foxtongue: (Default)
Middle Aged Lovers
by Erica Jong

Unable to bear
the uncertainty
of the future,
we consulted seers,
mediums, stock market gurus,
psychics who promised
happiness on this
or another planet,
astrologists of love,
seekers of the Holy Grail.

Looking for certainty
we asked for promises,
lover’s knots, pledges, rings,
certificates, deeds of ownership,
when it was always enough
to let your hand
pass over my body,
your eyes find the depths of my own,
and the wind pass over our faces
as it will pass
through our bones,
sooner than we think.

The current is love,
is poetry,
the blood beat
in the thighs,
the electrical charge
in the brain.

Our long leap
into the unknown
began nearly
a half century ago
and is almost

I think of the
amphorae of stored honey
at Paestum
far out-lasting
their Grecian eaters,
or of the furniture
in a pharoah’s tomb
on which
no one sits.

Trust the wind,
my lover,
and the water.

They have the
to all your questions

and mine.
foxtongue: (Default)
There is an awful, delightful old tradition that women have "permission" to ask men for their hand in marriage on Leap Day, with the added impetus that if he refuses, he must give her the gift of a silk dress and a kiss to soften the blow. So, with the best of intentions, I asked one of my dearest friends to marry me today. (He is pretty great.) This is the glorious, achingly beautiful poem I received in reply, proving, I believe, that it was a win-win situation either way:

Handy Guide
By Dean Young

Avoid adjectives of scale.
Dandelion broth instead of duck soup.
Don’t even think you’ve seen a meadow, ever.
The minor adjustments in our equations
still indicate the universe is insane,
when it laughs a silk dress comes out its mouth
but we never put it on. Put it on.
Cry often and while asleep.
If it’s raw, forge it in fire.
That’s not a mountain, that’s crumble.
If it’s fire, swallow.
The heart of a scarecrow isn’t geometrical.
That’s not a diamond, it’s salt.
That’s not the sky but it’s not your fault.
My dragon may be your neurotoxin.
Your electrocardiogram may be my fortune cookie.
Once an angel has made an annunciation,
it’s impossible to tell him he has the wrong address.
Moonlight has its own befuddlements.
The rest of us can wear the wolf mask if we want
or look like reflections wandered off.
Eventually armor, eventually sunk.
You wanted love and expected what?
A parachute? Morphine? A gold sticker star?
The moment you were born—
you have to trust others because you weren’t there.
Ditto death.
The strongest gift I was ever given
was made of twigs.
It didn’t matter which way it broke.
foxtongue: (blowing kisses)
How Do You Know
Joe Mills

How do you know if it’s love? she asks,
and I think if you have to ask, it’s not,
but I know this won’t help. I want to say
you’re too young to worry about it,
as if she has questions about Medicare
or social security, but this won’t help either.
“You’ll just know” is a lie, and one truth,
“when you still want to be with them
the next morning” would involve too
many follow-up questions. The difficulty
with love, I want to say, is sometimes
you only know afterwards that it’s arrived
or left. Love is the elephant and we
are the blind mice unable to understand
the whole. I want to say love is this
desire to help even when I know I can’t,
just as I couldn’t explain electricity, stars,
the color of the sky, baldness, tornadoes,
fingernails, coconuts, or the other things
she has asked about over the years, all
those phenomena whose daily existence
seems miraculous. Instead I shake my head.
I don’t even know how to match my socks.
Go ask your mother.
She laughs and says,
I did. Mom told me to come and ask you.
foxtongue: (Default)
A Week Later
by Sharon Olds

A week later, I said to a friend: I don't
think I could ever write about it.
Maybe in a year I could write something.
There is something in me maybe someday
to be written; now it is folded, and folded,
and folded, like a note in school. And in my dream
someone was playing jacks, and in the air there was a
huge, thrown, tilted jack
on fire. And when I woke up, I found myself
counting the days since I had last seen
my husband-only two years, and some weeks,
and hours. We had signed the papers and come down to the
ground floor of the Chrysler Building,
the intact beauty of its lobby around us
like a king's tomb, on the ceiling the little
painted plane, in the mural, flying. And it
entered my strictured heart, this morning,
slightly, shyly as if warily,
untamed, a greater sense of the sweetness
and plenty of his ongoing life,
unknown to me, unseen by me,
unheard, untouched-but known, seen,
heard, touched. And it came to me,
for moments at a time, moment after moment,
to be glad for him that he is with the one
he feels was meant for him. And I thought of my
mother, minutes from her death, eighty-five
years from her birth, the almost warbler
bones of her shoulder under my hand, the
eggshell skull, as she lay in some peace
in the clean sheets, and I could tell her the best
of my poor, partial love, I could sing her
out with it, I saw the luck
and luxury of that hour.

