Invitation to Exit


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Invitation to Exit
a lovehate note for Dr. Ford

Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter
~~ Christine Blasey Ford

Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.”
Anne Sexton

There have been probably millions of words written about Brett Kavanaugh, and I don’t flatter myself I have much to add.

My writing is read by very few people. Not even my family reads it anymore. Yet somehow, knowing I have language, some kind of document, of my own observations, sadness, love, joy, personal regret, cultural anger: it makes me feel more alive, and more connected to the roiling stream of human existence.

There are mothers searching for dead babies at this very moment in Sulawesi. They don’t know about Brett Kavanaugh, or the people, mainly women, who feel some kind of end has been reached in our Great Experiment. Suffering is everywhere. Birth is everywhere; Change, as the Buddha cannot remind us enough, is the only constant.

When the man currently living in the White House was “elected,” I thought we had reached a nadir, and would quickly correct our nightmarish, almost comical, mistake.

It was only the beginning. And his beginning, this little, stupid, mentally unstable carnival barker, will leave an impossibly long impression on this country that might well mark its demise. He is remaking the courts from the bottom up in his own image, filling vacancies Barack was unable to fill because of the thoroughly racist, undemocratic obstructionism of Republicans, of the quasi-fascist Mitch McConnell, and he is going to fill those vacancies with minds so far to the right we may as well be on a tilt-a-whirl that speeds only in one direction. What was fringe, what was Pat Buchanan, is now the celebrated norm among unimaginable numbers of white, often college educated men and women.

Shame to them. Shame on this country.

I thought I had no love for this country. For a long time, my entire life to be honest. I should have moved to France when I was 17; that I didn’t was a result of a rape that made me paranoid, fearful, and incapacitated for years. The memory still does, particularly when I hear the so-called President of the United States happily mock a brave, dignified woman who had the temerity – the fucking balls – to confront a system already rigged against her. Listening to him bring her down, the crowd laughing its approval: how similar that must have sounded to Dr. Ford to the laughter of Brett as he covered her mouth and prepared to have his way with her body.

Kavanaugh joins Clarence, who is publicly silent, poisonous, and unimaginative in his “originalist” views of the Constitution. Such a viewpoint is really just an excuse for profound intellectual laziness, a sentimental attachment to a past that never existed, and a convenient cudgel to keep traditionally marginalized humans in their place. Now the two Yale men can have drinks and chat about their college days, the ones Kavanaugh can remember anyway, which apparently aren’t many.

I try not to hate him but I do. I hate him as I hate my own rapist. And I battle the same feelings about donald trump, who is a dangerous, petty, profoundly mentally ill, narcissistic black hole of corruption and greed. He is a shell of rage, and it is my work, the work of all people who loathe him, to not become a mirror to him. Or to Kavanaugh, who revealed a temperament so fraught with anger, paranoid rantings, self-pity, and arrogance I cannot see how his mind has room for any input other than his own. Kavanaugh brags about having four women clerks. I am convinced he sussed them out for bullying purposes and bragging rights.

Kavanaugh is a travesty. He will possibly bring down Roe. His previous rulings have shown him to be about as far to the right as rush limbaugh. He seems to think regulations are a mere inconvenience to the great gods of commerce. What else can one say about a man who looks at Kenneth Starr as his shining beacon, his mentor? Apparently the Clintons still weigh on his mind. They should: he was part of a huge mess that should never have happened in the first place. Why this country insists on having no collective memory after 18 months is beyond me; perhaps we might evolve a bit if we held the evils of the past as something from which to learn, not promote, as we have this vengeful, drunken man.

Kavanaugh might make this country so dangerous for women I will be forced to leave: I have two daughters. And a son I will not allow to adopt even a shadow of the white-boy me-firstness so celebrated by the powers that be.

These “men” – trump, his minions, Kavanaugh. Not only are they terrifying and disgusting in what they represent for women, for the so recently empowered, now endangered LGBT community, for brown people, for black people, for common sense environmental regulation (god the list is apparently endless) – they are a mortal threat to our boys as well. What parent wants to see a child grow up to be an angry, narcissistic and selfish power monger? I have never believed politicians should be personal role models, but these men are infusing and altering our entire culture; the racists, the homophobes, the anti-choicers are crawling out of the shadows like starved prisoners who have been waiting to be released.

