Reflections on Crowe
The title of each poem in this sequence is the title of a painting by Victoria Crowe, who lost her only son, Ben, to oral cancer when he was 22.
1. Venetian Mirror and Remembered Landscape
A cough of iridescence, signals / we are moving into
another time or place.
I am taking hold of your cold hand,
the pigeons in the Piazza San Marco
never saw trees like this. Is that blue
Because everything is backwards here
you are not dead and night is not a thing
of which to be frightened.
Not a thing at all.
We are sliding as if on ice, but no skates
encase our cold feet. When we reach out
we move sideways, I am always with you.
On either side of what my eyes can see
bars of light mark out the territory of our dreams.
But this is no dream. This is the landscape
in which you were conceived,
the icy interior of my womb,
the cold North. This is where we go
to speak of love.
2. Blue Snow, Fiery Trees
Each time we drive past the reservoir,
my heart cramps. Those trees once grew in air.
When a valley is flooded, who concerns themselves
Never to leaf again, these bones of angels
spear what’s left of sky.
And as the sun nears its next land,
it is these wooden bones that burn.
3. Stephanotis Ascending
When I look at a flower dying, I see immensity.
On the other hand, the sea,
moonlight – atmosphere,
they occupy tiny boxes inside of me.
Around the edge of life is a sound.
Today that sound is the colour of veils.
Glassblowers, stone carvers, are they as knowing
as a gardener is of form?
Not that which comes from inside of me,
but that which grows.
Even as I create you, I know it is not my song
but my ability to listen to yours
that makes you possible.
Where is that tendril reaching, beyond blue
into the unbearable? Where I can no longer
4. Interior with Many Reflections
When you were inside me, what I often saw
was a blue space traversed by cats, eagles,
creatures gods might inhabit on earth.
Space, that’s what I saw and your face,
as in a dream one sees a face that is familiar
but on waking slips, shadowed, away.
I paint that face now, I paint it.
I paint your face. It looks like my face
but somehow, sheathed in gold,
fleshed in the terra cotta of Italian
palazzi, is also the face of putti,
of monks, of one long dead.
I paint your face and each time
it looks the same but it is neither your face,
nor my face, nor the face from that dream
before you were born.
It is a face picked out from the multitude of faces
cast in a room of mirrors, light-curved,
infinitely distant though close
as your heart was when beating
just inches from mine.
I paint your face, and a peony
and a hand, and an cherub and a feather
and a city skyline in the distance
beyond the blue of my womb
where you may be still.
5. Reflection on Gold
From between these panes of gold, my prison,
I watch the glassblowers at work.
The heavy canal waters,
the heavy slugs of molten glass
alive with the bonfire of sunset.
One breath beyond the soul of the vessel
and all is lost.
A globe becomes a pool of what could have been.
One tap too many, the water too cool,
a moment’s distraction (was that a lily,
a baby, a hand, a lover’s face)
and all is lost.
I sip my ruby wine from a goblet
The church bells ghost.
Sparks of the glassblowers’ flames
enshrine the night.
This is no dream.
This is where I come
to speak of love.
There is no greater rift in nature
than that between two terrestrial minds.
Here the rictus, it's me that screams,
shows my teeth the way baboons do.
Is it for making friends or scaring
enemies away? I think it's friends they see
but looks to us like screaming. What if
it isn't a rift but a single universe,
one each, and from your own you can explore
but never inhabit the others… when the love
is a love that sucks the air from the room
and your lips pull back and your teeth show?
Here the rictus, the gawp bird that makes no sound
because there is no air here to resound.
A room of deaf children playing drums –
this our hearts, we feel that we're in time.
How far would you crawl on broken legs,
braver soul than ever was in our generation,
not to die alone? Teeth showing in a grimace
preserved by snow, will it be joy or pain? The eagles
gape. Here the rictus, making not a sound when it thaws
or weeps. Men gurn and women plot. It's true,
things never seem like just one or the other. But I'm not
sitting on a fence. I've got a knack for seeing stars
from each dimension. The glass museum you took me to was full of art
that we could look at barefoot. Here the rictus, your thumb
pushing my lips apart to show my teeth, your claiming
of this trembling which is my life. A precious glimpse indeed.
