Sunday, April 30, 1989

WHO BUT I


WHO BUT I
(for the burden of my names)

1.  Baba—I was the firstborn to be placed on my grandmother's lap, 
fitfully thrusting my feet into the air, attempting flight without wings, 
naming myself again and again: ba-ba, ba-ba, ba-ba.
In the last sheaf sits the baba. I was born at the end of harvest, 
the burden of my name between fall and winter, 
I was born on my grandfather's birthday —
Some say I was the travailing great queen mother — both young and old,
male and female, the hag wrach the old woman, 
the corn mother Cailleach, and her husband.
I was born the corn maiden and her lover, giving birth before conception
to keep away the famine-fear in the field. Gort a bhaile.

At school, kids teased me calling me black sheep and Ali Baba.
I was the black sheep of the nursery rhyme, singing, singing,
pulling the prodigal wool over my own eyes
when they came searching for me in the darkness of sleep.
Somehow we all survived childhood. Out of the frying pan. . . 
I sang my A B C's . . . and drew an Aurochs for the sacred cave. 
The letter A: magic loosened from sleep undoes me.
The enlightened thief comes to steal our hope. Anguis in herba.
I hang eagle feathers over my bed to chase away the nightmares.
My friend blames the mirrors in my house, and wants to shroud them.
I had to climb down the throat of darkness to order reestablish light.
Avanti, avanti, maleficium defence. . . Honi soit qui mal y pence.
I burned the scrivened alphabet of your excuses in ritual fires.

My baby name is also the ancient holy man, the saddhu baba in saffron.
I was secretly ashamed of my name, not having forsaken earthly riches 
for the beggar bowl. My heart seeking alms. Rum baba is sweeter.
Beta, Nimrod's tower, built of clay and water, wool and blood
on the Sumerian plain, Edin's incunabula between two rivers.
Beith is the grove of seven birches where Ogham was first written
and the beginning of this codex, not Aleph, the sacrificial aurochs. Urus.
Babylon is burning (again). The temple of my body is burning (again); 
it is a mistake to recreate rituals of the past to fit the needs of the future. 
Or now. The earth is dying. I dreamed in foreign languages I didn't know 
the meaning of; I dreamed Gaia was a woman's pseudonym,
that I was heriot of the woods. Keeper of the trees.
I didn't know what it was, other than she. Not gnosis.

2.  I am gleaning the threshhold of the past to ensure harvest
because my given name is MairÌn — she, the small, dark one of the sea,
the diminutive stars crawling on the mudflats at daybreak.
A man in Russia singing to me, Marina, Marina, Marina; 
prays for my salvation because I refused his stern god.
The sea is given to me over and over again; the same ph as our blood.
In my name is the Mem, the rippling water. Phoenecia.
Alexandria's last librarian. The lost continent of Mu. Eriu.
Why was I named thus? In nomine patris. In the parish church, 
Star of the Sea, I was baptised, my life marked by the watery cross.
Hating her name, my mother gave it to me. Inheritance.
When she is crazy enough to leap, because the art of living
    becomes a seductive blur,
I chant the names of sanity: valium, lithium, maleficium defence 
in the barred green hospital wards.
Her middle name: Helenó& the enemy in the belly of the horse.
I've learned to rescue the art of strong fortification firsthand.
I remind myself I am not diminished by loss, I am merely transparent.
I am the bitter herbs of Passover seasoning the meat, incarnate
rememberance, the immaculate conception — I am God's mother. 
Dei gratia. I am the child, who, lacking faith, flunked first communion 
because the nuns said I was bad, very bad; the rain was God's tears.
I thought of piss, not rain; I wanted to wear that white veil,
but I didn't want to be a nun — my mother overhearing me say: Bad girl. Bad girl!
I became the whore-madonna; the communion dress dyed black to please the men.
To complete the goddess dance before the congress of pontiffs, I was given the pattern,
but no instructions. The dancer said the movement and melody are already within you. 
When the learned sages told Miriam dance was not a proper form of worship, 
in defiance, she rebelled, raised up the timbrils in her hand, 
all the women took up timbrils, and followed, dancing, dancing the spiral. 
Peseach for the Minotaur. Exodus. Sing ye unto the Lord. 
And was punished for this. Vox et prÊterea nihil.

