Civil War. Now they’ re gone
except in these tableaux where Balthazar,
with all his diamonds, kneels before the Paragon.

We were coming back from a weekend getaway
before the holiday’ s official end. I took the dog,
went out on the beach, but the length of South Padre
was swept by a long wind; dunes went astray;
thin snakes of sand grains slithered; I couldn’ t jog;
the Gulf went from glaucous to cauldron gray.

As in a Bedouin poem a gown of white sand
eternally receded before me; the snakes raced.
The profile of the island was changing, and
despite the fury in my heart this tempest fanned,
the beloved’ s encampment can never be retraced:
all texts are unwritten by the same hand.

Boxes of baubles for yearly display we haul
faithfully from house to house no nomad, I realize,
could conscion. Your hem’ s circumference all
you know of enclosure. The open stall.
Patterns are starting to emerge to my wondering eyes —
on my skin, even. Up close, the epidermal

Alhambra of triangles, stars. Back of wrist. Kneecap.
Gypsies that named the lines on palms don’ t look
at soles, like yours, that close the lovelorn gap
between the territory and (yes, yes) the map.
Our tree is still in its vise. The road we took
(don’ t turn) is riddled with needles. Dried sap.


The boys are lighting fireworks on the ground.
(Recall, this is a country called Illyria;
even stars are upside down.)
Toby and Andrew name the kinds of deliria:
jumping jack, blooming flower, black cat   ...

What rose-green shower — or umbrella — is that?
The empty lot Toby and Andrew bring us to
where crab-like diggers squat
inertly in the champagne-cold, is impromptu
beach, with all the night sky for sea. Juiced-

up Roman candles discharge into it. Loosed,
frantic, spinners change color like salamanders:
spry Viola jumps back, goosed;
but Feste jokes about motley, and ganders
at the tracers that shroud us in gunsmoke.

(Perhaps it’ s just another carnival joke —
your hand on the small of my back? Like blooms
in the sky?) The New Year spoke
by spoke nears, but with a breath of tombs
the moment Feste, feeling insolently gay,

heckles a rather elderly personage: “Pray
you go out on your toes — or comatose.”
I hear Malvolio say
to Olivia holding her sparkler overly close,
“Back off — you’ re wearing too much hairspray.”


Speaking of ground flowers:
Epiphany. The resorts are dead
but for the foreign powers
that raise pistils in a yellow head

crouching on a Cypriot beach.
A rough, hairy pod — surprise!
— jumps at my touch
and squirts seed at my eyes.

Because I hear the wind rush
against the palm-palms
with which our balcony is flush;
sky cloud over with qualms;

memories blur. Psyche’ s actuaries
beg to take the measure
of our folded white Januaries
with sleep’ s ruled erasure.


Do I have to be mailed in bubbles or
toiling over bouillabaisse,
frisées, port glaze for Sir Omnivore;

protagonist of a page-turner, Haze
mére or fille; people-pleaser, cocktease,
she-bear, in niqab, in getup, in stays;

having taken St. Paul’ s advice to seize
the gold ring: Who groks the paradox?
Though one would sooner burn than freeze   ...

I’ ve taken to the dark stuff since you left:
a stovetop espresso maker with the heft

of a campfire kettle
to express more strongly my mettle.

Isn’ t Love all this, all this mocks?