So I teach my son about honesty, equality. I am stern. I use foul language when I need to, sometimes just because I’m so fucking scared of what is happening around us. I teach my daughters about their bodies, that there is no such thing as shame, that they own their bodies, and no one has the right to touch them, even look at them, in a manner that creates discomfort. I teach them to use force. Verbal force. Physical if necessary. We practice. No “baby” voice. But they are babies. It breaks my heart.

I am boxing.  A lot. I want to adopt guard dogs. I am… so scared.

And yet. And yet… in the middle of the Catastrophe, something has been born, deep inside me:
a tenderness. A new tenderness. I feel a love for my fellow countrypeople I have never known before. trump supporters – that is a struggle. I don’t understand them. I want to, but I don’t think I can. I still try. Even racism is born from Fear. A wounded heart. It is a wounded heart that carries a loaded gun though, and that is hard to hold.

I still would rather leave. But I am more involved, more loving to my neighbors, far more aware of the inequality around me, and far more willing, wanting, and needing to leave my little white-woman-yogi-ballet-arts bubble and see what the Hell is actually happening in the world.

The non-president is having, in untold numbers of citizens, mainly the ones he loathes (women, people with various pigmentation), an unanticipated effect, of which he is probably unaware: his rage creates love. I will not be him. I will see him. I will see the people around him. And I will admit to my own hatred, my own shadows.

But ultimately his absurdity, his indescribable foolishness, will awaken many to dignity, wisdom, and walking the long road to acceptance and love.

And that is my fuck-you valentine to trump, Inc.

May you find peace, quietude, and healing Dr. Ford.


Old Fool


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Old Fool

I fell in love with a boxer.

He teaches me to hit, spar, follow through on kicks that act as whips to one’s opponent. Through him I find a sunken groundedness one cannot locate – I cannot locate – through dance, asana, meditation. He is teaching me that I love violence, that its art lies in its loose but lethal precision, and that control is the highest art of all.

He doesn’t know that I had already found this with the man who left me, the father of these children who now sleep with me, nightmares overcoming their brave little faces either before or during sleep. Hurt me, I’ll eat from your hand like a starved faun.

I told him. He’s too intuitive, he didn’t need to be told. So now I train with the boxer, and he knows. He knows I’m vulnerable more to his beauty than his fists. I’m terrified not of losing a tooth but that I won’t work enough, he’ll lose interest. Interest he doesn’t have to begin with: I have invented the perfect Punishment.

The boxer is a child. He is young, brilliant but uneducated. His beauty has caught me, I watch him from the shoreline: youth, movement, marriage, potential, money, family all downstream. His skin shines with an illumination unique to the quick and the strong. He is mainly animal. I was raised to view my life from the second, third, infinite angles of the mind. I have disciplined myself to believe one cannot live anything called a “life” without intelligence, analysis, perception, competition, and the melancholy understanding that everything is finite.  Life is granted, like an award, after certain prerequisites have been achieved. He was raised to simply live: life is what happens while the body is in motion, that the body itself is wisdom, and has primordial needs that are met through action alone. I miss sex, intensely, when I am near him.

It is fascinating to watch an existence unfold after much of mine has flowed on and away. I say nothing. I don’t tell him how much I could teach him over a few long days in a small room. Or that the hard shell surrounding his girlfriend will eventually encase him, too, like a butterfly in amber.

I know nothing.
I have this beauty, this openness to my body, I move like a snake in wet grass. This face, these limbs: they are in the great, short lived stage of an exquisite Twilight. Never more receptive, never more charged. My mind is awake even in dream. Nerves with no casing. I am headed toward the sideline. But not yet, not quite yet… I am insatiable now, now that I know what has passed, what’s to come. Wisdom is a cutting cruelty.
But no.
I’m an old fool,
silly with watching.

