UNDER THE SUN AND EASY
I leave my broom in the stairwell and
go to my son's room to weep.
Something to do with the barnacles in the toilet,
the cheerios cemented to the breakfast bowls,
something to do with spring's wet sweet breath
like a lover's on the back of my neck,
something to do with when I was a girl
and loved the boy I did not marry.
I lie down in the bed which smells of son,
prepare to give myself over to woe
when I spy there (the little devil!
I will speak to him!)
a half-smoked joint on the windowsill
in full morning light
like a sacrament waiting to be taken.
I pick it up gingerly, reverently.
Oh, sweet Maryjane of my youth!
Into my lungs rides the sweet hard smoke.
Minutes spool off, unravel like hours,
dust rags, aprons, shackles drop.
I am deep down my self again,
at home and happy in my flesh.
I push off and up and go out into the sun
with that sense of the seamless endlessness
of time, my body loose and lovely in my skin
and all of me-my lips touching, my thighs
touching, my saliva delicious going down,
my tongue lying in its crib of teeth,
my breasts nesting under my T-shirt,
my buttocks muscular and strong,
my toes wriggling in their sockets-
all of me in a low-grade and lovely
fever of arousal.
I'm under the sun and in no hurry.
Through the woods back of the house
I walk under the rich turtle green filled
with birds talking of my coming.
I walk slowly, indolently, to the dock where
the old men, whom I love, are fishing and
talking. The good-time smell of pipe smoke,
the racy odor of fish, the old-memory smell of water
all wrap around the elders who sit
and sit and sit in the sun. And smile.
The fish glitter, a heap of hematite
on a brown paper bag.
Half a hundred gulls mill the sky.
My thoughts come slow, last long, seem deep,
when all I'm really thinking is
how blue and blameless the sky is,
what a miracle is a gull,
how I will always be on this side of love
or the other.
I went out in the night
to fetch in the cat.
I was in my nightgown
and hurrying, for it was
chilly and dark.
I called, Here Bat! Here
good boy! But softly,
so the neighbors would not
see me in my nightgown.
I said, Hey Bat, soft and
seductively, hidden by
the dark and by the trees.
But a great moon rolled heavily out
and lit the street and not just Bat,
but four other cats appeared and
the five slowly turned in circles
around my legs and a wind came up
and bent the trees and
blew my hair about like smoke and
I tipped my face to the moon and
I threw up my arms to the moon
and my hands were reaching
for something, I'm not sure what,
when a neighbor's car came
beaming down the street
seeing through the veil
of my nightgown
to the nothing underneath but me
and underneath me, the cats
and around us all the trees
slathering and bowing
and the wind and the moon.
No one on my block
has spoken to me since.
The Treasure Man lived in the friendly gloom
of bars, or waited, grinning, out behind the track.
The Treasure Man would be someone in my father's debt,
paying off the favor or the fifty with carnival dolls,
alligator vests, watches with no works.
My father loved these things of beauty as a savage loves
glass beads, never understood a dollar bill's cold fact.
He bore his gifts home like Cortez.
This time it was a flintlock pistol,
teak wood stock, the barrel silver-scrolled,
magnificent, and dangerous.
My father stood before the mirror and, calling us around,
took deadly aim, eyes shining,
and fired at his reflected self.
We blinked, the mirror stayed intact,
while from the hammer sprang a flame
to light a cigarette or stop a heart.
All afternoon he tinkered with the gun, so pleased
to have amazed us. Then,
deciding the pistol needed to be oiled,
he laid papers on the floor,
removed the screws, the pin, the magic,
then could not put it back.
Frustration led to rage, to drink,
until, like Rumpelstiltskin steeped in gin,
he jumped up and down upon the pistol with his boots.
Again, again, he smashed down with his heels
until finally, weeping, on his knees before the thing he loved,
he spoke his philosophy of the gravely disappointed heart:
Tight-lipped and satisfied, my mother swept the parts
into the bag and threw the damned thing out.
We children stood afar.
He asked about the pistol the next day,
wanted to try his hand at fixing it again,
could not believe my mother had thrown it out,
was heartbroken as a child.
Without there being a breeze
or a hint of movement,
the petals from the gone-by peonies
drop upon the table.
They fall as slowly as if
the air were water.
The petals are softer than skin
and the edges are feathered or
fingered, rather, like the fingers
fringing the wings of the hawk.
Around the white pitcher,
the magenta petals fall and curl,
heap, palm up, palm down.
I touch a petal to my lips.
Such thick skinned, waxy silk-
I kiss and kiss and don't want to stop
kissing, greedily, famished for it,
and I go on kissing peony petals,
plastering them to my lips,
my neck, the backs of my hands, my lids.
I remember kissing my dead mother
in her coffin. I kissed her cheek.
Cold, cold. And then
I kissed her lips, cold
and waxy soft, like this peony petal.
The night I learned she was dying
and I couldn't get through,
I made love to a man I hardly knew,
again and again, harshly, all night
until, wrung and wet and sweating,
I fell exhausted into the deepest,
most sorrowful sleep while
the hours fell, fragrant and silent,
from my mother's life.