Thursday, May 13, 2010

In My Parents' Kitchen: A Free Write

The kitchen ticks. This would be true if there weren't a clock; parents' kitchens simply tick. Hotter here than last time, and there is heavily leafed water, rather than ice, collecting itself on the pool cover. There is no one here. When there is no one here in your apartment, it means you are free to sing out loud, wear nothing, say nothing, tinker. In your parents' house, when no one is here, you are free to stare out the back window, contemplate what Home is, watch the wooden dragonfly wobble on the porch.

It is as it is when the whole house sleeps and you--only you--are awake. You do and do not wish to be the only one awake, and you feel the world's mouth open wide, as if to swallow you. Unless you pray.

There are house plants. There are pets. There are new appliances, sugar cereal, one or two things you don't recognize. In your absence, rejection letters came in pairs. (And here, it is important to distinguish homophones: pairs, not pears.) They threaten to choke you, but you see that the kitchen clock ticks. So you resonate your vocal chords, as you would if there were someone to speak to. Your name first: . There is your voice. You decide it should still be heard.

At a reading, there was this line:
Chimes in a darkened house.

As long as there is a line you remember, you will write lines others will remember. Remember this, like you remember:

Don't sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me
'til I come marchin' home


Tie a yellow ribbon 'round the old oak tree...
Do you still want me?

Songs sung last time you were in this kitchen, when ice hung about the deck, drapes on a stage. Somehow your heart got lighter, fingers laced beneath it. Somehow a straighter spine, as if the little sparrows that drink the heavily leafed water pooling on the pool flocked to your back, got in and knotted themselves like musical notes along its length.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Eros and Anteros

When given the words:



There were Callas's arias
in their mother's crinkled bedclothes,
ione trapped in her cedar chest sachets.

They had whirligigs out
in the yard, spinning
pinwheels and wobbling ducks.

Anteros watched them once
for an hour after that accidental
gulp of his father's anis. He caught them--
twice--winking at him.
Meanwhile, Eros burned hair
in the upstairs bathroom.

They had inside games
others envied. One
was called "Threshold."

Some hot, wet-blanketed
afternoons, drooped on the staircase,
one brother would softly say
threshold and the other'd
understand. They'd play:

Eros at his mother's spindle,
balancing her records. Blindfolded
Anteros guessing the tunes
with his tongue, which had kissed
every neighborhood girl.

When Eros was crippled
one Winter, they stayed in, wore
their mother's negligées.
And Anteros told his brother
of these girls, their little mouths
like rain-dampened sugar, like
river moss. Their little
waists in his hands
like warm, combed lambs.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Rilke, Kaminsky, Millay

"Who, if I cried out, might hear me-among the ranked Angels?
Even if One suddenly clasped me to his heart
I would die of the force of his being. For Beauty is only
the infant of scarcely endurable Terror, and we
are amazed when it casually spares us.
Every Angel is terrible.
And so I check myself, choke back my summoning
black cry. Who'll help us then? Not Angels,
not Mankind; and the nosing beasts soon scent
how insecurely we're housed in this signposted World.
And yet a tree might grow for us upon some hill
for us to see and see again each day. Perhaps
we have yesterday's streets. Perhaps we keep
the pampered loyalty of some old habit
which loved its life with us - and stayed, never left us."
How longer to live upon Earth!"

--Rainer Maria Rilke, from "Die erste Elegie," THE DUINO ELEGIES

"The back of her knee: a blessed territory, I keep /
my wishes there.
But Natalia, beside me, turns the pages,
what happened and did not happen
must speak and sing by turns.
On the night I met her, the Rabbi sang and sighed,
god's lips on his brow, Torah in his arms.
- I unfastened her stockings, worried

that I have stopped worrying.
She slept in my bed--I slept on a chair,
she slept on a chair--I slept in the kitchen,

she left her slippers in y shower, in my Torah,
her slippers in each sentence I spoke.
Someone else is on this page, writing. I attempt /
to move my fingers faster than she.
And each night, looking up, we saw ourselves:
a man and a woman, whispering Lord,
one word the soul destroys to make clear."

--Ilya Kaminsky, from "Natalia," DANCING IN ODESSA

"To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beautyis not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers."

--Edna St. Vincent Millay, from "Spring," SECOND APRIL