Today I am fragile
insane and full of purpose.
I'm thinking of my lover:
my soft hips pressing his coarse belly,
my tongue on a salmon nipple,
his hand buried in my thick orange hair
the telephone ringing.
I'm thinking we tend our illnesses
as if they are our children:
demanding attention and twenty dollar bills,
hours we could have spent making love with the television on.
Faith is a series of calculations
made by an idiot savant.
I'm in love.
in this city of painted boxes
stacked like alphabet blocks
There are things I know:
trees don't sing
birds don't sprout leaves
roses bloom because that's what roses do,
whether we write poems for them
I concentrate on small things:
ivy threaded through chain link,
giveaway kittens huddled in a soggy cardboard box,
a fat man blowing a harmonica
through a beard of rusty wires
brown birds chattering furiously on power lines.
I try not to think about
lung cancer, AIDS,
the chemicals in the rain;
things I can't imagine any more than
a color I've never seen.
My heart is graffiti on the side of a subway train,
a shadow on the wall made by a child.
Nothing has been fair since my first skinned knee
I believe death
I cling to love as if it were an answer.
I go on buying eggs and bread,
boots and corsets,
knowing I'll burn out before the sun.
I'm thinking of
the days I tried to stay awake
while the billboards and TV ads
for condoms, microwave brownies, and dietetic jello
lulled me to sleep.
A brown-eyed girl once told me a secret
that should have blown this city
into a mass of unconnected atoms
Our sewage is piped to the sea.
Beggars in the street
are hated for having the nerve
to die in public.
Charity requires paperwork,
Relief requires medication
as if we were the afterthoughts of institutions
greater than our rage.
Gravity chains us to the asphalt with such grace
we think it is kind.
We all go on buying lottery tickets
Diet Coke and toothpaste
as if the sky over our heads
were the roof of a guilded cage.
We provide evidence that we were here:
initials cut into cracked vinyl bus seats,
into trees growing from squares
a name left on a stone, an office building,
a flower, a disease, a museum,
Tonight the stars glitter like rhinestones
on a black suede glove.
In the coffin my room has become,
I talk to God
about the infrequency of rain
about people who can't see the current gentleness
running under the pale crust of my skin.
I tell him under
the jackhammer crack, the diesel truck rumble,
even the clicking sound traffic lights make
switching from yellow to red,
there is a silence
every whisper made beside graves
or in the twisted white sheets of love.
I tell him I can't fill it
with dark wine, blue pills,
a pink candle lit at the altar
touching my hair.
God doesn't answer.
God doesn't know our names.
He's only the architect
designing the places we occupy
like high rise offices or ant hills
I know this
the way I know
sunrise and sunset
are caused by the endless turning
of the Earth.