I am lost

Dec. 27th, 2011 01:25 am
foxtongue: (Default)
Each Sound
by Dorianne Laux

Beginnings are brutal, like this accident
of stars colliding, mute explosions
of colorful gases, the mist and dust
that would become our bodies
hurling through black holes, rising,
muck ridden, from pits of tar and clay.
Back then it was easy to have teeth,
claw our ways into the trees — it was
accepted, the monkeys loved us, sat
on their red asses clapping and laughing.
We’ve forgotten the luxury of dumbness,
how once we crouched naked on an outcrop
of rock, the moon huge and untouched
above us, speechless. Now we talk
about everything, incessantly,
our moans and grunts turned on a spit
into warm vowels and elegant consonants.
We say plethora, demitasse, ozone and love.
We think we know what each sound means.
There are times when something so joyous
or so horrible happens our only response
is an intake of breath, and then
we’re back at the truth of it,
that ball of life expanding
and exploding on impact, our heads,
our chest, filled with that first
unspeakable light.


There was a kiss that tasted like reëntry, the sky hitting the brakes with a roar, that blazing, intimate acceptance of a spacecraft into atmosphere, every unlikely angle, one head tilting to another, a scorched, soft light jet-stream wish to return home. History made and slammed back like a shotgun round. A promise on the wing, the ground salted, memories buried. The cast lines up, takes a bow, walks off stage, and leaves their shadows behind as the curtain falls, and it tasted like hello as well as goodbye. My apartment is choked with memories, my neighborhood is a cemetery, same as the highway south, much like my life.

He asked for my writing once, to permanently tattoo, something short, beautiful, meaningful. "Between our hands, we could have made fire". To the death, he said, to the guttering of the sun. (The next one, he gave me nothing I have not been able to give back.) In the archives, our shared love, deliberate and valiant, a blazing comet made of fiercely bared skin, and the small delicate jewelry we wore in our ears, drops of garnet dipped in silver, lost but unforgotten. I send him a message just after midnight, from a number he doesn't know: I am still wearing your name at the base of my breath.
foxtongue: (misery)
The Letter
by Dana Gioia

And in the end, all that is really left
Is a feeling—strong and unavoidable—
That somehow we deserved something better.
That somewhere along the line things
Got fouled up. And that letter from whoever’s
In charge, which certainly would have set
Everything straight between us and the world,
Never reached us. Got lost somewhere.
Possibly mislaid in some provincial station.
Or sent by mistake to an old address
Whose new tenant put it on her dresser
With the curlers and the hairspray forgetting
To give it to the landlord to forward.
And we still wait like children who have sent
Two weeks’ allowance far away
To answer an enticing advertisement
From a crumbling, yellow magazine,
Watching through years as long as a childhood summer,
Checking the postbox with impatient faith
Even on days when mail is never brought.
foxtongue: (beseech)
After All This
by Richard Jackson

After all this love, after the birds rip like scissors
through the morning sky, after we leave, when the empty
bed appears like a collapsed galaxy, or the wake of
disturbed air behind a plane, after that, as the wind turns
to stone, as the leaves shriek, you are still breathing
inside my own breath. The lighthouse on the far point
still sweeps away the darkness with the brush of an arm.
The tides inside your heart still pull me towards you.
After all this, what are these words but mollusk shells
a child plays with? What could say more than the eloquence
of last night's constellations? or the storm anchored by
its own flashes behind the far mountains? I remember
the way your body wavers under my touch like the northern
lights. After all this, I want the certainty of hidden roots
spreading in all directions from their tree. I want to hear
again the sky tangled in your voice. Some nights I can
hear the footsteps of the stars. How can these words
ever reveal the secret that waits in their sleeping light?
The words that walk through my mind say only what has
already passed. Beyond, the swallows are still knitting
the wind. After a while, the smokebush will turn to fire.
After a while, the thin moon will grow like a tear in a curtain.
Under it, a small boy kicks a ball against the wall of
a burned out house. He is too young to remember the war.
He hardly knows the emptiness that kindles around him.
He can speak the language of early birds outside our window.
Someday he will know this kind of love that changes
the color of the sky, and frees the earth from its moorings.
Sometimes I kiss your eyes to see beyond what I can imagine.
Sometimes I think I can speak the language of unborn stars.
I think the whole earth breathes with you. After all this,
these words are all I have to say what is impossible to think,
what shy dreams hide in the rafters of my heart, because
these words are only a form of touch, only tell you I have no life
that isn't yours, and no death you couldn't turn into a life.
foxtongue: (Default)
by Jane Hirshfield

It is foolish
to let a young redwood
grow next to a house.

