Continued from Too Far Gone
The days twist together like braids of red
garlic that hang from the rafters, until
you have filled the house and the smell of bread
is imbued with the chambered bulbs’ thick, shrill
fragrance, strident as a woman’s voice, filled
with unspent hours collecting inside
the heart of our life together. What spills
onto the table top is the aside
to your companions, thinking of your bride.
I know you think of me, but be unkind,
so you will not be shattered when you see
what deprivation, heartache and resigned
devotions to your cause have done to me.
If I have bravery in me still, be
amazed when I smile and forget to run
to your arms, already relieved, pity
and grief for your suffering forgotten,
made proud by your survival, unbroken.
Your body is not so many parts to me,
biceps femoris, sternum, radius,
every outline in your flesh seems to be
drawn without lifting the pencil, anxious
to say something about your soul, precious
in the immediacy of feeling
and the completeness of every conscious
movement – your smile is felt in your curving
shoulder’s cusp, trapezius, tender, knowing.
The green sea is a moral element,
sailors know her dice are always loaded;
quick to judge and clear in ascertainment,
she lifts the great man up, even handed
and respectful of talent. You headed
into her world of paladin intrigues
fearlessly, every ordeal completed
in turn. She could not amaze you, fatigue
could not catch you, trailing you by a league.
Mandras, if a mast could be a tree and
flower, if its boughs could bend with the wind
and sing a little with the birds, your hand
would be heavy with fruit and pursed leaves twinned
on either side of the fruit’s stem, bright skinned
and long limbed, perfectly symmetrical.
You were meant to shadow purple finned
porpoise and roseate pandora and pull
the secrets from the sea, an immortal.
after C.P. Cavafy
A Greek in Alexandria admired
this in a youth, his sensuality.
More illicit than yours, nightly tired
in the arms of strangers, young and pretty
in a secretive, hot tavern city.
“Pleasure itself enjoys his blood,” he wrote.
We are a village couple, the pity
and admiration of poets remote
to us, our kisses modest, dances rote.
I broke a branch of acacia for home,
fragrant and turned many times by the sun
in its greener days. With it I can comb
the numbness of winter out of the dun
shadow cast over the porch. There are none
of the flowers I described to you, all
is brown from stem to pith. Today I shun
the world of fantasy. I don’t recall
my name in your voice or shudder, enthralled.
Where is the remainder of our love, where
has it overflowed? Where has it sparkled
like iron at work on a wheel, hot air
dancing with embers? What have I struggled
to remember all this time? What buckled
under the brick laying hours, what drowned
under the weight of silence? I stumbled
over the thought of you today, could sound
out none of your promises, senses bound.
after Paul Celan
I want you to stand in the shadow of
the war-torn air, and stand for no one and
nothing, unrecognized except by love,
there for me alone, my ring on your hand,
a more sacred and unerring oath’s band,
with all there is room for in that, even
without language. Let your unit disband,
return without my letters, believe in
no rumors about me, hope unshaken.
Mandras, a woman cannot write plainly
or with perfect hope uninterrupted
by the thought of death, or be patiently
silent about premonitions. I said
I would write, not that I could send unread
letters to the front forever, pouring
my little courage out line by line, head
dizzied by the unknown, always feeling
your silence on me, accumulating.
With you I always felt my hands were meant
for something sacred, not just the practice
of a woman’s work, or for a patient.
With you I felt my hands extend a kiss,
and if I brought a woman’s art to this
it was the intuition of my soul
and not what I had learned. Each day I miss
their honesty, forever fading, whole
only while we touched, the grace you stole.