Love

Contents
Between the Wines and War
A Celebration of Women
The Clouds of Passerines are Brittle
Coming Home

Coupling in the White Moonlight
Disregard the Stars
Love
Lovers Under the Bright Stars
A Lover’s Rhyme
Passion
The Place of Man

Thoughts on an Unhappy Relationship
To Make a Bed


Between the Wines and War

What have we here—here between the fine wines and war?
Love. Passion. The sensual and the visceral,
The red drip of the pomegranate, the sweet taste of gold honey.
You touch your slim hand to your angular face once more,
Touching where your red lips are closed and commissural.
We have health, youth, life, tobacco, and wine, but no money.
We have enough. The breeze blows the transparent white curtain
Bringing in the scent of the sea, the jungle’s animals’ cries,
And the faint beams of moonlight, which band the wooden floor.
The outcome of the fight, the approaching war, remains uncertain.
The soldier fights for his country, then his friends, then dies,
As the wine reeks, and our lips meet, and the ocean breaks ashore.


A Celebration of Women
You are the scarlet cardinal
Against evergreens and white snow
And the last gold leaf, autumnal,
Hanging from the branch of an oak.

You are the spring’s first daffodil
And the bluest sky of summer.
You are that unexpected thrill,
That astonishment, that wonder.

You are the dancing aurora.
You are the wings of butterflies.
You are the delicate flora
And as awesome as starswept skies.


The Clouds of Passerines are Brittle
The clouds of passerines are brittle:
One sharp sound, or just the turn of a thrush,
Breaks them as easily as a forced committal.
But real love bleeds as red as indian paintbrush,
And will even alone wage war against armies
With white flags plied only as tourniquets
And no uncouth tactic too mercenary.
To such cogent arrears each heart is convinced of debt—
When innocent youth is mortgaged to adolescence—
That must be paid in full before death does foreclose.
Therefore each heart puts passion before common sense,
Folly before judiciousness, immodesty before clothes.
Still, ancient wisdom would rather be untruth,
Be forgotten, lost to desert scenes,
Than renege upon the human flower of youth
And the honest love of people’s most hopeful dreams.


Coming Home
She is a woman, auburn haired,
With eyes of green and careful mind.
She looks through windows onto snow,
To mountain ranges, crisp and clear.
She’s as tough as stone, as rough as cordage,
Supple as a rope or birch.
And in that cold Wyoming evening
Where the mountains meet the sky,
The clouds are forming, an airy meadow,
Like fields of mushrooms or beds of scallops
That grow up and white in course of time.

And coming down from that mountain,
With broken shoulder and riding slow,
Is a tall man of her age
One she’s bound herself to love.
And like Penelope she’s been watching
That rocky chine for hopeful sign,
And now at last her man’s come riding
Down the slope, back into life
To make again the old ranch whole.

So the woman, standing slowly,
Slips out through the cabin door
Into the air that’s crisp with autumn,
Chill and fair, suggesting snow.
She saddles up and rides to meet him;
She finds him ’neath a lodgepole pine,
And there the two dismount and embrace
Relieved to learn their hearts will mend.
For above the firs the birds are flying
Vultures, condors: the carrion pair,
And how they’d love a crippled cowpoke
Lost amidst the mountains there.
Now she and he are hugging fiercely
As the sun sinks behind the stone
And though Death is hungry
And impatient it must find another time
For tonight these two are coming home.


Coupling in the White Moonlight
You are as naked as my love:
Unclothed, uncovered, sensual.
White moonbeams kiss you from above
And cast shadows, still and skeletal.

My fingers touch your parted lips.
Your soft hand feels my beating heart.
I kiss your thighs, your silky hips.
You slowly spread your legs apart.

Your legs grow long in the dim light
And flower in a fine petal.
Like blooming jasmine in the night,
You unfurl and slowly settle.

Our home stands on a rocky hill.
The sea breaks against stones beneath.
Through the window white moonbeams spill,
As creamy as a hyacinth.

Love is stronger than a feeling.
Love is blood for the human heart.
Love is folk theft, without stealing,
Cares taken as subtly as art.

Dreams are deeper than the ocean.
Our sleep together is a dream.
My eyes close.  I feel your motion,
Wavelike in the moonlight’s white beam.

The deep night washes over us
As we emerge from breathless drowning:
The little death, the intimate lust,
At once nothing and surrounding.


