Black and White
In weeds behind Grandma's roses
I discover a scrambled drawing,
a tangle of lines too distraught
to have been scribbled by a child.
The paper's crisp as a dollar.
The scumble of fine black lines
drawn in the densest India ink
suggests the windswept hairdo
of a favorite movie star.
As I formulate that metaphor
the paper rustles in my grip
and the lines rearrange themselves
slightly, almost making a shape.
I try to discipline the mind
with tenets of freemasonry,
the Cartesian paradox,
the Aquinas proof that God
remembers all our birthdays.
Laid flat and smooth on my desk
the drawing heaves like a fever.
Tiny feet, a child's patent shoes,
and slowly the hourglass
of a flimsy cotton dress dyed
cornflower blue. No color,
of course, only the outline
of a definite cornflower blue.
The child lacks arms and a head
so I leave, closing the blinds,
and let the geometry ripen
in the dim afternoon. At dusk
a storm crawls across the hills,
groaning and weeping, an effort
I respect. The drawing, I find,
has almost completed itself.
It smiles. I touch it. Lightning
sneers at the window. A hiss
of electrons passes from me
to the child and she rises
full-sized from the tiny page
and embraces me so thoroughly
the simple black-and-white of me
explodes the illusion of flesh.
Silence, Exile, and Cunning
Boletus, your favorite mushroom,
thrives in spongy tepid light.
As I prowl the wooded borders
of my property I catch
in the early calm the howling
of your favorite lover, his blood
lust satisfied. Manhattan
lies two hundred miles away
but I feel his pulse more firmly
than my own. You should tell him
you're not his victim or
his prey, tell him your carcass
isn't an object to study
with gas chromatography
or a cloud chamber as large
as a nuclear submarine.
I resent the pitch of his cry,
which mocks the trills of Chopin
I love more than flesh loves itself.
I resent being forced to hear
over such a tremulous distance
the crowing of an adolescent
forty years after his prime.
These perfectly formed boletus
conform only to the laws
of genetic self-expression.
If you followed their example
you'd more resemble Stephen
Dedalus, embrace his program
of silence, exile, and cunning.
Self-exile, that is, resisting
the outrage the body imposes
on itself, forcing your lover
to confess his vampire desires
as publicly as he declares
his pseudo-sexual conquests.
I kneel and harvest the mushrooms
gently, without bragging about it;
and later when I've sautéed them
in Kate's Homemade Butter I'll eat
with a heartless innocence
as green and clear as the sea's.