I am the warrior Queen Maeve, the joy of Erin come to meet you 
again and again with the hero's welcome of open thighs. 
You plant the pain in my heart with your eyes, 
the kisses your mouth denies. She. Sidhe banchee. The woman spirit.
They say the word queen stems from cunt: incanabula, cradle, chattel. 
I am Sheila-na-gig, giver of life, sex and death; it is one word, not three.
I cannot talk to my father; he is a transitory verb; in dreams he comes 
bearing gifts of ashes, calling them rubies, 
but rubies like pearls, must be worn to keep the eternal flames lit. 
I carry the genetic burden of his name too. Campo santo.
I light the wild fires for the purification rites. Tein-eigin.

3.  I am the Waw, the first sound the earth uttered. 
The newborn cry, and the cry of orgasm. I. We. Corpus delicti.
I am You twice over. The two cups of wine. One spilled.
The forked tongues of snakes. Divided victory. Menage e trois?
Viola of the Twelveth Night, disguised as a page, was all in a muddle — 
s/he was both a love messenger for, and in love, with her master. 
I am Viola, named after my father's mother. The last photo of her 
standing by my father, a small boy on a pony in the city street —
they said it was a suicide. Another inheritance I write my way out of.
The viol, the violet and the vine; the sweet orchestral sounds.
Viola de amor. Vivis, vivi, vivendi; alive within the music of thought.
Mine is the color of kings, the royal murex grazing on tropical reefs.
And the priestly robe of Pentecost, the color of mourning and forgiveness. 
There are things I cannot forgive like betrayal and violation.
To grow dark, when said of the sea, is to be troubled. 

4.  I am the Yodh, Nuada's lost hand. 
Not one iota do I have, I am silent as Hecate's 
auricular finger of prophecy plugging your ear,
the double yewóthe arrow and the letter of deathó aimed at your throat.
I was given a sacred cloth that read: an arrow in the wall.
I am The gracious gift of God, the victorious one. A battle cry.
My conformation name, I am Johanna tattooed with roses,
the name I took from my best friend's mother who died in the fire. 
The puzzling koans: red-diaper-mother & McCarthyism —
The nuns didn't want me to take the name Johanna —
She wasn't a saint. Take Jane, or Jean d' Arc. 
I said, she was with grace. Ikonii. Silent tapers in the church.
I am the mother of Mary, I am God's grandmother.
I am Vanya, and the night eats me.

5.  I am Heth, the most silent and sacred of the alphabet of trees,
the hawthorn of Christ, the fraternal twins Eta and Epsilon.
I am not the birch, nor the invention of paper.
There was a time when we could talk to the trees, the animals, the stones. . .
I am Alpheta, the moon goddess who tore Orpheus from limb to limb
and still, the severed head of Orpheus sang praises to Apollo, not to me.
I have been the mistletoe tapping the oak's wisdom and strength,
a game, the hurlystick to hit the puck across a muddy field.
I was the bishop set into boiling oil by the enemy 
but still I wouldn't talk, even when the flesh melted from my bones.
The kids made fun of me at school: Hurley-burly. Hurleybird.

6.  In the search of my name, I am the lost names of art,
trying to reclaim small pieces of my fatherless/motherless self.
Am I also Cerridwen, keeper of the cauldron of knowlege and science,
the dark prophecy fecundcating the underworld, 
the bearer of darkness and light? Am I Demeter, Persophene?
Where does it stop, this naming? What of the children I gave back?
You are the hunted — you are the hare, stone, the fish, the bird.
I am the hunter — the greyhound chasing the hare, the moss on the stone, 
the otter hunting the fish, the hawk chasing the bird. . .
I am the names of poetry, of creation. I am the lost names of art,
I am the final hen who eats you as a grain of wheat, 
and gives birth to you, the first poet, Taliesin of the shining brow.

I am the childless wolf-mother suckling a nation of lovers.
I dreamed of the oubliette, confusing the dungeon fo the knife.
The lapis lazuli heart was lost in the horse latitudes by a careless lover.
I do not speak of this: I culled the generational harvest; 
I am the unnamed woman throwing the threefold fetuses back into the sea.
Within my body: 12 sheaves; the 13th moon silently approaches.
He named our unborn son Isaac; I am nameless in the dark.
He is the aging minotaur lost in the labrynth of his own heart.
A child asks: what is the difference between eternity and infinity?
What was the pattern of the constellations before the earth was made? 
Numinous time rises from the ashes; we carry the atoms of stars within us.