Story for the Other Girl


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Story for the Other Girl

It is a Monday in autumn. I am earlier than usual. I walk with purpose anyway, breathing into the gentle new chill of late September, bodily odors of stained concrete, fresh trash, last night’s party mixing with falling leaves and the distant breeze of the East River. I love these smells now, their various offenses, surprising pleasures, predictable sadness. I am going Northward on Ave B. I’ll get there faster than the subway would take me. I have finally learned how to walk instead of wander. I used to be frightened I would miss things, moving with speed. But I observe more at this quickened pace; I think my eyes have widened to take in my landscape, to rebuff, absorb, see, reject, all at once and all the time.

It is interesting that one of the most complimentary phrases we use to describe a face is “wide-eyed.” Predators are narrow, eyes close, they can afford to ignore the world. Prey must be all-seeing, like a wounded Buddha. We seem to prefer women and infants like this, watchful. Receptive. Aware of what might be coming.

Three days a week I work for an attorney. She specializes in probate, and used to work for one of the great old firms on Liberty. She is brilliant, unusually round for a New Yorker, and wears Tiffany bangles on her wrist that sometimes chime while she types. Blue chips and white shoes: I think she finally figured out there wasn’t much room for red lips and double strollers, so in a moment of delusional optimism she leased a small office with floor to ceiling windows not far from Washington Square. She is harried and an organized mess, usually one step ahead of her schedule unless she is four steps behind. Then her panic fills the room, drifting to the corners of the ceiling, seeping into the floorboards, until there is no air, only the missed deadline, the furious client, the sick babysitter, the bill the client won’t pay. Until knowing her I never knew that fear is capable of turning to substance.

I rescue her. She adores me; she doesn’t understand that she doesn’t really need me, I’ve only made her think she does because I really need the work. I watch her fear take shape. It is only a landscape; I make it dissipate with a tone and one, two, ten phone calls, like a painter adding brushwork to canvas.  And she takes too much Xanax anyway.

I’m good at saving things: when I was a child I used to occupy myself by scooping up finches who stupidly flew into plate glass windows. Carefully I prepared shoe boxes with sticks, water, tufts of cotton. I had an unusual patience. For hours I sat with the birds, watching the slow resurrection. Unless the breastbone had been shattered, they usually came to, flew off into the twilight. I would watch them leave, my feet tucked into my dirty nightgown. My life divided into hopeless contradiction: my primary worth was service. And through service I gave Life. Thus I regarded myself as both receptacle and the force that fills it. These thoughts would occupy me from the earliest age, and so while my friends applied to colleges and had sex and worked and made other friends I took acid by myself and thought these thoughts. It took me awhile to catch up. I think I still am, although to what, I am not sure.

The attorney has two girls, twins. They sometimes sit and do homework in her office. They look so much like her I have trouble imagining another element was involved in their mysterious split-match creation. They are identical. To each other and, it seems, to her. When I met them they had just turned six, and because it was summer they had tanned shoulders and pale thighs, and their dark hair was full and lightened by long, bright and damp days. That summer they came to her office almost every day, dressed in flower printed sundresses and dragging along dolls that I am sure cost a day’s pay. Sometimes their father brought them, but usually it was another woman. Nanny, mother, mother-in-law, friend.

It is the world in a cave. It is the world by a river. A goddess helps women bear children. Bury them too. She hunts for them. She saves animals and girls. Sacrifices them. This is our conclave, here in New York. Work, women, men who are too busy to see what happens by the river.

Recently the girls turned eight, and they are not as easy in their bodies anymore; they are aware of themselves now, and it strikes me as a tragedy, even though it be a universal one. They visit less. Ballet, music, friends, French. Busy girls in a busy place. I wonder if they ever dream of lakes or animals. Or the moon. On the rare days they visit I’ll ignore my work and play with them instead, a habit that seems to further endear me to the attorney. She loves her girls, but I suspect she wonders if Love is an essence that moves in only one direction, outward, and that when I’m there she can close the tap, save her reserve for later. I was taught that Love is infinite, self-generating, that Love creates Love. I believed that for a long time, until my divorce four years ago, and I was emptied. Nothing has replaced me.

