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Wanda Phipps/ 2 Poems


he spent the day
drawing hummingbirds,
tomorrow elephants

"cosmic censorship"

"Phil's so cool he's
brilliant, he's in Poland...
we went to this concert
& then he became uncool...
I think he got into
the Grateful Dead"

"born from a peach"

two birds fallen from their
nest, yes, necessary-
needful in a hunt

paper beauty doll
will have been done
      this murder
soul, singular
rest before the journey
the one I admire most
among them
yes, I know, I'm watching
hands still, still
in the making
with so few words
somnambulant reactions

"I'd shake all night"
"You're on my mind"
"You're worrying me"
"I've been thinking about you"
"I've been dreaming about you"

weird visitor
not an organ
      but of opposites all
within the polarity
      an end

like a jewel in a toad's head
      a plea for polyandry

"take the key out
& see if the car
still runs"
"I don't care what
I think I see or dream"

must give you
gifts for the gifts
you've given me

he admired James Brown
& his polysexuality
I could kiss you all night
he said

"get comfortable  &
make yourself

"for all of the reasons
I desired you"
"things were glowing"

yes I admit it I felt
loved—quite an accomplishment

makin' love again
with the tv on
someone talking about
wanting love or
losing love or
being in love
lots of talk
about love on tv
makes us pause
freeze frame
"got any change, young blood"

forbidden words
hide on the street
the mind must be

"A gift to the gods"
change for the toll

I'm a gypsy
with these earrings
& those mirrors
smiling from my breasts
my witnessing self

"are you o.k.?"
  constant checking
    for an imbalance
      a downward swing
a fall into the field of wanting
instead of your well of light
let me jump
      push me
it's so bright

now this is like a song
and you belong to...

I open the door
and the wind sings etc...
let me jump

tightness in chest
shortness of breath
heaviness in lower body

madness as divinity
      to the source

today he draws
      crocodiles and alligators

so it is done
it is done
in this way

baseball cap protects
him from rain
I push all of his
language buttons
  he carries me
      in his pocket

I'm confounded
once again by

push me
I don't feel free
      to choose
I don't feel free
freedom is an alien
      to my memory

how narrow
how maddening
how stifling
can the realm
of choices be
before choice
becomes command

up against the wall
down on the floor
answer me yes or no

pull me in
it all fell down

on me
full of dread
it all fell down

a physical thing
nervousness in the body
followed by numbness
in the heart

stuck on one groove
don't know where I am

turning night's corner
"I don't want to make
you suffer"
she said

all afternoon
he drew Amish people
tomorrow he's doing

it is becoming precious

try another number
to take me to oblivion
where could that be tonight

do you wanna smile
      from me
no—I see
how the pain
      in my eyes
excites you

how many more
how many can I find

a story
 a belt unbuckling
   a black stockinged leg
     a glistening nipple
       an open courting carriage
two horses
     we sit tightly together

you lied to me

standing on a whale
another big fish story
story of the girl
who fell down
a deep deep hole
Messiah complex stirs

another minor goddess
I dangle keys
in the dark

need a new myth
spontaneous meat

let's investigate
the dream machine

power plant
paralyzes heart
short-circuits the flow
of empathy

you are luminous twins
under the streetlights
of Avenue B

said you'd show me
the banana trick
      one day

telling the story
of a woman who
conceived with a drum
within the drum
a case, a box
a face, a fist
      a heart
an army of ants

let's rock
let's knock down
the doors of
heaven and horror
in the field of time


you lied to me
a small lie of omission
of definition of terms
big words for small sensations
or small sensations
become large visions
tell me in real time
does it get any easier
how do you remember

Womb Dreams

                Part I

mother's heartbeat
an echo of shamanic drums
ushers us into the dream
the waking trance state
where images flow
lightning energy
shooting through
           flexed muscles

      an embryo remembers
past actions
images press beneath fluttering eyelids
and yes      the drum beat of the bearer's heart
                the bearer of the burden
                     the bearer of the gift
                          the bearer of life

she rises from bed
           it's a struggle the bearer has become accustomed to
but still her heartbeat accelerates and initiates
the unborn's trance:

