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Leaf : Isolde Cortes

On the metro, I have to ask a young woman to move the packages beside her to make room for me; she’s reading, her foot propped on the seat in front of her, and barely looks up as she pulls them to her. I sit, take out my own book—Cioran, The Temptation to Exist—and notice her glancing up from hers to take in the title of mine, and then, as Gombrowicz puts it, she “affirms herself physically,” that is, becomes present in a way she hadn’t been before: though she hasn’t moved, she’s allowed herself to come more sharply into focus, be more accessible to my sensual perception, so I can’t help but remark her strong figure and very tan skin—(how literally golden young women can look at the end of summer.) She leans back now, and as the train rocks and her arm brushes mine she doesn’t pull it away; she seems to be allowing our surfaces to unite: the fine hairs on both our forearms, sensitive, alive, achingly alive, bring news of someone touched, someone sensed, and thus acknowledged, known.

I understand that in no way is she offering more than this, and in truth I have no desire for more, but it’s still enough for me to be taken by a surge, first of warmth then of something like its opposite: a memory—a girl I’d mooned for from afar, across the table from me in the library in school now, our feet I thought touching, touching even again, and then, with all I craved that touch to mean, my having to realize it wasn’t her flesh my flesh for that gleaming time had pressed, but a table leg. The young woman today removes her arm now, stands, swaying against the lurch of the slowing train, and crossing before me brushes my knee and does that thing again, asserts her bodily being again, (Gombrowicz again), then quickly moves to the door of the car and descends, not once looking back, (to my relief not looking back), and I allow myself the thought that though I must be to her again as senseless as that table of my youth, as wooden, as unfeeling, perhaps there was a moment I was not.

C.K. Williams

Untitled
By.Rachel McKibbens

To my daughters, I need to say:

Go with the one who loves you biblically.

The one whose love lifts its head to you despite its broken neck.

Whose body bursts sixteen arms electric to carry you, gentle, the way
old grief is gentle.

Love the love that is messy in all its too much,

The body that rides best your body, whose mouth saddles the naked salt
of your far gone hips, whose tongue translates the rock language of
all your elegant scars.

Go with the one who cries out for his tragic sisters as he chops the winter’s wood, the one whose skin

Triggers your heart into a heaven of blood waltzes.

Go with the one who resembles most your father. Not the father you can
point out on a map,

But the father who is here. Is your home. Is the key to your front door. Know that your first love will only

Be the first. And the second and third and even fourth will unprepare you for the most important:

The Blessed. The Beast. The Last love. Which is, of course, the most terrifying kind.

Because which of us wants to go with what can murder us? Can reveal to us

Our true heart’s end and its thirty years spent in poverty?

Can mimic the sound of our birdthroated mothers, replicate the warmth of our brothers’ tempers? Can pull us out of ourselves until

We are no longer sisters or daughters or sword swallowers but, instead,

Women. Who give. And lead. And take and want

And want

And want

And want

Because there is no shame in wanting.

And you will hear yourself say: Last Love, I wish to die so I may come back to you new and never tasted by any other mouth but yours.

And I want to be the hands that pull your children out of you and tuck them deep inside myself until they are

Ready to be the children of such a royal and staggering love. Or you
will say: Last Love,

I am old, and have spent myself on the courageless, have wasted too many clocks on less-deserving men, so I hurl myself

At the throne of you and lie humbly at your feet.

Last Love, let me never roll out of this heavy dream of you.

Let the day I was born mean my life will end where you end.

Let the man behind the church do what he did if it brings me to you.

Let the girls in the locker room corner me again if it brings me to you.

Let the wrong beds find me if it brings me to you.

Let this wild depression throw me beneath its hooves if it brings me to you.

Let me pronounce my hoarded joy if it brings me to you.

Let my father break me again and again if it brings me to you.

Last love, I let other men borrow your children. Forgive me.

Last love, I vowed my heart to another. Forgive me.

Last Love, I have let my blind and anxious hands wander into a room and come out empty. Forgive me.

Last Love, I have cursed the women you loved before me. Forgive me.

Last Love, I envy your mother’s body where you resided first. Forgive me.

Last Love, I am all that is left. Forgive me.

Last Love, I did not see you coming. Forgive me.

Last Love, every day without you was a life I crawled out of. Amen.

Last Love, you are my Last Love. Amen.

Last Love, I am all that is left. Amen.

I am all that is left.

Amen.

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

We are not one with this world. We are not
the complexity our body is, nor the summer air
idling in the big maple without purpose.
We are a shape the wind makes in these leaves
as it passes through. We are not the wood
any more than the fire, but the heat which is a marriage
between the two. We are certainly not the lake
nor the fish in it, but the something that is
pleased by them. We are the stillness when
a mighty Mediterranean noon subtracts even the voices of
insects by the broken farmhouse. We are evident
when the orchestra plays, and yet are not part
of the strings or brass. Like the song that exists
only in the singing, and is not the singer.
God does not live among the church bells
but is briefly resident there. We are occasional
like that. A lifetime of easy happiness mixed
with pain and loss, trying always to name and hold
on to the enterprise under way in our chest.
Reality is not what we marry as a feeling. It is what
walks up the dirt path, through the excessive heat
and giant sky, the sea stretching away.
He continues past the nunnery to the old villa
where he will sit on the terrace with her, their sides
touching. In the quiet that is the music of that place,
which is the difference between silence and windlessness.