Disregard the Stars
Imagine if each of the stars was a lady
And the sky shone with their allure every night
Or if each leaf in a tree that is shady
Was a girl who was both lovely and bright
Still I would not look from your eyes
When you smile with your hands clasped in mine.

And think if each flash on the ocean
Was an old romance that sparked into flame
Or if each flicker on a land that lay frozen
Was a call to a new and voluptuous game
Still I’d use every means ever devised
To keep our loving hearts well intertwined
For it’s true that love knows no demise
When devotion and affection align.


Love
The cities are shaking with the rumble of traffic
It seems like half the birds are missing toes
The sunbeam on her face makes her look seraphic
Laying amongst the bedsheets, wearing no clothes.

It’s a cold water flat and the sink’s always dripping
The winter sun’s horizontal, weak, and cold
There’s snow on the sidewalks, people are slipping,
And it seems that, long ago, the city’s heart was sold.

Then he turns her head, and he kisses her lips
She wraps her arms around him, sees his eyes above;
She spreads her legs and lifts her hips,
And in the cold and lonely city, they fall to making love.

A short time later, and already they’re both old and grey.
That’s just the way time goes, just the way life is.
They grew together and grew their own way
Till not even they knew what was hers and what was his.

Because on that day, all those years ago, they traded hearts.
He gave her his, and she gave him hers,
And he said, “Life is made of new beginnings and old parts,
But what I have you can have, and what is mine is yours.”

And she took what he had, and she gave herself to him.
They gave each other everything; nothing did they save,
Sharing the thoughtful moment, and the slightest whim,
Until there was nothing they could give, that they hadn’t already gave.


Lovers Under the Bright Stars
We lay out under the bright stars:
Saw the moon lay in her crescent,
Saw the prairie stretch out to Mars.
We felt nostalgic and prescient.

Her heart was as pure as clear ice.
My heart was hungry as a wolf.
Words came at far too dear a price.
Love lay between us like a gulf.

If she leaves here in the morning
All that’s left will be memory
Like an orange fire that’s burning
That leaves an ash that’s hot and grey.

The horses they start to snuffle.
The dog is whining to go home.
If love can come through this shuffle
It’ll last till memory is gone.


A Lover’s Rhyme
On an autumn morning, chill and fair,
early snow slicks Istanbul’s cobblestones,
baklava scents the Bosphorus air,
and caressing lovers lie as bare as bones.

Leafless branches reticulate the Charles Bridge,
while wind knots the old square’s fog;
crows stare balefully from Saint Vitus’ ridge,
and lovers vanish in the shadows of Prague.

One spring day in the serried Balkans,
where the granite rises in a sagittate spine,
amidst meadows and wildflowers two lovers lie talking,
deaf to the world in the midst of that chine.

Each lover’s story is like a scene in an arras,
woven by hand from Kabul to Paris,
in the dells, the cities, and the lands in between,
where time doesn’t matter in the weave of the scene.


Passion
Passion, amid that fair skulduggery that is Time,
Teach me no more hard lessons;
I need no more legions of tormenting lesions.
Leave me only love—soft as a pheasant,
Enduring as space—until my passing.



The Place of Man

There are moths circling the patio light
As she talks to him of justice and love.
His drink is sweating in the warm night,
And his skin is cool beneath the stars above.

She talks of rats in the WFP food, of dogs behind doors.
She speaks of fake soldiers in military dress,
And of short-skirted whores.
She talks, and he listens with no feeling or stress.

Somewhere, somewhere, she is telling him,
There ought to be virtue and decency.
Somewhere, here perhaps, she says again,
There ought to be a merciful society.

Still the moon shines high up in the sky.
He thinks that it’s a quarter of a million miles away.
There the stars tremble before his very eyes,
So far off that they’ll be lost come day.

And, of course, she’s right. So very right.
And if he could take all the world’s ills
And burn them, in a blaze to light the night,
Then he would, and damn the stars, the moon, the night’s chills.

For just a single night, if he could, he’d turn it all to day,
And like some great seething god, set the world aright,
And leave the good folk in a better way,
Then so he would. But no one has such might.

Late that night, they fall to making love.
And after it is over, and she lies curled,
He thinks that it is not the role of god above,
But man’s sole sphere, to better rule this world.


Thoughts on an Unhappy Relationship
Sometimes after a frightful storm
We must burn our bridges to keep warm.


