Be Ahead of All Parting
I lay on Emily's grave
I lay on Chief Seattle
as though they were behind me
as though now were that night
For among winters one is so endlessly winter
I fled my love in Lourmarin and found
Albert Camus. I brought back to my love the lavender
that covers him and Madam Camus. All things
double on one another especially our hearts. I sat on Sartre
and De Beauvoir, "ensemble!" the guard shouted,
one on top the other. I was looking for Vallejo
but found in the slot Jean Seberg. (I didn't find
Joan of Arc or Romain Gary). On Gertrude Stein
among the pebbles and Alice B. Toklas
I left my White-Out, there being no pebbles left
We walked across London to Karl Marx
miles covered by asphalt and cement. My Marxist love
had a fit for fear I'd pee on even his cement. Systems
impossible in time, I am forever dead
in the women's section
of the Moravian Cemetery
in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Hilda Doolittle
as "Mrs. Richard Aldington"
beneath the towering phallus
or was that the omphalos? the now that is night, glacier
cloud drifting but mostly
when I was going I stopped
at every death
I saw the movies the dead see.
Memory Is Pictures Inside You
rivers coursing through before language
the way Moonlight whimpered as he watched
the movie in his sleep. Something
is happening, his four legs are following
the story line. One part of the brain works
as a camera, taking pictures, another part
puts it together. Edits. Which part
is the soul? O Tower of Babel, whoever is
the Self? We can't remember
everything, we can't forget anything
I can't remember the first time we made love.
You said you'd tell me everything
you knew about the woman who was having the affair
with my husband, your wife. But I remember your bathtub,
how you would let me escape there
and how then, after soaking, I'd say come in
100 Memories I Don't Remember
The dress I was wearing when my brother was born, my bangs
growing out. My father
undressing me under the house
in Ramona my sister has reported
again and again, my white
I am trying to tell my sister
or someone downstairs
to save the rotting lemon
because it's organic. We can't remember
everything. We can't forget anything
the last hook, then snap of the band
with the half inch seams
I always had to take
both sides of the 34D
to fit my girl frame
The migraine up Clevenger Canyon,
there's a grainy black and white of this, I'm
16 in a white V-neck orlon sweater holding up my heavy hair
having pulled over on that dangerous spot. Having
Vicki take the picture because otherwise
I'd never remember that I
had a headache.
Daddy and my brother were boys
but not different from me,
Mama and my sister. I thought of their things
and our things like clothes we put on. Male
and female, this is how I understood adjective.
I believed with the fervor of prayer we were the same. I still believe
we are the same.
Daddy in his bath would show me how he masturbates,
the word more forbidden than witnessing masturbation
and I don't remember through all the years ejaculation.
He lies in the tub, his big boned, white hairy body
in the bubble suds. His hairy toes turning on the hot water faucet
to reheat, that's how long we've been in here, his hairy fingers
around his purple thing
and what is a mistake? and what is remembering? what is
to the house the first time after I told
a sin, instinct, desire, what is
allowance of the self, what is
justice and what is love?
running away, disappearing into the fog
to Korea to Europe ravaged
to the river bottom, my father
ravaged Going back
my mother in the bathtub, last week of 6th grade. I remember
flying through the house, leaping off the porch
knowing the greatest relief I will ever know, Mama
will take care of it. But imagine
going back and Daddy coming home.
I remember her beautiful body in the bubble suds, I
don't remember going back to the house, I never
thought to try though she was never the same, I was never again
her child, I didn't know this until now. I always thought
my not remembering was good, this is how we forgive, this is love.
I so loved my mother and my father and my sister and my brother.
Last night I nightmared again
the murdered girl. What to do
with her body? I can't remember who she is
but I remember the Los Angeles River still free
though it had flooded before I was born
killing so many it had to be cemented.
I don't remember the Fathers' castrating me
stuffing my mangled, bloody genital into my mouth,
their faces can't be looked at.
I don't remember my gender, my father, my tribe, the fear
but I remember my mother is lost
so my heart rises to go to them
fleeing back down their many mansions
then unable to weep, to remember how we walked
the millenniums, each a galaxy of blood
a hundred billion ancestral faces looking up, if
you are found guilty, Daddy, will they execute you?
I remember my first song, "shu shu m' baby."
I remember going into that forbidden place, myself
that island rising up on the horizon.
I forget its name
but I remember when
it saved my life
A river is flowing around and through
my heart, sometimes
down one breast, then up the other
now above my navel washing
through the ribs, now waterfall
back over the heart. I know
this river, all those times love
I keep waking to the flood, O River Adrenalin
she said was the headwaters
of her disease
I keep waking on a side street
behind Mendosa's in Mendocino, now here behind mi hija y nieto.
River named Fear my Seminole great grandfather was born on, then
fled, his life on the run, in hiding, mine too,
that this family be here now, O Cape Fear
coursing through my solar plexus, this back street
Is not the heart in the solar plexus the will to live? I wake
in the body of my killer, his egg splat against my side,
our marker in the road
of the other and self, in
forgiveness. O, Invisible River
I wake in each night, then talk
myself to the banks, this is how you swim
back to the world
that rivers you
October 2001 (Mendocino-Berkeley)
Abu Ghraib. Guantanamo Bay
You can't unring the bell, he admonished,
meaning 1948, Israel.
