Issue 229, Summer 2019
The sun allows you to see only what the sun
upon: the surface. What we wanted was what was elsewhere: cause.
Or some books say that’s what we once wanted. Prophets of
never, of course, agreed about cause, the uncaused cause: or they
terribly did. Asleep, I struggle to stay inside sleep, unravaged by
piercing dreams—craving, wish, desire to remain inside, if briefly,
obliteration. I cleave to the voice of Poppea’s nurse:
Not frightening, the word
as Oralia Domínguez, hauntingly clinging to the sound, in 1964 sings it.
Eating today, however satisfying, frees no creature from having to eat
built into us. It’s because you are an animal with a body.
As soon as adolescent sex ended this hunger
that you had not known was yours until the moment you
satisfied it, at the moment you satisfied it
the hunger returned.
It would never be satisfied. It would
never not return.
built into us, returning each day like the sun’s diurnal
round: in adolescence, more than once each
round. It’s because you are an animal with a body.
The night we found we were starving, what
larks! With what
relish we devoured dish upon dish placed in front of us.
Cycle of the sun that each day.
Cycle of the sun that each day wipes the slate.
Promises to wipe the slate.
Deep wrongness between the two that somehow nothing can wipe clean.
They love each other more than anything and their child knows that.
They love each other more than anything but the well is poisoned.
Thirst no well can satisfy.
The well of affection that bloods the house is poisoned.
Love that bloods the house is poisoned.
He was smart and good-looking and charmed everyone.
She was beautiful and smart and charmed everyone.
Deep wrongness between the two that somehow no fury can wipe clean.
Thirst no wife and child can slake or satisfy.
The well is poisoned.
The well that allows you to think the earth your hand touches is good.
Gone, except within anyone who had lived there.
Unforgotten hour. Hour that stains you, unerasable, unforgotten.
Sun that, each day, promises. Cycle of the sun that each day
creatures that flinch at pain, reconciles sentience to the predations of
ordinary existence. After food, after
shit. Poppea? We know her name because she risked becoming
Empress. Nero, who made her, as she wanted, Empress, later
her to death. She had few, had no illusions about what would
follow getting what she wanted. Monteverdi’s ruthless
imagine a Poppea who believes in nothing—and tries everything.
After one, exhausted by the attempt, has tasted each thing the sun
more than half-
What is too little, mysteriously tips into—too much. Surfeit breeds
loathing. Oh sun-worshippers, sun-
endowed with what they learn are mouths and teeth
not repetition, ease of unendingly getting whatever you must eat, but
after twisting fogbound dizzying hairpin mountain turns in darkness for
hours, you abruptly are
the clouds, you
see, for the first time, the ancient
G L A C I E R
whose gigantic face rises past sleeping farmhouses in eerily calm moonlight.
In 1961, at the Simplon Pass, a remnant of the Ice Age
upon me the sublime. Now it is melting. I read that it is melting, for
miles has melted. By the child’s fifth year, the poisoned house was
except within anyone who had lived there. The crack that replaced it
went down and down, went through everything
I thought it had to have an end but could see no end. Or the crack
was not a crack, but an invisible
living seam—joining love and hate
seamlessly, this and what seemed not-this
suddenly melting into each other.
It was the sun-filled, seamless surface of glare-filled
full of cracks. I was trapped in a small dark house, my grandmother’s
house, full of cracks. After the divorce, my grandmother and I
watching wrestling together, lost before the screen of our first TV.
One day I told her (I must have been
eight) that, after school that afternoon, I had eaten
at the house of a new friend. The family lived
blocks away. They were black.
Fury. Her sudden fury made
that as long as I lived in her house, I must not
enter or eat at his house again. Must
remain his friend.
The rage I felt at what she demanded did not
my furious but supine eventual acquiescence.
I was a coward. I was a coward. I never
her. I never forgave her for showing
For years I drew thousands of floorplans for the perfect
house, but what remained unerasable, without solution were
and me. Small dark labyrinthine
house without end. One day I swung at her. The half-door window I
cut my wrist close to the artery.
What was inside the open third-floor hospital
one night from her room she climbed into?
For years, his half-expectant, then
eyes as I passed. I told myself we had nothing in common. He was a jock.
In the years that followed, impossible to
what my coward hand had severed.
After centuries, at last my father’s only son, the maw more and more
within him, discovered that what he could
make (the mania somehow was to
he discovered that he must make—) was
poetry. Dark anti-matter matter whose matter is
in which the seam and the crack (what Emerson
called the crack in everything God made) are in
fused, annealed, ONE.
His circumspection hides, but does not quite hide, thirst too-like his father’s.
His mother’s constant admonishment that what he must not be is his father.
What as a kid I loathed in my father, now I understand.
Aging men want to live inside sharp desire again before they die.
The terrible law of desire is that what quickens desire is what is DIFFERENT.
Thirst for the mirror on which is written: Fuck me like the whore I am.
Thirst for erasing the pretense of love.
Thirst for the end of endless negotiation.
Thirst for the glamour and magic that cost too much.
Thirst, hidden but not quite hidden, for buying submission to your will.
Thirst for fuck the cost.
Both my parents ended their lives—lives as flesh—seemingly
catharsis. Amid trivia and resentment and incompletion, the end.
My mother’s anguish at walls onto which, as a child, I had flung
No scrubbing can clean them. If, somewhere in death, my mother
has her will, she is still scrubbing. Again and again I return to
from the poisoned well, but she cannot see this. Ineradicable
that, to my terror, intermittently rises in me, she
senses—but cannot name. She is bewildered by such
in her child. She wonders when, tonight, he will sleep, what
he will in time love. Now, she sees that he is
writing. She is afraid of what he writes: Sun-treader,
your fellow sun-worshippers
the world. Watch as they kneel to the sun.