To Make a Bed
She pats the white pillows.
The bed is not her own,
as light carries through tall windows
onto the marital pattern.
From room to room, she straightens
and makes the tattling sheets.
She scrubs and cleans the wash basins;
she dusts the powder room.
Affairs between the man
and wife have gone unknown,
though Sarah sees what goes unsaid
when it comes time to clean:
the way tall waves are made in storms,
the sheets have creases,
unexplainable otherwise,
except through men who forget,
who smooth their wives while leaving creases.
Yet Sarah almost can’t hate this man,
his lust and greed, so far apart
from how she would stand if she were in his stead.
It is as if he is oblivious as a child.
Yet hate him she can. It is not impossible.
Sometimes her hands, as if unwilled,
do rip and tear covers, hurl them quite far,
away from that bed. As if the sheets were masts
in gales at sea, they flap with her strength.
She shakes them, wanting to shake the past
affairs and sins away. One washing isn’t enough.
Through shaking, flapping, the creases go.
Action is best, to calm one’s nerves.
She thinks of him, as she replaces the soap:
out with the old, in with the new.
She scrubs at him in the shower,
with each hard swipe, a bit of grunge is gone.
The lines of black mildew erode
under her strong cleaning.
Her mistress enters, the bright woman,
with hair that rolls and curls on her shoulder
and eyes that flash like a quick bird.
“Are things well, Sarah? How is your day?”
And Sarah, quite near revealing all,
now stops and starts as he walks inside,
filling the room with a presence unwanted.
“Oh yes, Miss,” she breathes.
“Indeed. Everything is well.”
“We’re pleased with you,” Rosalyn says,
her arm snaking around her husband’s.
“You do good work in here and in the rooms.
The beds are made with tight, hard folds—
you have energy in your small bones.”
“Yes, ma’am” says Sarah. “It’s conviction
for jobs done well. One thing I know—
that clean bedrooms can make a mind the same.”
He says, “If it’s the same to you, please leave
my shelves the way they are. I like a mess.
I have my things the way I remember,
and touching them would mean losing them.”
“Yes,” Sarah says. “I understand you.”
“But you do do your job, I think, quite well,”
he continues. “The showers are clean,
the place is dusted, the rooms are neat.
Why, you could hardly tell a person lived here!
Everything dirty washed away!”
Quite cheery, he vanishes, pecking Ros’ cheek.
They wait moments.
She stares at Sarah, woman appraising woman.
Servant and mistress relations quite gone.
“What’s wrong? I see something that’s strange in you.
You know something,” says Rosalyn.
“Something that maids can learn when they do work.
What do you know? Is it about, well, him?
Don’t lie, dear Sarah, the shame is not on you.
But, I… I think I know already. It is an affair.”
She leans against the wall.
Her dress seems weak, heavy:
as if the cloth were thin armor,
as if the pearls were made of lead.
“Is it?” says Rosalyn. “Is there someone he’s known?”
“I hate to say it,” Sarah says. “No, I care little for him—
I mean I hate to hurt you, dear.” She takes Rosalyn’s hand.
Her hand is warm and weak, unlike the girl
that Sarah knows as being strong and fierce.
Every strong heart can break.
“But I don’t mind damaging him. He cares
only a small amount for you, I think.
When washing, I am scrubbing him off you.
I scrub away the day, the night, the times
when he and she make love like animals.
Not like people. Not like humans. Not like couples.
Their love is expensive—too expensive!—
because it costs another. It costs you much, I think.
I pay for it also, a price no one should pay.
Yet I pay not as much as you.”
“Oh!” says Rosalyn. “Is it—oh! No! I don’t care!”
They sit with soundlessness for a long time.
At times, silence can clean a wound, can heal a pain.
They hear him hum, a warm and wild and joyous sound.
It comes from in the hall.
Then he calls her by name, “Oh, Rosalyn! Rosalyn!
Rosalyn! Where, dear, are you?”
She does not speak.
The calling drifts away. Perhaps he went outside.
Perhaps some work is in some need of doing.
Perhaps the lawn is going to be mowed.
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
All that is important is that the sound is gone.
The joyous hum is gone.
“I must not sit for long,” says Rosalyn.
“I must better him, move on now.
But I don’t know where to begin or how to start.
This dirty, filthy thing is stifling me. What can I do?”
“Here,” Sarah says, handing her a sponge. “I will help you.
First we should rearrange his shelves. We have our tidying to do;
sometimes it does good to clean and work.
Sometimes it does good to erase his memories.
Sometimes.”