7.  The infinite third eye of the topaz grows from the dancer's navel.
The copper scimitar slashes turquoise vowels from the throat of the sky.
I am the incantation of names, the birth of magic alphabets, the sacred birch,
the first letter to descend from the alphabet of trees. Iambic aforethought.
I teach my students calligraphy, our hands flower with black crysanthemums.
I am Eriu and the Morrigu; Ereshkigal and Inanna. 
Without darkness there is no light; without light, no darkness.
I am the Corona Borealis, the caer north of the wind 
where the dead go to find some rest. I am inspiration unraveling time. 

8.  I am nameless, unlettered; I am X, I couldn't learn 
the patterns; the fire in the head conspires to be a poet.
I am shin, the first tooth, not the fish of samekh,
with a shaken belief in the symbol of the body.
The watery X marking the graves of those lost at sea.
I am the roar of waves proclaiming death to the king,
and the glass-green wave breaking at the base of every cliff.
I am a child of the sea and tides and of the watercress springs.
I am the sacred mark of the illiterate, Christ's cross, and the four directions,
the fifth sacredness within the silver wheel — quintessence
inventing the starmaps of the seasonsóthe Pleiades fleeing Orion' spear.

9.  My mother tells me I am the fire surrounded by fire, 
born on the watered cusp of the scorpion,
flaring and burning bright, then retreating to soothing water.
Born on the Hunter's moon of Thanksgiving,
I am the Saggita, the arrow, the yew bow launching the letter of death.
the archer, the centaur, I am half-human, half-beast
and dreamer of horses, dreaming mares into submission.
I am the horse goddess Epona, Rhiannon of the birds, and Etain. 
I am the king who marries the white mare under the full moon.
I am the moon's fish. I am indigo verging on violet.
I have fled as a thrush of portending language.

10.  I am the writer between worlds, 
I am Ogmois, the sun-faced god of eloquence, 
who both blinds and liberates; the guide for the dead,
I scribe Oghamic messages upon the water for posterity. 
I am Amergin's right foot assuming the identity of order at creation.
I am the last migration and the final regeneration of wells and springs,
the Daghda's cauldron; the tarot queen of hearts in her cups.
I am Tir-na-N-Og, the young land. I am the tamed horse and the thrown rider. 
I am Lugh's mercurial spear, and the naming of fear.
We have not yet talked of the origin of numbers, or the names of stars.
I am not diminshed by the compound equations of separation and loss
or the binary division of male and female.

When the trees were enchanted, there was hope for the trees.
When the earth was enchanted, there was hope for the earth.
When the seas were enchanted, there was hope for the future.
Who rides the unnamed beast into the night? Who but I?

I am the wind of the sea, the god of inspiring fire, 
I am looking for something to heal myself with. 
In Sumarian, both ear and wisdom are the same word.
In the search of the genuine, I am transparent, 
filling this place with these wordsómy inheritance 
from my grandmother who died on Samhain, (as did Joseph Campbell), 
who fed me stories, who lit the fire in my head, who gave me these words. 
Who is listening to the Great Above from the sidh of the Great Below,
who is singing from the sidh of the Great Below to the Great Above?
I am the white stones risen to table the sky. Maia-Gaia.
I was given back a transcendental belief in love.
Lughnasadh, the wisdom of the corn is ripening. 
I am the baba, the last veiled sheaf.
Another man wants to take me; I cannot find 
the end 
of my name.

4/30/89 & 5/30/ - 10//92

first draft 2/23/1988
WHAT'S IN A NAME?

version 2 from Amsterdam, A8 paper. Note the chant at the end. That's probably the reason why I wrote the poem, and I tossed it out at the end! Hence the scan. Probably from 1991.

