Beyond the age I am, I’m in;
I try to realise my whole life. Your whole life.
Over and over.
To make it less of a shock.
To come to some understanding of the last extravagance
in which this will all have been.
And beyond that, this.
But beyond that, also,
I am sure there are stars.
A room of stars, and limbs of stars.
Dedalus on Speed
I know this place is
he rhymed like this
we could have laughed but the long black bending legs
kept taking me drugged and unawares
to the jungle of sensation
misword him standing at the station:
but he never tied the speed freak to the tracks
trying to crack this pulsing chest and let out the wings
I cannot breathe
with this internal
everything possible becomes graspable
light stained griffins
pieces are falling in green light
pieces of green light rain drops
tasting music on my skin
these old songs
go unscathed by the bony hand of the laughing clock
I lift my head
I dance for the lack of tense,
of time – the freedom from stillness and meaning
my own elegant torture – that ravaged grace made
the animal exception honourable for the first time, I, but a virgin
to such respect as you had to offer my own sleep
this is no deception
my tidal bastion of sanctity
I give up for the men who could play wooden guitars
and never sing louder than bees
sweet cliché of mead and of contagious ambiguity of
worth more than admitting to lies you have not,
I have not known you before;
makes sense out of context
(you’ve heard all this before
and don’t apologise for your lack of concentration
he promised me
we could be fascinating
let me write then long thick bending legs
upon the hungry mouths
of our body)
of the alphabet that bleaches to unintelligible dust
on these ill-strangling petrol head fumed
fear driving you (her) to the window
a dyslexic moth
looking to drown not burn
for fear of sound of its own wings
being torn to ghostly films of vanishing
it is so hard to write now but cannot sleep
the retina is coloured
oil slicked on spilt water
(would salt make a difference to your perceptive of my
cherished crusader’s tooth-shaped crooks of wounds?)
the retina floats in the gelled amorphous womb
of the deep sea eye
that is just a pre-recollection
of what becomes
more interesting, memory’s artistic flexibility
that in the deep sea whose atmosphere is laced with eyes eyelashes
the emerald and indigo stained glass
of the gaunt hero’s portal denying chamber
with walls of adamantine
(hells or heaven’s estates are going bankrupt, vendesi)
hissed the stone head of the Italian terza starred sky
dressed in a Faberge filigree of sea mouths
iridescent shell-mounted speakers with
sea conveyors of the unspeakable
whispered beneath coral fans that stir no circular wind
like the cat-faced ladies in his boudoir closet
speaking with corseted tongues that tell
lies only, the trembling courage of vengeful
but unconscious power seesaw bullying the falling
(sing lark spurs the cowboy you lack accent, flavour)
(like the tea ‘s’ this the before it
so hard and confused \ ah those
they are elegant they are graceful
they play footsy under the table
jump higher, jump higher
to get a dirty view
of eyes made silver to corrupt the curves of you
divorce proceedings from gravity’s
sick and kneescraped marriage to any
icarus who ever broke his father’s back
of an old man’s courtesy,
creator’s pipesmoking protectivity
of the grudgingly dutiful
figure carved in air, of air,
of a figure of space,
a figure of subtraction,
a figure chiseled from the frescoed, iris glazed
by time’s saliva moist exhale
and inhale and exhale and inhale
and exhale and so on of cataractorial
melodramatic funhouse mirror crow’s eye’s thrice focal prophetic peepshow snake show
charming flesh of temptuous tempestuous goddess
of the jealous noose rolling hunchback
who in his hatred of his Neolithic hemispheric girdling
of cante spined nerve-traffic
fertilizer bombed on humiliated and reality-isolated
2 legged two armed too faced
limp ego for a roller coaster’s tantric thrill
shot by the men being modeled by the man
on the representational horse into fragments
of a dragonflyer’s fractalled orbs
the mirror ball in 1882, turkey
each rhombus skeleton, skinless
diamond pancaked slightly by the ground