           I once wore long robes
           rough scratchy wool
           brushing my ankles
           and the smell of blood
           is that here now
           or was that then?
           the smell of blood

all of natural history awaits us
in the mummified      fossilized excrement
   the rumblings of the ages      the sound of decay
      race to the end                and then back again

      silence is a virtue
      sweeter than the sweetest vice
       cup your hands to my breasts
                and listen
           ear to my chest
           listen to the drum
            echoing a distant shaman's beat:

      he said it was an earthquake       i didn't believe him
      held his hand tightly as i lay back down to sleep     he
      said here comes another one can't you feel it can't you
     feel it coming      he was blowing in my ear        i
      fell asleep   woke again       he was mumbling   him
      talking in his sleep  saying no   come on    come on
    he said i said mama no mama no   and i could feel the
      blood i don't remember screaming i don't remember it
      i remember waking up frightened to  death waking up
      so afraid of something     but i couldn't remember the
      dream     the nightmare i couldn't remember what had
     frightened me but i was shaking and sweating    and i
     thought he was  i don't know who i thought he was  i
     was trying to get away from him    and he kept saying
     it's all right it's me it's me     he said i screamed at the
     top of my lungs  several times over and over and woke
     him up and scared him to death   but i don't remember
     screaming at all          not hearing myself screaming
     or feeling myself scream            all i remember was
     being so afraid of something             it was so dark
     i didn't know where i was                 or who i was

NOW there's a humming rumbling rolling sound
      a huge rock rolling       a mass of water moving
in my direction      the smell of wood burning and the sea
      somehow in the middle of the darkness the sea
he said:      what was that?
she:       what?
      he:      just before you woke me i saw a clear image of
                something—what was it?


                in the chapel
                on the hill
                at St. Ignatius
               i feel almost afraid to move
                the first time they frightened me
                the ornate decoration
                and yet there is such a deep stillness
                they don't frighten me anymore
                but i do feel
                in my hand is an orange tulip
                the same voices i heard
                looking up at the arches
                i still hear
               the voices of women wailing
                i try to meditate
               (air is heavy here)
                to pray
                but what comes to me
                are the voices
                their presence weighing me down
                and an overwhelming
                feeling of
                the vibrations of their weeping
                a great weight but also
               a calmness trapped
                here for so many years
                and now pressing in on me
                i try to leave
                their voices buried in the walls
                feeling an endurance
               and strength through
                on my first visit
               but now i can feel them
                and hear them
               their weeping


on the radio in the back seat of a taxicab
               (a radio talk show)
                    "and now for the real stuff
                          and now for the meat of the matter
                               the blood in the pudding":

      i was a man standing on a balcony
      an older man early fifties graying hair
      and people were watching from a dark court 
      yard below the balcony was half shadow
      half pinkish peeling wall a crumbling European
      city i stood there and held two guns—one at the
      side of my head and one inside my mouth and fired
      i don't remember pain just a slow motion feeling
     and a melting of hot liquid seeping like light
      or molten rock...

           the thoughts coming so quickly
           my hands shake
           a desperate tremolo
           vibration of the body

      can't quite remember the details
but there is something there           was something there
           so            finish it      just finish        now but
something resembling a hovering round puff of solid smoke
resting at the level of my solar plexus says no not yet
      a fear catching in my gut
dear God      dear empty space    dear quiet place inside me
                send a rescuer
                     send an answer to her dreams
outside the children sing: "call on Jesus, call on savior"
   over and over
      like a new nursery rhyme
               "you just missed the candy man"
                               mother says.


There is no simple story, my heart isn't in it. So I'll tell it as it comes.

Something tropical—dark black earth—a rain forest perhaps. We sit on a huge boulder watching sky peeking through the trees and shadows made by the swaying leaves and branches on the ground. In the heat I feel as if we're on the bottom of the ocean and all our movements have a slow motion crispness. I feel his breath on the back of my neck—his arms wrapped around my waist. Suddenly all of the forest sounds cease—complete silence—everything has stopped. The forest becomes a sound proofed room—the air is being slowly sucked out of this beige sound proofed room making breathing difficult. He takes off his golden glasses and puts one hand on my cheek. Instantly, before his hand falls to his side I appear behind a glass window inside the room, with black velvet curtains behind me. I begin to take off my clothes. He watches. I turn my back to him and we are again on the boulder in the rain forest and I feel his hand on my bare back and his breath on the back of my neck.

Sometimes I believe darkness is purer than light. Somehow in shadows I find a fuller truth than in the blinding clarity of light. Night has always brought comfort and fear. This combination comes closer to my view of reality than one or the other existing separately.

Where is the melancholy in a chandelier, in a tenement, a stack of books on a gray wooden floor, a pair of shoes trimmed in gold? Voices always trigger the jump in the gut and then the response like bodies connected to the voices. Where inside your brain is it—this thought? Can I carve it out with a kitchen knife and save it for a better time? Can I burn it out and watch it smolder down to milk white ash and bone? I can't touch or taste or smell or hear or see it, but it finds me again and again—breath on the back of my neck.

I was running down a dark hill. It was night. They were chasing me: the men in black raincoats. I kept falling and getting up to run again just in time, before they could reach me. I reached a burnt out house and I saw someone on a top floor through a window. I went in for help but in was more frightening than out—so dark but cool and calming with many doorways charred and black with ash. Somehow I knew as I climbed the stairs again and again each time the person moved farther away, so the distance between us remained equal.

