Drawings: For John Who Said to Write about True Love

“The writer. It’ s a cul-de-sac,” you wrote that
winter of our nation’ s discontent. That first time
I found you, blue marble lying still in the trench, you, staked
in waiting for something, anything but the cell of your small
apartment with the fixtures never scrubbed, the seven great
named cats you gassed in the move. I couldn’ t keep them.
You explained so I understood. And what cat never loved
your shell-like ways, the claw of your steady fingers, firme
from the rasping of banjos and steady as it goes

Calling the White Donkey

I called the white donkey that hurt my left shoulder
the last time it appeared, ramming me
with its ivory head, cracking my back
to relieve me of worry and hope.
I called the white donkey,
surprised at the sound of my voice.
Scared, I wondered if the white head
would give me its donkey brain,
snowy matter dripping into my ears
like the horse of the first man who fell off,
the donkey teaching me about desire
and the moan, that white hair on the back
of my head that warns me.

Glow Flesh

you are falling
sun shine miracle
your lips are wet
to our hearts
floods in every opening

on the stoop your skirt rises
fingers go up your legs

you are falling in the streets

the hallways of east harlem
the dark hallways of east harlem
the dark hallways with mattresses
of east harlem
you are falling

Mountain Building

The mountain have changed to buildings
Is this hallway the inside of a stem
That has a rattling flower for a head,
Immense tree bark with roots made out of
In the vertical village moons fly out of
Apartment windows and though what you
See is a modern city
The mountain’ s guitars pluck inside
It’ s agriculture taking an elevator
Through urban caves which lead to
Paths underground They say Camuy
To Hutuado
Taino subground like the IRT in
Constant motion

Two Guitars

Two guitars were left in a room all alone
They sat on different corners of the parlor
In this solitude they started talking to each other
My strings are tight and full of tears
The man who plays me has no heart
I have seen it leave out of his mouth
I have seen it melt out of his eyes
It dives into the pores of the earth
When they squeeze me tight I bring
Down the angels who live off the chorus
The trios singing loosen organs
With melodious screwdrivers
Sentiment comes off the hinges

Coda of the Fixed Itinerant

Always the evening noises, the footsteps on the stairs, the day that rises in the throat.
A turn of the key will expel the world.
Against the extinct forest of furniture, the channeled bloodstream translates the dream into this small life.

In the end we shrink until finally we can no longer inhabit the gestures of our childhood.

A nail in a board: the remains of a fence; blurred memory of the mountain that raised the tree, that brooded over its ore.

Matisse, Too

Matisse, too, when the fingers ceased to work,
Worked larger and bolder, his primary colors celebrating
The weddings of innocence and glory, innocence and glory

Monet when the cataracts blanketed his eyes
Painted swirls of rage, and when his sight recovered
Painted water lilies, Picasso claimed

I do not seek, I find, and stuck to that story
About himself, and made that story stick.
Damn the fathers. We are talking about defiance.

Suitcase Song

John-O was given a key to the apartment. The deal
was this: if Phil died suddenly, and John-O heard,
he would rush on over, enter the apartment, leave
unseen with Phil’ s brown suitcase, and secretly pitch it
into the mounded deeps of the city dump.
Simply, there were things that Phil didn’ t want
to hurt his family with. Do you have yours?