Version 1 1988? dot matrix







Saturday, April 29, 1989

COLD WAR


COLD WAR



What if it's 1950, we weren't born yet.
There isn't a Berlin Wall.
Kennedy hasn't been shot.
The American Dream is in full slumber.
What if Rudy Valens's plane hadn't yet crashed,
no Big Bopper, no monuments to James Dean,
or Kerouac toilet papering the road.
What if we'd been around then,
going up in smoke, drag stripping
dangerous curves through the redwoods.
Perhaps our parents were thinking of marriage,
or at least sex, in the back seat of a Ford.
What if we were our parents
watching Leave it to Beaver and I Love Lucy
for the first time around, no reruns.
Everything in black and white.
The Sunday Barbecue.
Cocktails with the neighbors.
The American Dream hasn’t woken up.
No Fifth Amendment. No AIDS.
Homelessness is a third-world concept.
Howl hasn’t been written. No Suburbacide.
No Kaddish of words for the walls we build.
Instead, we liken kisses to radar missiles
and split atoms, confusing fission with fusion.
It took a Chernobyl to thaw the Cold War.
What if we invented memory
because things seem more real in print.
Especially when they aren't true.
Stigmatas nailed down on paper.
What if this were a thalidomide poem
borne without words?


4/29/89





















Friday, April 28, 1989

POEM TO A LOVER'S LOVER


Listen, I already know what it's like
to be on the other side.
That was me in the gray dress
orbiting behind the revenge of the camera,
because my man chose a blonde
his daughter's age to replace me
at what was supposed to be our reading.
I know what it's like to be betrayed.
What can I say? Who wants a poem
from the "other woman" that says:
For eons poetry has fed on the betrayal of love
and is fond of the victim's point of view.
That there are no casual spectators.
That we all err on the side of love.

Perhaps it's fitting we remain
disembodied voices over the phone lines,
though I already know who you are.
If not me, then who will accept your calls
late at night? Because I am not
the other woman—

Poetry is.



4/28/89

1993 We Are Not Swans, with Cecelia Woloch




Sunday, April 23, 1989

ONLY GAME IN TOWN

          —for Bruce Isaacson, whether he likes it or not.

In the name of poetry sometimes
we go out of our way to invent trouble:
why we stole a few kisses against
the polite company of wolves,
how the answering machine found us out;
she assumed the worst;
our poems shattered against cold glass—
separating air from air, light from light—
She calls again to rant about bad poets
writing bad poems about who they've fucked.
I can say nothing to soothe her,
to convince her it's a mistake—
this tale only exists on the page.
But I asked the I Ching anyway
who would rub ochre on your chest
and watch the sky unfold blue secrets.

The oracle said, The marriage of thunder & wind
takes place according to immutable laws;
ground water is an invisible army filling the empty places.
It said, Those who run off are permitted to escape.


Like stealth planes flying over occupied space,
we avoided radar detection only to deliver ourselves
into enemy hands. Silos tracking missiles.
I am not another soldier of the Red Army swelling
in the slippery ranks of Stalin's bottomless heart.
We come to understand completion is reached
by systole, diastole: what endures
is merely poetic fodder.

I dreamed my horse labored for breath
as I walked the isolated beach
calling your name to the empty wind;
my dead grandmother came to take me home—
there was nothing left to eat but spoils.
Who sings in the night—wolves, or the wind
tying gordian knots? Escaping us both,
you've gone into exile, a half a year and a world away.
Late at night, the phone rings. No one the line—
your old lover and I keep in touch.


4/23/89

There's a newer, shorter version, but where is it? NOt in my MS binder









Tuesday, April 18, 1989

L' APRES-MIDI


L' APRES-MIDI
     —For Bruce Isaacson
in homage to Robert Sund & Georgia O'Keefe


You have found me out,
slipped in clean as a knife,
your poems lucid as a white room
in late afternoon where
I want to stand before you
pre-architectural. Slip off these words
into something more comfortable,
reveal the inner curve of femur,
the hollow of pelvis framed
against the purity of desert sky
& feel your breath sing against my ribs.

Where my breasts flowered
your disembodied hands harvest
brilliance arcing on blank pages.
We burn against the night's silence
lost, looking for home.
I taste your words on my tongue,
dreaming them as if they were alive,
incandescent as flanks of white horses
in the rain—your poems shed light,
nuzzle breathless in my ear.
It's not so much the words themselves
but the way they touch
the muddy river where, for a moment,
our tongues found truth hidden in the roots.

