darkening, brightening

At midnight I stretch flat on the wooden raft,
out on the lake by my father’s house.
It is August of 1999, the summer I begin to tie my hair back.
The boy says he adores the nape of my neck.
How lovely of him to use “adores” instead of “likes”.
The grass is warm to touch, kissed by the light from stars
that are already dead.
Surely nothing that beautiful could live long.
darkening, brightening,
sixteen winks and a tulip.
Most of the time I meditate on the dark waters.
The moon is my mother.
My mother is the moon.
White as cow’s milk, round as a breast,
lactating, and sagging over me in the bluest air.
And I am that baby fattened like a little buddha.
Flower buds bloom, bloom, bloom,
until moony milk turns sour.
I wear my mother’s white silk dress without a bra.
I dance across her retina like a bright ballerina.
Such is the ritual to perpetuate one’s youth,
the waiting through the hot where nothing has significance.
It’s funny and a little sad,
that no one notices me gone,
moused out of the great house without triumph.
In the family room Josephine is playing the piano,
my father’s out cold at the bottom of his bottle.
Daddy’s blue and mystic hours. Daddy’s lullaby. The the husk of the house
chases me down, down the lake,
now in sight, now hidden behind a yew tree.
Dark as an eye and terribly mad. Daddy, daddy,
is that you? Or has it always been my imagination?
How I would love to believe in tenderness.
How I would love to drift into the sea,
and let the lighthouse beam sweep over me.
Not even the light from my mother’s window could reach me then.
The white light emitted from her laburnum lamp that she never turns off,
not even in her blue-capsuled sleep, her lipstick
smearing onto her sheets like old menstrual blood.
Everybody is afraid of something. I have to tell someone
about this terrifying space inside me, like the closed hollow of a bell pepper.
I hardly know myself, elbows, knees, fingernails, and those echoes!
Listen, the season is changing soon.
The boy curls up against me in the afternoons.
I think I will love him for a while.
And I will always remember. The touch
of the thighs, the damp hair, and the soft fuzz on his upper lip.
darkening, brightening,
sixteen winks and a tulip.
The shine of dead stars sweeter than any kind of love.

 

Originally published on July 26, 2016 on my old blog.

Button

This morning he knows it is coming to an end,
this life of his hanging by a frayed thread.
He is closer to it each time
as he glides into his narrow slit, meekly
like the weary-kneed cattle plodding
into their stall at the end of day.

It’s everybody’s story,
the way his kind can go on for years
without a yearning, biding their time
in a dim closet, sleeping
among the printed lilacs on an old blouse
like the one he rests on right now,
waiting for what he already knows –
that one blissful morning, the hand
would come down, brush along
his still perfectly round edge
for a contemplative second,
and yank him free.

 

Originally published on July 21st, 2016 on my old blog. 

[Book Review] Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay

 

ross-gay-poetry

 

I wasn’t planning on writing a review on Ross Gay’s newest poetry collection Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. I finished it rather quickly and put it aside before moving on to other readings. However, for some strange reason, in the following few days, some of the poems kept coming back to me. Certain imageries – always in such vivid colors like the book cover – lingered on in my mind like the intense fragrance of summer roses.

In the poem Burial, which is also one of my favorite poems,  a young man plants a plum tree and scatters his father’s ashes into the roots.

and he dove in glad for the robust air / saddling a slight gust / into my nose and mouth / chuckling as I coughed / but mostly he disappeared / into the minor yawns in the earth / into which I places the trees / splaying wide their roots / casting the gray dust of my old man / evenly throughout the hotel /

And the final interpretive scene delivers such intense joy that transcends grief to something else – something hopeful; something truly beautiful. And I can’t help smiling while reading it.

almost dancing now in the plum / in the tree, they way he did as a person / bent over and biting his lip / and chucking the one hip out / then the other with his elbow cocked / and fists loosely made / and eyes closed and mouth made trumpet / when he knew he could make you happy / just by being a little silly / and sweet /

Such joyous celebration of life what drives this poetry collection into the pure magic that makes Ross’ poems stay with the readers for a long long time.

Another favorite of mine is Becoming a Horse. Words cannot express how much I adore this little gem. Our connection to animals, to nature, and to everything beyond our daily world is powerfully manifested in this short poem. It almost makes me envious of the amount of love and passion Ross has for LIFE.

It was dragging my hands along its belly / loosing the bit and wiping the spit / from its mouth made me / a snatch of grass in the thing’s maw / a fly tasting its ear. It was / touching my nose to his made me know / the clover’s bloom, my wet eye to his / made me know the long field’s secret / But it was putting my heart to the horse’s that made me know the sorrow of horses /

 

Reading Ross’ poems just makes me believe more in the power of poetry. I don’t think any other form of writing can grasp a certain feeling and shake it out of us as well as poetry can. Just like what Ross said in his poem Feet, there is no need for poets to explain what they are trying to do. Just show us the steady mumble and clank of machines in the little factory in your head!

I’m trying, I think, to forgive myself / for something I don’t know what / But what I do know is that I love the moment when the poet says / I am trying to do this / or I am trying to do that / Sometimes it’s a horseshit trick. But sometimes / it’s a way by which the poet says / I wish I could tell you / truly, of the little factory / in my head: the smokestacks / cuffing, the dandelions / and purslane and willows of sweet clover / prying through the blacktop / I wish I could tell you / how inside is the steady mumble and clank of machines/

rgay

Her Garden

She remembers how light the kisses once were
– all the ones she’s ever been given –
no more than butterflies at her mouth,
her wrists, her eyelids, her forehead,
and the back of her exposed knees.
Now there are moths at the window-screen
at dusk when she is weary of leaving her bed
to watch the last autumn leaf deserting
the wind-shaken poplar in her garden. Long ago
there was something in her, but now that thing is gone.
Gone are the boys of summer, buried
already in her plentiful lavender. Long ago
before all the kisses she was once just a moth girl
in her white slip on a cold summer night,
testing the fresh dews with one bare foot.
And she goes into her garden, where nothing is blooming;
she finds everything blooming.

 

Originally published on May 7th, 2016 on my old blog. 

Blush

It begins with a slight tremor, a rush
of wind stirring the undercurrent of
the unfathomable sea in her heart,
a rapid shift of tide perceptible
to no one but the beholder of love.
For a brief moment she tries to hide it
with downcast eyes, but this wave of rapture
boiling and swelling up inside her and
yielding to its expanding force at last
crashes down and spreads to shore, bringing her
seashells and a white horse, staining her cheeks
with the color of the precious corals.

 

Originally published on February 28th, 2016 on my old blog.