So all these bells are ringing, Nazi, Kamakazi
waves out into the universe forever
and I have seen you, as you were never meant
to be seen.
Anyone who peers into the face of God
dies, that was my girlhood religion. Now
I'm made a war criminal. You can't
unring the bell. I am complicit with this front page.
So what do I do, O male,
having seen beautiful you?
How dare I say such? But beautiful yes, your faces beaten
but not beyond recognition.
Am I to turn away and say I didn't see you naked and bound together
your tortured, living flesh?
Am I to say tears didn't well for seeing the beautiful boy, beautiful
son, beautiful father, beautiful brother, beautiful husband. Beautiful
lover, am I to say I didn't see
I kiss the torture my words cause, this humiliation
I swallow, this violation your God
will further punish you for, strike me dead on the spot, this
is why this is happening to you, my fault.
I kiss you anyway. I love you. I run my hands down all of you, veil
against our depravity, against our God doing this
to your God, a prayer
that you aren't further pissed on
in the shower. This is not sexual torture
no matter what is said.
I cannot leave you
on the water board, your
broken knees I go down to
the electrodes on your genitals, this is not
to arouse you against your manhood
but to drink our bleach and acid water forced down you
now toxic waves forever, my mother's son, my sister's
boy, my children's grandfather, my
lost soulmate, my Ishmael, my Israel, your decapitated
head rolling away, our grandson
packed in ice, nameless
in a secret prison
O Holy Holy I step through
all our Gods
I know who you are
I know what my country is
I kiss you alive, I do not die
I make you again in my body
I give you my breast, warm sweet milk, I kiss the bruises, the burns, drilled holes, cable rapes, castrations, broken femurs, stretched spines, crucifixions.
I take the blindfold off
O Holy Face
I do not die
O Holy Body
I pray this past our violation of All,
a bell ringing forever too
Abalone deep down there growing the waves
high up here flying, light and water
and earth and sky, abalone all along
growing thirty years now on this headland
writing, all this time growing my meat
my shell, my glisten, my suck.
The Pomo wore abalone to ward off sorrow.
Mid October, the divers keep surfacing - "Oh!
there's so many down there
you catch your limit in ten minutes"
keep pulling up abalone
roots of the waves, root of this sunset, red and silver
abalone the identical waveroot pattern. And the full Moon
coming up behind, all night sailing to the west
on the abalone clouds. O my glistening moon
will they pull you up too?
There was a pyramid of abalone shells
next to a pyramid of black bombs
on the black asphalt shortcut we took
Friday nights, coming and going
The bombs, black iron balls with fuses
were like the black marbles on our Chinese Checkers board.
The abalone shells were shiny silver moons, Egyptian
pyramid beside the Nile, as shiny
as the bombs were dull black.
Terminal Island Sinking!
the headlines screamed
because of the removal of oil
for the war. Maybe,
the little girl in the back seat thought, if they removed
the pile of bombs Terminal Island won't sink. Maybe
if they quit removing the abalone from underneath
Terminal Island won't sink
Like Shasta's clouds now, she thinks, way north,
the same pattern, as above, so below
our flesh, our flyers, our glisten, our suck, O Love
our abalone moons once rooted, now wandering
from place to place
to ward off sorrow
("Place where the water comes down" )
He invited me for dinner at his campsite
on the Gualala River.
His name was Rivera.
He cooked the meal in the fire pit
then asked me to comb his hair.
He said you have to be gentle
I don't have as much as before.
His hair was long and straight, gray black.
I loved his Indian hair
but I was certain I could not
We retired to his tent. The mouth
opened onto the fast flow to the sea.
It had been awhile and last time I couldn't.
But on his thin narrow mat
on the hard dirt ground I opened
to the inside more than ever before.
Or maybe I'd just forgotten, Indian lover
that I am. But why
am I an Indian lover? He was
astonished too, moved and complimented
by my sensitivity, how much
I loved him inside, how much
I responded, his every slight shift
was to a place
I'd not known before.
We loved all night in the dirt
the river rushing by half on the mat my body
cold and sore but loving
the earth so opened to the inside
where the water comes down I remembered
my infant son couldn't stop crying
so I'd take him outside
lay him on the earth
which soaked up his tears
and lulled us to sleep
In town they argue the Indians
said wa lala so the invaders say gwa lala. Oh
Gualala, I have always known
how to love. (That's why.) He cooked me
dinner on the Gualala, he asked me
to comb his thinning hair. His name was Rivera.
He invited me into his tent.
My Sexy Nightgown
I slip over my head
Could it have been ten years ago, Mama
you gave it to me, could it have been
your last Christmas?
Somewhere in one of the storage units up the coast
or in Valentine so buried it will never be recovered
is the robe
you wanted me to have to cover it
I've never worn
though still I come
to his pulling my big pink nippled breasts
out of the red spaghetti straps
so strong somewhere deep
inside your Penny's rayon, this tough stuff
still holds me and his smell
I am growing old, Mama, in your last gift.
I sleep alone on your granddaughter's sofa
a year now, above the howls and screams,
exhausts and reving up, the whine of the skateboarder
coming down the 4 am street,
this city and its police