Thursday, May 17, 2007

For married friends

I bumped into an old e-mail sig, one I had lifted from Margaret Atwood’s Power Politics. This is the third stanza of a poem entitled Their attitudes differ:

You held out your hand
I took your fingerprints

You asked for love
I gave you only descriptions

Please die I said
so I can write about it

But the better poem from that collection has no title but its first three words, “We are hard.” I’m quoting all four stanzas here. When everyone else was raving about Mary Oliver, this is what grabbed me. Especially the third stanza.


We are hard on each other
and call it honesty,
choosing our jagged truths
with care and aiming them across
the neutral table.

The things we say are
true; it is our crooked
aims, our choices
turn them criminal.


Of course your lies
are more amusing:
you make them new each time.

Your truths, painful and boring
repeat themselves over & over
perhaps because you own
so few of them


A truth should exist,
it should not be used
like this. If I love you

is that a fact or a weapon?


Does the body lie
moving like this, are these
touches, hairs, wet
soft marble my tongue runs over
lies you are telling me?

Your body is not a word,
it does not lie or
speak truth either.

It is only
here or not here.

Pax omnibus.

1 comment:

St. Izzy said...

Their attitudes differ


To understand
each other: anything
but that, & to avoid it

I will suspend my search for
germs if you will keep
your fingers off the microfilm
hidden inside my skin


I approach this love
like a biologist
pulling on my rubber
gloves & white labcoat

You flee from it
like an escaped political
prisoner, and no wonder


You held out your hand
I took your fingerprints

You asked for love
I gave you only descriptions

Please die I said
so I can write about it

After all you are quite
ordinary: 2 arms 2 legs
a head, a reasonable
body, toes & fingers, a few
eccentricities, a few honesties
but not too many, too many
postponements & regrets but

you’ll adjust to it, meeting
deadlines and other
people, pretending to love
the wrong woman some of the
time, listening to your brain
shrink, your diaries
expanding as you grow older,

growing older, of course you’ll
die but not yet, you’ll outlive
even my distortions of you

and there isn’t anything
I want to do about the fact
that you are unhappy & sick

you aren’t sick & unhappy
only alive & stuck with it.

yes at first you
go down smooth as
pills, all of me
breathes you in and then it‘s

a kick in the head, orange
and brutal, sharp jewels
hit and my
hair splinters

the adjectives
fall away from me, no
threads left holding
me, I flake apart
layer by
layer down
quietly to the bone, my skull
unfolds to an astounded flower

regrowing the body, learning
speech again takes
days and longer
each time / too much of
this is fatal