by greed’s forward-thinking hand of god
(all the body parts
are for him the birds of a telepathic flock,
the copper loaded allegory of waking to be inciting)
I nicked jonah’s souvenir
colour of the
whore of the
a manage á infinity of fish
one mind divided between
many pin-salted skull dishes
pulsating with the pressure of overblown
(or could have carved it had we the tool
you could not afford to not
air that was drugged with a syrup of
scope selling the headlines and
head fights, lights beaming
to resuscitate asphyxiated ships in immortal waste
to ships and lights beaming
to illuminate wells of
(these tinkling bells of speeding pulse exhausting race inciting
cartwheels rolling away as the Jewish princess requested)
mad is our traditional starving of the body’s sleep
God wills us with emaciated dreams
that in waking insanely wealthy
the soul hungers
not for a lifting of the retina’s veil –
the removed and
enameled with Bristol blue
glass found in
the child’s inability to pretend
to be polite
to never be on a wrong path
when each step reveals
in the footprint of an x
of crucifixion’s rejuvenating proof
spa of the apostolic
steel lung and organs caught from to
iced steel as in an instrumental
irrational respiration for air to clear the
clouded pain (grant me / this)
(digression of cohesive babelling)
beware the speller’s mock satirical
grin – she speaks only with her ink on the skin
of raven riddled sister’s cum-sticky breasts
and lips, that cache micro
fishlet of strong-minded, single willed
barcode of life’s economically demoralizing similitude
and caterpillar showcase-laced wafer of rarity
that in its eternal reincarnation of star-shaped
writing their names
with their blade-edged
fingernails into the tender
patiently tortured by the immortality that armours
in heat the steamroller lung crushing claustrophobic
porridge whitewashed by the pronounced imbalance
of acid to blood in the bitter splashed vamp intoxicate
of a bird’s secret chest of air
(the saws they used to chop down
their own oak awkward and chestnuts
on the east coast infected
and declared infertile, what
will Rockafeller sy do: in
the muffling rabbit fur flung slip of snow
when the ice skaters tune to
with Christ-sized doubloons
of beaten human skin shed through
by practiced slicing
like a gambler’s cheatflipped snap majik
slap beloved, beloved
face upon face of the pirate narcissus, beautifully aged
as if his exposure to the nuclear
as the ami the orphan
spherical scrim Lolita
of scantily clad nocturnal emissions
of the adolescent drag queen’s and
hushed by the plump, waggling, twiddle dee dumbing
proboscis of wine-expressing fathers
of the god whose only permissible mistress
for his chalices of unburdened sun, his voyeuristic
blindfolded bug’s clipped bedroom lampshades
to be switched on at will when
“an audience is required”
the peeping st thomas’, the ordained Samaritan
weightlifters of the unbearable need to change,
and their backs under the smut-scented land until the or
rise to worship
cast by the last of the people
who had no mouths, who breathed thru skin
who had no fear, and thus no god
who were unjudged
who never told a lie, or a truth
a nuclear gasp of soft shorn light bubble xploding
shredding the fallacy of light
he could live forever could i accept the lies
just the lies
the galleon of fames
and singed like a leaf suspended, dry
he was gone, leaving only a hole in the smoke
the figure of my son
A Lesson in Light Economics
lie still lie quiet lit up
what was understood was the lie of the uncle
uncle this is not russia it’s new jersey
stop stealing all of grandpa’s computers
the factory succeeds to the highest power
beyond the waves lie boats filled with bodies
of pigs and octopi intelligent creatures
more guilty you confess about eating the pigs
but at night there are dreams of tentacles
climbing into bed the waves
are a lover unlike any hand or machine
this lie unhooks desire from the body
and plants new economies in Senegal
still you lie glowing in the pre-dawn
huff of birdwing truck run boat sweep
still as the octopus still as the gangsters
waiting in the dock’s salt shadow
still as quiet as momma said
still as holy still as lit as the first cigarette
still imagining the biplane drifting