I love how these two pieces communicate such similar things in languages many years apart… women immortalized through the authors’ words:

William Shakespeare – Sonnet #18

Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And Summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And oft’ is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d:
But thy eternal Summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Charles Baudelaire – I Offer You This Verse…

I offer you this verse so that if  once my name
Beaches with good fortune on epochs far away
And makes the minds of men dream at the close of day,
Vessel to whose assistance a great tempest came,

The memory of you, like fables indistinct,
May weary the reader like a tympanum’s refrain,
And by a fraternal and most mystical chain
Still seem as though hanging, to my lofty rhymes linked;

Accurst being to whom, from the depth of the abyss
To the height of the sky, nothing but me responds!
— O you who like a shade whose trace none may retard,

Trample with a light foot and serene regard
The mortal dolts who judged you bringer of bitterness,
Statue with eyes of jet, great angel browed with bronze!

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv’d virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am’rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp’d power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

~Andrew Marvell

via Helen


Eva Yerbabuena in “Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey.”

The Spanish Dancer
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

As on all its sides a kitchen-match darts white
flickering tongues before it bursts into flame:
with the audience around her, quickened, hot,
her dance begins to flicker in the dark room.

And all at once it is completely fire.

One upward glance and she ignites her hair
and, whirling faster and faster, fans her dress
into passionate flames, till it becomes a furnace
from which, like startled rattlesnakes, the long
naked arms uncoil, aroused and clicking.

And then: as if the fire were too tight
around her body, she takes and flings it out
haughtily, with an imperious gesture,
and watches: it lies raging on the floor,
still blazing up, and the flames refuse to die –
Till, moving with total confidence and a sweet
exultant smile, she looks up finally
and stamps it out with powerful small feet.

A Winter Dream

In winter we’ll travel in a little pink carriage
With cushions of blue.
We’ll be fine. A nest of mad kisses waits
In each corner too.

You’ll shut your eyes, not to see, through the glass,
Grimacing shadows of evening,
Those snarling monsters, a crowd going past
Of black wolves and black demons.

Then you’ll feel your cheek tickled quite hard…
A little kiss, like a maddened spider,
Will run over your neck…

And you’ll say: “Catch it!” bowing your head,
– And we’ll take our time finding that creature
– Who travels so far…

The Sun Has Wept Rose

The sun has wept rose in the shell of your ears,
The world has rolled white from your back,
Your thighs:
The sea has stained rust at the crimson of your breasts,
And Man had bled black at your sovereign side.

Nina’s Reply (Excerpt)

HE – Your breast on my breast,
Eh? We could go,
With our nostrils full of air,
Into the cool light

Of the blue good morning that bathes you
In the wine of daylight?…
When the whole shivering wood bleeds,
Dumb with love

From every branch green drops,
Pale buds,
You can feel in things unclosing
The quivering flesh:

You would bury in the lucerne
Your white gown,
Changing to rose-colour in the fresh air the blue tint which encircles
Your great black eyes,

In love with the country,
Scattering everywhere,
Like champagne bubbles,
Your crazy laughter:

Laughing at me, suddenly, drunkenly –
I should catch you
Like this – lovely hair, ah! –
I should drink in

Your taste of raspberry and strawberry,
Oh flower-flesh!
Laughing at the fresh wind kissing you
Like a thief,

At the wild rose, teasing you
Pleasantly:
Laughing more than anything, oh madcap,
At your lover!…

Seventeen! You’ll be so happy!
Oh! the big meadows
The wide loving countryside!
– Listen, come closer!…

– Your breast on my breast,
Mingling our voices,
Slowly we’d reach the stream,
Then the great woods!…

Then, like a little ghost,
Your heart fainting,
You’d tell me to carry you,
Your eyes half closed…

I’d carry your quivering body
Along the path:
The bird would sping out his andante:
Hard by the hazeltree…

I’d speak into your mouth;
And go on, pressing
Your body like a little girl’s I was putting to bed,
Drunk with the blood

That runs blue under your white skin
With its tints of rose:
And speaking to you in that frank tongue…
There!… – that you understand…

Our great woods would smell of sap,
And the sunlight
Would dust with fine gold their great
Green and bronze dream.

On this rainy pest of a morning
I offer you a summer of sweetness
Right here.
 
Just as the window is pelted with drops of rain
I will assail the pillar of your spine with kisses
Like these.
 
When the chill draught creeps through the crack between doors
You will only feel a soft breath on your neck
And it will be warm, not cold.
 
And when the sun finally peeks out and lines the clouds with silver
and casts little circle shadows on our skin
We will smile
 
And just be still.

© Me, 2011

My beast, my age, who will try
to look you in the eye,
and weld the vertebrae
of century to century,
with blood? Creating blood
pours out of mortal things:
only the parasitic shudder,
when the new world sings.

As long as it still has life,
the creature lifts its bone,
and, along the secret line
of the spine, waves foam.
Once more life’s crown,
like a lamb, is sacrificed,
cartilage under the knife –
the age of the new-born.

To free life from jail,
and begin a new absolute,
the mass of knotted days
must be linked by means of a flute.
With human anguish
the age rocks the wave’s mass,
and the golden measure’s hissed
by a viper in the grass.

And new buds will swell, intact,
the green shoots engage,
but your spine is cracked
my beautiful, pitiful, age.
And grimacing dumbly, you writhe,
look back, feebly, with cruel jaws,
a creature, once supple and lithe,
at the tracks left by your paws.

Musings

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