After the girls leave a silence comes over the office. Their absence is bigger than their presence. I think this is what it might be like to be a mother. What was your life becomes an eternal oblation to an ancient ritual; at the center is the monolith of every birth that has come before, will come after, and when you turn from it you find the image has imprinted itself upon you like a tattoo.

When I was married I did not have children. At one point I was pregnant. He welcomed the seedling but it never took root, and a heavy bleeding took the tiny beginning away in a rushing short lived flood. I retreated after that, and spent a long time holding my groin, my lower stomach, as if trying to put something into place, as one might rearrange a room. But I missed him. I missed his touch, our bar down the street, my soft silk dresses and the way he would look at me when I wore something red, thin stockings underneath. I missed the union, and I had never broken a promise before. When I came back his relief was palpable but quiet. For months and months the rush of love stood in stunning contrast to our slow life.

We lived in a town two miles inland from the grey sea. The beach was usually quiet. Too cold to swim, too windy for picnics and evening fires. It’s why we chose it: life would not be overrun there, the storms would see to that. We trained ourselves to embrace the wind, and the sharp rain, and every day we would run the dogs, watch them go a little too far out to sea to catch salt-weathered sticks. During the day he wrote and then did marketing for a company two thousand miles away. I worked early at the only cafe in town, and would come home shaking and hollowed from too much gossip and coffee.

I do not know why I loved him. He did not need rescuing, and his alien self-possession acted as both buffer and invitation. Everything was soft with him, and he accepted me as an animal might. I wasn’t there. And then I was. He was tall and had an odd kind of beauty that would fade to mere character with time. People found us a strange but fitting couple, and my physical perfection, his childhood friends would tell me, came as little surprise. He had always been with beauty, took it as a right. I did not know if I should have been proud or terrified.

What I loved most was the devouring. We lived as slowly as a rain-swollen river. We had managed the impossible: to control time itself, to smooth the edges, its precipice of fear and nervous anticipation. At night, after the bar, after the silk dress had dampened around my thighs, after his insistent tugging and tearing at my stockings under the table, I would fold myself into him, watch the sludge water give way to crazed eddies of movement, sensation. Fucking him was always a falling-in, and the falling itself gave way to dimensions to which I believe, still, only he possesses the key.

Our life, as all lives do, became a lattice work of pattern, close repitition. Silence, steadiness, the air usually heavy with storm. I ran the dogs, I danced, I read, worked a little, and grew close to the woman who owned the vintage store where I bought the dresses he loved. Our house was small and empty, and only books took up more space than the dogs. My body became hard, calves muscled from running on damp sand, skin pale from weeks without sun. Sometimes, watching the black sleek-wet dogs paddle in the waves, I saw myself as an old woman, walking along the same beach, coming home to the same man, white haired, spine curved from writing at the same desk.

For our third anniversary we left the dogs with my friend, got on a plane, and landed just as the sun was setting in Milan. It was the end of March, and the square by the Duomo was chilled and empty. Two days later we took a short train to Venice, where we sat for hours in the gardens at the Guggenheim villa, and got lost, over and over, through arched canals and close passageways. One midnight we hurried among the shadows and watched the water, swirled ink, my fingers blue-cold and sticky from marzipan shaped to irresistible fruit.

On our second evening, while watching the lion-griffen turn red, yellow, and then fade with the evening sun my husband surprised me with a small disc of white gold, three diamonds set in the middle, like the beginning of a constellation. The jewels in St. Marco are endless, and almost corrupt in their glittering, absurd beauty. These were the stores one simply looked into, as one peers into a Faberge egg: someone else’s life. He placed the delicate chain around my neck, an unusual smile of triumph on his lips. I still don’t know where he came upon the money.

At night we made love, his long fingers over my mouth to keep me quiet. The walls were thin. But I knew, too, that part of his pleasure was a sort of owning. His pride in his wife was casual, but fundamental too.

When I was 15 my father told me a funny story. He was a teenager, going to see a film with his friends. Still a virgin, introverted, in love with women, he and his friends silly with hormones. A man walked out of the theater, a stunning woman wearing a short sweater that showed her round, impossible breasts clung to his arm. “Look at the way he’s wearing her,” scoffed my father’s witty friend. 