There is a curve of eyebrow,
an alluvial valley that speaks
of such tenderness, we turn stones,
& turn them again. What does it matter
if the sun will die, your kisses like stars.
The physics of writing consumes us.
Not ambivalence. Not the other sin.
It cannot hide serpentine from the river—
the brightness from within—a burning moth
circling the pale fire of your eyes.

You tell me : too many loves in our past
& slip into the Paris night, well armed,
calling it by the clear light of poetry
because love also requires such brutal attention.
Can one name the instant when the heart
of the untamable beast ignites or dies?
Afraid of what it might be,
in the naked room, what are we then?



4/18/89

1993 We Are Not Swans, with Cecelia Woloch,
1991 Sculpture Gardens Review
1990 Poetry USA
1990 A Stone's Throw, Russian River Writers' Guild
         Starlight Poets #1
         Green Fuse


Who did I work with in 1989? Not Forché, Napa was done.




Saturday, April 15, 1989

UKRAINIAN CALENDAR FOUND POEM


UKRAINIAN CALENDAR FOUND POEM


January      Sichen Windy days
February      Lutil         Severe weather
March      Berizen       The first birch trees bud
April              Kviten         Flowers begin to blossom
May             Traven         Grass begins to grow
June            Cherven Red flowers blooming
July             Lipen         The shade of a lime tree in summer
August     Serpen         A sickle for the harvest
September  Veresen Last yellow bush of the year to flower
October     Zovten         Amber trees
November   Listopad Falling leaves
December   Gruden Large snowflakes of winter
(Repeat for at least 75 years, call it a life.)

4/1989

Sunday, April 9, 1989

YET ANOTHER POETRY READING


YET ANOTHER POETRY READING

                     Sex is like a glass of water.
                        ——Alexandra Kollantai
                          —for Bruce Isaacson

You know it happens each time I read poems
about sex & death in the afternoon.
One poet or another wants to follow me down
the smooth truncated saplings of bar stools,
& small infields of hallways & closets—
Call me on the carpet saying, You need a good man.
It's been 6 months & at the erotic poetry ball
the last barbarian in black leather
& studs sweet-talking me in Spanish
tangles up the night in my blue silk dress,
saying, I know you. Verdad?
We neck a bottle of chardonnay & steam up the sunroof.
Not quite unrequited lust in the cab of a pick-up.
Who's keeping score? You get to second base,
I steal third but home is an illusion.
Where does Einstein sleep? We confess
our tongues collude at the speed of recovery. Besos del mar. 
When you let down my hair, tuberoses, primordial
star-scented edens fall beneath your knee
giving up their bounty all at once——both acrid & bitter.
There is a fine line of distinction between perfume,
the sweet smell of decay & desire deep in the jungle.
Statistics change with each cycle;
we continue to make love in the mirror
of each other's eyes but I've prepared for this by eating
Russian chocolate in late afternoon.
My girlfriend's pissed, waiting out in the cold
for us to stop all this sexual innuendo
so we can go home saying, You straight women are all alike.
Men come first. Says you're trouble with a capital “T.”
She's right. I want to ride you across wheat fields
of midsummer Russian steppes,
Tchaikovsky's violin concerto
plying more than sum totals of notes or words.
You want to follow me. Down the road, headlights
never abandon us though we travel at a snail's pace—
breaking speed limits tho not the speed of light.
If sex is death, let me die a little in your arms again
because death is dressed in violets, the color of mourning
but I've said this somewhere before in a poem
to another man. Where does consumation begin
or conception or addiction? If it weren't so late
in the season we could listen to the rain on my roof
but the tiny dog-faced violets know the direction of dawn
without knowing the concept of east or death or spring
training. In the ball courts of Chichen Itza,
the gods wait for the climactic ending; both teams
lose their heads but I lose your address.
Poets are cheap. We will do anything for a good line.
More than once I've caught our names coupling in print.
It's beginning to look suspicious
& we're always the last to know.
Tomorrow we will wake up pretending it was a dream
but our words unzip the secrets of the universe
& we come down so hard
even the Milky Way screams, Galactos.
If you look closely, you can still see the old moon
on the sidelines coaching the new moon to steal home,
saying, Slide, slide. The bases are loaded.
It's an easy victory.



4/9/89



1993 We Are Not Swans, with Cecelia Woloch 
1990 Starlight Press