Crise de la Vintaine [a poem revisited]


the bitter grind of the sun's turning
spins 'round to sourness falling from my thick tongue
where rocky-flick language falls not from my mouth—
my eyes are wide upon a black-ash desert:
a landscape overrun by smoldering nightshade hearths,
charcoal dunes, and dead shadeless trees;
where even birds are afraid to fly
because their wings become entangled in enormous grey;
my sights entangled in their wings.

i back up,
hoping the grayscale photograph shrinks
smaller and smaller until a silver frame (a lining) appears
around the land and the grey sky fades out
into a white plaster wall—
but the desert gust expands farther and farther
and my eyes wider and wider
until the ash overtakes them:

temple columns where a faceless statue stands,
the shape of supple breasts, twisting thighs
and a swollen belly—her hands caress her sweeping curves.

i reach out mine and place them on her.
when my fingers touch her unborn babe
the columns crumble, a swarm of black ash and dust
boom around me. the statue's belly breaks apart
while a smooth stern face appears
with closed eyes and firm lips; a clenched jaw.

the ash settles, the grey returns in my sights,
her body still there—once again i back away
until a silver frame and white plaster walls appears.

i close my eyes.


a cup of Columbia and a roll of Drum—
a leather-bound notebook and a dying pen
resting on a white saucer; a sip
and a puff, fire in my lungs and on my tongue
but none upon this glaring page.

i straighten my necktie, sit up straight,
run my smoke-stained fingers through my oil-smooth hair;
my ticking silver watch should be my meter and rhyme—the band is tight:
i can feel the blood pulse through my fingers
as they run over my neck and down to the table.

i have a sonnet made of coffee spoons
and a terza rima of rolling papers—
if blankness made verse i would have an epic by now.


i've heard my sisters giving birth
outside hospital doors:
my father sternly watched a television screen
while i cringed with every howl
from my sisters' protruding lips (which we share)—
i watched my father, unmoving,
for he has seen it all already:

three times he heard my mother wail
under a haze from a needle—
my birth is lost in a swirl of colors
and sounds: not my mother's shrieks
but of the winter whirling in the room.

i was born in whiteness, inside and out—
my father drenched my birth
in white noise.

my nephews were born in wailing
and i wonder if it causes their own—
i was born in white noise
and i wonder if that causes my silence.


i am not Prufrock—i am not half-dead
with rolled-up pants and thinning hair on my head.
i am still too young to face the dread of tea
sipped from flowered porcelain cups; i am free
for i have only lived half as long
as the man who Thomas depicted in his song.

i know not of beaches, i know more of sleet;
and mermaids were not the visions that would keep
my lust wincing through hells and tomes
in a series of ranch-style homes;
my visions of beauty were tinted by rains
from ugly smog, from flames, from jobless pains—
so any girl that could take the water
was one that flamed my poetic fodder.

i do not scuttle—i tread where i walk;
but still i prance more when i talk.
i am here—i cannot come and go
for if i go, my grave will let you know.

because i've got a mane so thick upon my head,
i am not Prufrock—i am only quarter-dead.


for you, God, i give a face and voice
because i was told you have none.

how sad, truly, that i can see Mary or Christ
on engravings above the door to my childhood bedroom
but i can only speak to You through a German
in gaudy silk robes—

i would hope that You would not want a Hitler Youth
to speak for You—for Your sake i do not listen:
i am an archaic leman and i want to hold
only You in regard—i'd kiss Your face if You had one,
but my mother said i'll have to kiss my grandfather's cheeks instead.

she told me Your face appears in the blue sky
and Your voice in the flowing streams—
but in the winter the sky is grey
and the streams are frozen over.

i see You in the faces of certain men
and i hear You from the same—
i sacrifice my words to them
because i have no lambs or sons.

i wished You not to be a specter:
my Father cannot be a ghost
because i do not believe in them.


my heaven (if alive) shall be fourfold—
a quadruple outlay of my new and old
within my mind, the culmination
of my boyhood dreams that maturation
decimated in its bursting wake—
i hope this four-pronged heaven lives for my sake.

first, a heaven full of sprouts and buds
of grasses laced with differing muds
from Spring—a blooming tree atop a hill
and through my acts of playful will
i shall climb that mound,
close my eyes, listen to the ground
take its pregnant canto and begin to birth,
awakening the newly-infant Earth.

then i stand atop the hill, look out and see
my second heaven, another realm for me.

i trek across the plains of lively Spring,
approach the sands where tides sing—
a crisp-blue chorus with soothing song
upon the shore—so warm, so white, so long.
i see the horizon, the sun is bright, unbland;
it rises and falls with word of my command.

across the beach, i gaze and rise again,
approach a wood, untouched by hands of men.

a beaten path, the axis of the Autumn grace
where gentle breezes shall kiss my face;
each branch above sheds itself so bare
as each little leaf rides upon the air.
the path is dry, leavened not with life,
but i can thrive in Autumn's brutal strife.

i tread along the beaten path, unbright
until i see the bricks covered in white.

alas! the fourth begins with paved streets—
so slick and black with ice on my uncovered feet.
the lights from windows illuminate each flake
as it falls to the ground for Winter's sake.
in the middle of the town, a Christmas tree stands
that i reach out and kiss with chilling hands.

i trek the streets with every note i sing
and walk around until i re-enter Spring.


i'll pay my debt to the earth in lilacs
that sprout from my buried body—
i shall let my self be carried in their stems
and through the leaves until my body sees the sun
yet again.

i want to be buried without a coffin so that my flesh
can be fed right to the soil
and each little flower around my grave
will have a bit of me
within its core:

i want to give the little worms a place to play.

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