On the sixth morning in Venice we fought. It was our first, and sudden as a spring squall. It stunned us both, the cruelty of our mouths, machete down the middle. Young, stubborn, stupid. Or perhaps just curious: what does it mean, I thought, to smash a Love so big it has begun to feel like another presence in the room? What remains, as it spreads across the floor, knife shards, liquid glass? I left after a silent breakfast, boarding a bus for Croatia. I turned off my phone, expecting it to ring with incessant worried irritation.

When I turned it on again, a dozen hours later, sitting on a bench by the open sunbright sea in Dubrovnik, there was one message: “Come home.”

I stayed six months. I lived off credit cards, eating little, staying in hostels for which I was too old. I read, and walked. I went to Turkey, and spent a late spring month on the island of Alibey. An old woman let a room to me for almost nothing. She fed me, a worried and bossy look to her eye. Grandchildren drifted around her ankles like cats. After four months I took a lover, but he was a forgotten shadow, without embodiment even as he pressed his chest to mine. One night, a little high, I phoned him. It was morning at home. He was already working. The dogs didn’t run as well without me, he said. I’m here, he said.

We divorced the next year. Even if I could list the reasons I don’t think I would. Loss needs its mystery, otherwise all we become are lonely excavators of our own lives. We are still friends. Lovers when we see each other. I went where solitary types, the sort  who like to live frenetically and silently fix things fit in best.

The attorney knows nothing of this. I got my job with her the way everyone gets things in New York: luck + perseverance. She said no twice. The third time I emailed she was having a crisis with her girls. I went to her office, called her clients, found her a new nanny. I rescued her. That’s what I do. Rescue things.

Tonight I’m meeting friends at Yakiniku. We’ll talk and get drunk, gossip about clothes and books, ignore the men around us. I know I’ll walk home alone, fast, with headphones on, eyes open, body soft from booze on the inside, stiff with the tension of the street on the outside. In the great city a woman must become an exo-skeleton. I’ll have to tell him that, the next time I phone. He’ll laugh, and tell me about a poem he’s working on.

When I get home – I am thinking this as I call an angry client whose father just died – I will take a bath. I’ll trace the cracks in the grouting, open the window wide, and count the extinguishing lights of my neighbors as they retire for the evening, falling into the next day, one by one by one.



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A little while ago the man to whom I devoted almost the entirety of my adult life phoned me. He was taking a leisurely hike with an old friend he had met and bedded during his student days. I suspect she was in town partly because of his newly single status, but I know little of the ways of others.

We don’t get along. I fell in love with a man; I also fell in love with an idea, a hope, an illusion, a mirror, an escape route… the very word “falling” – well, how can one expect precision from a trip and a stumble? So. I fell in love with a man. He fell in lust with a body, and held out high hopes the body with this troubled but alluring brain might be changeable enough to become a wife. This was his love. I cannot be angry: it was a lie to himself as much as it was to me.

To return to the phone call. It was a one sided conversation, as so many are: he spoke, I listened. The unique element of this call however was that the husband’s words were not directed toward me. They were about me, and spoken to this woman, who was happily echoing his cruel dissection of my character.

In the vernacular we wretchedly name such a communication a “hip-dial.” I prefer to think of it more mysteriously than that, as if Freud and a pissed off Aphrodite had a bottle of wine, and came up with a plan. I know another woman, who used to be my closest friend, who discovered her fiance was gay through exactly such a phone call. She married him anyway, but that is another, probably more interesting, story.

The day Husband called was hot. My two older children were playing with the happy mindless Joy that only the combination of heat and water can evoke. I sat in the shade, staring at the sun creating diamonds in the water, perfect crystal drops flowing off my daughter’s even more perfect limbs. She is named for Apollo and the dolphin and royalty: in the water she becomes all three and it is a sacred gift to see her in such power and innocence. I am all ether; she is all water. Her sister is the sun. Her father… would it be a crime to wish his name Acteon?