Even in this
one lifetime,
you will have to choose.

That great calm being,
this clutter of soup pots and books -

Already the first branch-tips brush at the window
Softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life.
foxtongue: (tripwire)
For What Binds Us
By Jane Hirshfield

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they've been set down—
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.
And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There's a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,
as all flesh,
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest—
And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.
foxtongue: (Default)

via themythicalman

Today is the first day of the year 5772. I wish I felt more hopeful.

Returning from Seattle, I looked out at the crescent of water visible from the highway near the border to see the the skies over the southern, U.S. shore a bright, joyful blue, (flooded with the scent of flowers when we drove through it), but fading northward until over Canada was silver, all gray and bleak and rain. It felt too pat, too apt a metaphor to be real, yet there it was, undeniable, painted in uncanny symmetry.

There were no apples in honey for me this year. Instead I dropped some sweetness off at a doorway up the street and stayed home, cleaning my room, unpacking from my trip, putting more aside to sell. I may have returned to familiar surroundings, yet this doesn't feel like home. Everything is drenched in stress. Unemployment, lack of rent, debts and bills I can do nothing about. One of the cats broke her tail in my absence, no idea how, but because we don't have money enough for a vet, it has gone unexamined, except by my inexpert fingers. I hope she isn't in much pain. Meanwhile, the first of the month looms, a darker shadow every day. David is unemployed now, too, as the bookstore chain he worked for is closing down their shops, and my welfare cheque is being held, as I am due for an audit, so our finances are in an even worse state than before. Even so, I am considering quitting welfare, as a way to alleviate some of the depression. Fighting the world without a net is harsh, but independence is worth more than security.
foxtongue: (Default)
by Rainer Maria Rilke

The sky puts on the darkening blue coat
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight,
one journeying to heaven, one that falls;

and leave you, not at home in either one,
not quite so still and dark as the darkened houses,
not calling to eternity with the passion
of what becomes a star each night, and rises;

and leave you (inexpressibly to unravel)
your life, with its immensity and fear,
so that, now bounded, now immeasurable,
it is alternately stone in you and star.

a memoir

Sep. 12th, 2011 01:55 pm
foxtongue: (muppet mask)
When You Are Old
by Spencer Gordon

Life is a long time grieving, especially the first time. The second time you try, and it’s all right, there’s less tears; it’s a reunion you never thought would happen. Then the call comes back: the hard line in the head that said

don’t kiss, don’t dance, don’t do that. And even drinking is easier, somehow, like each sip was watered down with berries and pills and ice. You never dreamed it would be so easy. But this is your second time around,

and you’re used to feeling used, and you want to see the people you thought were gone for good, and so you lean toward the fat neck beside you, and you say kiss me darling, I’m back for you, and you alone, and the trees

aren’t sad, are they? The air is a calm mourner, you say; it doesn't need a wake to drink at. It doesn't need friends or family. You're like the wind, you think. You don't need a friend. You don't need another life. And so it ends.
foxtongue: (26th birthday)
A Hand
by Jane Hirshfield

A hand is not four fingers and a thumb.

Nor is it palm and knuckles,
not ligaments or the fat's yellow pillow,
not tendons, star of the wristbone, meander of veins.

A hand is not the thick thatch of its lines
with their infinite dramas,
nor what it has written,
not on the page,
not on the ecstatic body.

Nor is the hand its meadows of holding, of shaping—
not sponge of rising yeast-bread,
not rotor pin's smoothness,
not ink.

The maple's green hands do not cup
the proliferant rain.
What empties itself falls into the place that is open.

A hand turned upward holds only a single, transparent question.