Prometheus, keen in all art, brought the fire. Little boys stomped out the flames, throwing bottles in the street, watching the pieces shatter and sparkle under streetlights.


This is the dream:

I was talking to someone—a man—about how I lit the gas and burned these things in the corner of my room—this very white room—I was also a man—I looked like David only inside I was Sarah—the man—the older man talking to me saw that I was self-destructive and as a punishment or a lesson he was going to lock me into my room and in the corner of the room was this very old sick woman dying in a huge bed—I would be locked in with her forever and I'd have to take care of her forever and the man pushed me inside and was closing the door slowly and the outside light was disappearing (sunlight) inside there was only artificial light—I was wildly throwing my hands out to stop the door closing on me and he began to push my hands inside the room so he could close the door—it was just about to close...

                   "It's me—it's me"
                     only a bad bright room
                    and pale sun coming
                     he had very heavy shoes
                      somewhere I really wanted
                      safety inside that room
                     inside of David
                      inside a man's body
                      inside a woman's death
                    a soft haven
                      lifetime penance
                    inside another's life
                      keeping alive a hope of youth
                      don't close the door!
                      don't leave it open!
                     the weapons of an old man's eyes
                    what can they keep me from?

talking to someone about how she had lit the gas burned things in the corner of her room very white room she was a man she looked like David but inside she was herself: Sarah the older man talking to her knew that she was self-destructive as a punishment a lesson he was going to lock her up in her room in the corner of the room was a very old sick woman dying in a huge bed she would be locked in with her forever she'd have to take care of her forever the man pushed her inside closing the door slowly the light outside was disappearing (sunlight) inside there was only artificial light she was wildly throwing her hands out to stop the door closing he began to push her hands away from him inside the room so he could close the door it was just about to close...

           Dear David:
                How do I run in your long legs?
                     tell me
                How do I not see the mountains?
                     show me
                How do I not notice the sky?
                      teach me
                How do I believe I am nothing?
                     tell me
                How do I listen to my demons?
                     show me
                How do I hide from life?
                      teach me     

Sarah slipped into a toughness an outward expression of David's silence the man was older than she was but stronger he frightened her but her features held David's bravado she told him how she'd lit the match after piling the black rubber in a neat stack in the corner of her room watched it begin to burn the flames excited her she told him this Sarah was afraid to look away from the man's face as his fatherly eyes became anger hatred he seemed to know he knew her future he had to stop her he said he was going to lock her in her room forever she fought as the door began to close she could feel the old woman in the corner of the room staring at her she was old sick dying Sarah was afraid the man said she'd have to stay forever take care of this dying woman but he and Sarah knew the woman would never die she'd be old sick dying forever and Sarah would be young and frightened forced to stay in that room forced to take care of her to nurse her back to health she'd never get well Sarah would be forever nursing the door was closing Sarah was crying flailing her arms wildly to stop it she could see a bit of sunlight as the man pushed her hands inside and closed the door there was no sunlight in the room white white walls a huge white bed in the corner supporting the old woman in the other corner a black scorched wall with a pile of ashes bits of black rubber on the floor beneath it...

           Dear Sarah:
                How can I live with
                your fingers inside my cock
                your breasts crushing my heart
               your lips pressed inside my throat                      your eyes watching my mind
                your toes tickling my thighs?
               you're too large
              for man's first birth
              and too small to hold my fear

slipped sullen became toughness excited nurse watched white face and pile after was nothing knew the supporting closing of future then gray talking it's look going woman artificial talking sick push throwing close it's corner woman with me lesson forever old door my room had inside just was forever locked I found huge self closing crying looked care hovering light she's saying was lit someone room closing woke flames future staring flailing white black woman there begin but Sarah bits of eyes told hands staring feel though health dying she afraid forced only rubber ashes face blinding leave lock dream corner

                corner crier
                crooner dyer
                doer dancer
                prancer peering
                pickled pearling
                curling clue-in
                denser danger
                dukedom's seer
                saker swimmer
                smoky smiling
                snakeskin sicker
                soother swagger
                swanker wanker
               woo her whipping
                whimsy whisker
                woolen wagon
                drank dank
                downer dumpster
                pressure prayer
                paddle plankwood
                wider westwood
                winner dinner
                panel player
                peer some
                doodle stare
                some bare
                fare palladium
                prankster steering
                bleary slackened
                stone sipping
                skipping spare
                stand looking
                leaking left
                from center
                right from
                top stop
               screeching crucial
                tombstone tackle
               playbill stagedoor
                fire mouth
                hell still
                buckle blank
                burr purr
                proof fear

don't be afraid of who you dream you are
who you think you are
who do you think you are
so were you inside his body
did you figure largely in someone's dream
mine again
were you that old woman
were you dying
were you about to suffocate
in that bright white room
were we about to remember