I digress. Listening to the disembodied voice, watching the exquisite scene, feeling the cool shade on the hot, hot day… my mind, like an over-taxed bone, fractured from the contradiction. I was fascinated. Who is not fascinated by his or her own self? I was mortified, humiliated, and because I thrive on humiliation, of course eager to hear more, hear everything. He could not be cruel enough: the cruelty is proof of my suspicion, held since birth, that I don’t belong to Love. We’re on the outs, I think we broke up during a past life.

His voice was a contained fury. Words like “claustrophobic,” “shrill,” “horrible” drifted by, just as my gorgeous neighbor, the one who looks exactly like Anita Ekberg, wandered over to give me a hug, invite me to a barbeque. I looked at her astonishing beauty, with her equally beautiful little girl and husband, as I watched my marriage, the remaining ideas I had of it, catch fire like an old piece of newspaper, drift up in flames, light and buoyant, and disappear beyond a fence I could not see. “I at least have a job,” I heard the voice say, as my black haired son dove into the water, searching for a sunken penny.

I did not go to Anita’s barbeque. Eventually I hung up the phone. It was the most reluctant end to a call I think I’ve ever known: finally, the ring of Gyges everyone wishes for and then regrets. I did not regret my ring. Instead, the brief revelations were a relief, an affirmation.

I have lived in this body a good many years now. My hands are veined bone, wrists like a starved hawk. All talon, no prey. My mind has filled and emptied itself like the tide – we are just water and mineral after all, and for all our attachment to the corporeal there isn’t much to it, is there?

Perhaps this is why we are so moved by watching children in water. Joy, Light, the purest love of Now one can witness. Rivulets like run-off from a secret mountain glimmer on wet skin, newly awakened muscle. Laughter drifts through the air, a kite in a dream. These are the moments of an embodied numinous vision. Then it fades, like a once loved voice on the other end of an old telephone line, moving further, further, further away. And then gone.



The Baby


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They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.
                                   ~~ Philip Larkin


She started school today.

Gold sparkle shoes.
A lavender shirt, bell sleeves, skirt of delicate flowers over leggings of a dark pink, motif of tigers at the ankle. Enormous Hello Kitty backpack over her slender, already elegant-goodbye shoulders.

“I do not want to go to school,”
she said.
I said
“you will have SO much fun”
lying about both the fun
and my enthusiasm.
I could not get to my car fast enough,
the tears hot like river-lava, unstoppable ~
as though someone had died.
I thought… perhaps have died.





When the child grew in my body I lost my fucking  mind. I did not sleep for 7 months. I went to 6 emergency rooms for suicidal impulse, was an in-patient for a few days of living Hell.

I took drugs that did not work.
I did not gain enough weight.
I was told she “might lose IQ points” because of the drugs/medication but that I of course needed to take them anyway.
No one measured my thyroid, which turned out to be so hyper it is a miracle she made it. People with those numbers don’t sleep. They buzz and humm and go and go and go.
But no. I was insane.
And I was indeed.
She was born, fierce force, hungry all the time. Perfect. Perfect beauty, perfect nurser, every hour eating and eating from the breast. She could not take enough life into her body.

She hasn’t changed. She is the same at almost 5 as she was at birth: life life more life. She speaks like an 8 year old, has the vocabulary any parent of a 10 year old would be happy with; she dissects moods like a scientist and has a Goddess-cruel streak that runs the family like a toddler-matriarchy. She is the mascot, the feared one, the adored one. She pronounces and announces; she uses the word “sarcastic” often and correctly.
She looks exactly like me, and has sophisticated opinions about my mascara, my manicures, my heels. She is a dictatorial femme and I absolutely worship her.

The baby.
The baby of the family, the harbinger of my divorce, the perfect being born to chaos, born to a father already living in loathing of the mother.

My child.
Je suis tres desole.

May your brilliance and strange strength carry you to horizons infinite, adventure without end, curiosity with no fear. May your life be the embodiment of Love, and Happiness. Remember to not ruin people with your wit and beauty. Go easy,
Je t’aime. Toujours.


Exit, Song


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Exit, Song

No one sang it like her.