Unanswerable, humming like bees, it rises, swarms, departs.
foxtongue: (Default)
The Mother Writes to the Murderer: A Letter
by Naomi Shihab Nye

To you whose brain is a blunt fist
pushed deep inside your skull
whose eyes are empty bullets
whose mouth is a stone more speechless
than lost stones at the bottoms of rivers
who lives in a shrunken world where nothing blooms
and no promise is ever kept

To you whose face I never saw but now see
everywhere the rest of my life

You don't know where she hid her buttons

arranged in families by color or size
tissue-wrapped in an oatmeal box
how she told them goodnight sleep well
and never felt ashamed

You don't know her favorite word
and I won't tell you

You don't have her drawings taped to your refrigerator
blue circuses, red farms
You don't know she cried once in a field of cows
saying they were too beautiful to eat

I'm sure you never thought of that
I'm sure nothing is too beautiful for you to eat

You have no idea what our last words were to one another
how terribly casual
because I thought she was going a block away
with her brother to the store
They would be back in ten minutes

I was ironing her dress
while two houses away an impossible darkness
rose up around my little girl

What can I wish you in return?
I was thinking knives and pistols
high voltages searing off your nerves
I was wishing you could lose your own life
bit by bit finger by toe
and know what my house is like

how many doors I still will have to open

Maybe worse would be for you to love something
and have it snatched up sifted out of your sight
for what reason?
a flurry of angels recalled to heaven
and then see how you sit
and move and remember
how you sleep at night
how you feel about mail my letter to you
all the letters passing through all the hands
of the people on earth
when the only one that matters
is the one you can neither receive
nor send
foxtongue: (femme)
'You don't seem to understand, sir,' the worthy Lyon, my teacher, used to often say to me, 'that certain words are made to go with others; between them there exist certain relationships that must not be changed.'

'I can't help it, dear teacher, but for words too I am a firm believer in the virtue of bad company.'

André Gide, 1911

Under the surface of the conversation lives another set of words, ur-homonyms, post post modern, the secret referential dialect of poetry birds, blue and gray, alike in species, but not in feather, the language an echo of captured ghosts. We are eye contact, insinuation, the rhythm and flow of a secret river covered over. He fiddles with his phone, pulls up a memory, a beautiful mention of jewelry and bones, and unobtrusively places it on my side of the table, the better to keep it between ourselves, the better not to interrupt. It is the best sort of message - silent, apt, instantly understood - spun from the fearless perfection of falling stars. It was confirmation of an unlikely truth, a gesture clear and unmistakable, almost but not quite an apology. We had thought ourselves as solid as stone, but then we crumbled like plaster under rain, our gestures blurred, our voices unheard and stolen by a sudden, dangerous misunderstanding. It was terrible, ragged and abrupt. We became a fire guttering, giving off no warmth and even less light, but this, I thought, looking up to meet his meaning, and its depths, it justifies what came before, this is why I thought it was safe, and why I will again.
foxtongue: (moi?)
"Wasted Vote" by Shane Koyczan

Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long have come out with a haunting new track just in time for the May 2nd polls,
reminding people that there's no such thing as a wasted vote, only a wasted election.

  • Upvote this video on Reddit.
  • Support it as a submission on bOINGbOING.
  • foxtongue: (beseech)
    When I have said "I love you" I have said
    Nothing at all to tell you; I cannot find
    Any speech in any country of the mind
    Which might inform you whither I have fled.
    In saying "I love you" I have gone so far
    Away from you, into so strange a land;
    You may not find me, may not understand
    How I am exiled, driven to a star

    Till now deserted. Here I stand about,
    Eat, sleep, bewail, feel lonely and explore,
    Remember how I loved the world, before,
    Tremble in case that memory lets me out.
    Islanded here, I wait for you to come --
    Waiting the day that exiles you to home.

    by Valentine Ackland
    Tonight is the first night of Passover.

    I am meant to be taking photos today for an art exhibition in New York. I am meant to be doing laundry, looking for work, applying to be an enforcer, editing my belongings, putting more of them for sale, and processing pictures from Seattle and yesterday's shoot with Shane's band at the Cultch. I am meant to be showered and dressed and fed. Together, sharp, useful, active. Defined. There are things to do, tasks to conquer, opportunities waiting. Instead it is as if the air itself has thickened until even breathing is an effort. I am suffocating, a captive unhappily complicit with my aching inactivity.

    It has been a week of silence. Out of respect for my love, for his dismissal, his vanishing outburst, I did not call for days, even when the wet beauty of thunder and lightning was too much to bear, when it cracked me as open as it did the sky. Even when I felt that all I could possibly desire was his voice kindly speaking my name. Instead I bruised my fingers knocking at his door. Small gifts in my pockets, a snub nosed bottle of imported ginger ale, a tiny square of rich, hard to find chocolate, my hand raised once more to the wood, knuckles swollen into a pale rainbow of purple and blue from repetition, (less painful than the quiet), but to no answer, even when his vehicle was parked in the drive. At home the phone would ring in a quick, beautiful burst, but the numbers were wrong - the wrong people, the wrong names. Outside would be footsteps, car doors slamming, false hope leaping up in my heart like flames. Every night, sleep became farther away.

    When Friday slid into Saturday, still without word, it became obvious that the relationship had been abandoned, released into the wild without even the courtesy of goodbye.
    foxtongue: (have to be kidding)
    Seaside Improvisation, by Richard Siken

    I take off my hands and I give them to you but you don't
    want them, so I take them back
    and put them on the wrong way, the wrong wrists. The yard is dark,
    the tomatoes are next to the whitewashed wall,
    the book on the table is about Spain,
    the windows are painted shut.
    Tonight you're thinking of cities under crowns
    of snow and I stare at you like I'm looking through a window,
    counting birds.
    You wanted happiness, I can't blame you for that,
    and maybe a mouth sounds idiotic when it blathers on about joy
    but tell me
    you love this, tell me you're not miserable.
    You do the math, you expect the trouble.
    The seaside town. The electric fence.
    Draw a circle with a piece of chalk. Imagine standing in a constant cone
    of light. Imagine surrender. Imagine being useless.
    A stone on the path means the tea's not ready,
    a stone in the hand means somebody's angry, the stone inside you still
    hasn't hit bottom.


    I'm going to Seattle today, a two o'clock bus that should get me there around six. It feels almost criminal because of the weather outside, crisp, bright, so promising. There was snow on the ground last night when my lover drove me home, my bare feet sank into it by an inch while walking on the gravel behind his home. Earlier lightning, small dark rolls of quiet thunder.

    My body bleeds today where I was rough with it last night. I am torn. Bruised, too, with carnations of gentle blue and yellow across my back like insomnia's physical manifestation, a rebellion of capillaries protesting against lack of sleep. I am shamed that I hurt so much, so easily. The mirror will not meet my eyes. Everything aches - my devotion, the stress of it, the one drop of blood.
    foxtongue: (Default)
    The Primer
    by Christina Davis

    She said, I love you.

    He said, Nothing.

    (As if there were just one
    of each word and the one
    who used it, used it up).

    In the history of language
    the first obscenity was silence.
  • An ASL interpretation of Crazy, by Gnarls Barkly
  • An ASL interpretation of F*ck You, by Cee Lo.

    My lover's been whisked away this weekend, tossed without warning onto a late-night flight. I was going to head down to Chinatown today for the New Year's parade but, in the light of this very sudden change of plans, I decided to stay in and finally print out my finished tax paperwork instead. Maybe attack some of my often neglected German lessons or my backlog of programming tutorials, too. Do laundry. Productivity in solidarity! Jah. Der junge ist in einem flugzeug. Das mädchen wartet mit liebe in ihrem herzen.

    Also on the to-do list: hang the aluminum deer head, sift through the last three two mess boxes, get printer ink, print tax forms, make a packet of them and mail them off, polish the silver tea-cups, update the minimalfox blog, sort the mending, do some mending, bathe the cats, clean out the hall closet, list more things for sale, finish David's laundry, fold the towels, research nifty stops for April's roadtrip, find a SATA case enclosure, apply for another First Aid certificate, patch the wall, fix the coat rack, get signed up for Quest, take the returnables to the recycling center, measure art for framing, find suitable picture frames, write a poem and a love letter, track down An Idiot Abroad, deliver books to Jenn, rediscover my recipe for cake-inna-cup, bleach the shower curtain, harass Young Drivers of Canada, arrange for more driving lessons, rewrite my CV, update A Thread of Grace, identify what's in the mystery cord drawer, go swimming, soak in a hot tub, fiddle with, replace duvet, help clean mum's house, empty and sand the bureau, check my contacts prescription, acquire contacts, replace the VHS, find out the shipping costs for the IKEA flooring, take the medium format film to The Lab to be processed, attempt ice-skating, sort the linens, attack under the bathroom sink, take vitamins, rearrange what's on the living-room walls, properly group my data, find the paperclips, back up the laptop, shed a light into the shadows of my heart, lime powder my boots, re-glue the soles, find a home for the electric pussy-willow, paint the baroque frame in my bedroom, replace my bike chain, get a spindle of blank DVDs, tidy the pigeon-holes, file and folder paperwork by year, update Craigslist postings, catch up on photo processing, attend a poetry slam, reply to neglected letters, change the sheets, bake cookies, listen to more Vampire Weekend, put all my change into a penny jar, replace a hook on a bra, try to track down silver-notebook, have a snuggly date night, collect my mail from Seattle, take more pictures of my friends, untangle my computer cable spaghetti, make some media mix-tapes, schedule a Sunday Tea...
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