When she spoke to the river, that river had to speak back
what choice did it have?

The Rev. Al Green, Billie, Ella, Stevie, Dinah.
In a country that elected a racist and a fascist,
puppet of Putin, these names are the mysterious
unifiers. Count out the pathetic group so recently
disbanded, beautifully outnumbered, at the White House,
count out the (supposed) president himself,
and who among us does not love these strange geniuses as family?

Aretha’s voice is recall, pain, heartbreak, faith in a God so gorgeous
any atheist turns pious in its presence. Sex, too, of course: the memory
of it, the euphoric falling
and the flatline miserable heart
break of departure.
We all have, I suspect, experiences that would not be the same in memory
without her. For me, it was riding for weeks on a motorbike through the Cyclades with my first Great Love.
More recently, her caress and comprehension while bent over in griefpain when my
(ex)husband walked out the door. Never will I listen to I Wonder” the same way –

I am not a patriot. My spirit is in France, my body will follow.
But it is this country, its root-twisted history of kidnap
torture, forced labor, economy built on the casting-out
and the caging of countless thousands, intermixed
with a God both real and convenient
and that odd characteristic
other countries look at with both contempt and envy:

Her voice was the embodiment of our history:
the history of her people and a preternatural
refusal to hate the deep shadows that brought
this country up from its infancy.

I love Billie because she is broken and still perfect.
But Aretha.
She is Grand like Ella, all lung and rasp like Dinah;
she is the party on Saturday night
and the church filled with family the next morning.
Unlike The Rev. Green, she presents no tension between the two:
she held the whole.

And weren’t we lucky to hold it with her?

Lust in 7 Questions


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Lust in 7 Questions


In what manner is the thirst for the river of his mouth, the pleasure of his salted fingertips, of the same origin as the endless grief to which this body was born?


How does this lower lip blossom, these shining lashes lengthen, skin grow soft and damp while stricken eyes darken at the first moment of his presence?


Why does he not see?


What are ethics, precepts, preconceptions, compared to one long midnight in a room high above a sleeping city, dawn a coy witness to wilted sheets, silk ties hanging like confetti from the bedpost, thighs bruised from a wanting that cannot be granted?


How does one remain embodied knowing touch will never come?


Sometimes when a woman reaches an apex, which is both an expansion and a receiving, the arches and the palms will coil and cramp, like a bird caged too long. And what are my feet, to him?


I heard his voice before I saw him. And now it is all I hear. Does the hunger rise from his dark and ancient beauty, my shining Roman coin, or from his indifference to my own?



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last night, late
in the large room
that one day soon will
be let to another

lay three sleeping children
One was half propped on narrow
velvet pillows
thick curls twisted and damp
at the root of a long neck
so thin.

was covered in a pink cape
ancient exhausted bear,
his stuffing long hollowed,
resting on lips
that might have
been whispering secrets
with which no human
can be trusted –

the third
had limbs askew
two small legs
curled and still,
hips on a mattress
arms open
as a welcoming saint
on the floor.

I was limping
on a swollen knee.

we are casualties.
even our sleep
contains a violence –
bodies caught
brought down

like a wandering plane
in wartime
like the bones
of Pompeii

are they children
Or are they living,
like their injured
with Memory,

curse of consciousness,
toy soldiers in a battle not theirs:
it used to be
it used to be –



, , , , , , , , , ,


Across my inner thigh,
the left one, high along
the tightrope of tattered
lace and the pale ridgeline

that leads this wanderer
from vertical curled hip
to hollowed pool below:
Fingertips brush, press, and root

through plexus of treasure.
When I was a young girl
I rode an expensive
Selle Francais on expensive

English saddles. I loved
the proper sit and post;
best of all the country
canter, to see withers

damp, the steady heavy
muscles transform to liquid
ripples, shivers of nerve
and heat. Cruel girlish gaze:

Capture is a wonder
both wicked and desired.
The sweet hand’s guiding drape
leaves in its wake a scroll

lavish, long, thin: imprint
of a quill, black ink scrapes
knee to toe, back again.
Each touch a stain of pleasure –