poem index

Identity?

Identity?
next
Blues
Elizabeth Alexander, 1962
I am lazy, the laziest
girl in the world. I sleep during
the day when I want to, 'til
my face is creased and swollen,
'til my lips are dry and hot. I 
eat as I please: cookies and milk
after lunch, butter and sour cream
on my baked potato, foods that
slothful people eat, that turn
yellow and opaque beneath the skin.
Sometimes come dinnertime Sunday
I am still in my nightgown, the one
with the lace trim listing because
I have not mended it. Many days
I do not exercise, only
consider it, then rub my curdy
belly and lie down. Even
my poems are lazy. I use
syllabics instead of iambs,
prefer slant to the gong of full rhyme,
write briefly while others go
for pages. And yesterday,
for example, I did not work at all!
I got in my car and I drove 
to factory outlet stores, purchased
stockings and panties and socks
with my father's money.

To think, in childhood I missed only
one day of school per year. I went
to ballet class four days a week
at four-forty-five and on
Saturdays, beginning always
with plie, ending with curtsy.
To think, I knew only industry,
the industry of my race
and of immigrants, the radio
tuned always to the station
that said, Line up your summer
job months in advance. Work hard
and do not shame your family,
who worked hard to give you what you have.
There is no sin but sloth. Burn
to a wick and keep moving.

I avoided sleep for years,
up at night replaying 
evening news stories about
nearby jailbreaks, fat people
who ate fried chicken and woke up
dead. In sleep I am looking
for poems in the shape of open
V's of birds flying in formation,
or open arms saying, I forgive you, all.
Identity?
next
The Legend
Garrett Hongo, 1951

In memory of Jay Kashiwamura

In Chicago, it is snowing softly
and a man has just done his wash for the week.
He steps into the twilight of early evening,
carrying a wrinkled shopping bag
full of neatly folded clothes,
and, for a moment, enjoys
the feel of warm laundry and crinkled paper,
flannellike against his gloveless hands.
There's a Rembrandt glow on his face, 
a triangle of orange in the hollow of his cheek
as a last flash of sunset
blazes the storefronts and lit windows of the street.

He is Asian, Thai or Vietnamese,
and very skinny, dressed as one of the poor
in rumpled suit pants and a plaid mackinaw,
dingy and too large.
He negotiates the slick of ice
on the sidewalk by his car,
opens the Fairlane's back door,
leans to place the laundry in,
and turns, for an instant,
toward the flurry of footsteps
and cries of pedestrians
as a boy--that's all he was--
backs from the corner package store
shooting a pistol, firing it,
once, at the dumbfounded man
who falls forward,
grabbing at his chest.

A few sounds escape from his mouth,
a babbling no one understands
as people surround him
bewildered at his speech.
The noises he makes are nothing to them.
The boy has gone, lost
in the light array of foot traffic
dappling the snow with fresh prints.

Tonight, I read about Descartes'
grand courage to doubt everything
except his own miraculous existence
and I feel so distinct
from the wounded man lying on the concrete
I am ashamed

Let the night sky cover him as he dies.
Let the weaver girl cross the bridge of heaven
and take up his cold hands.
Identity?
next
The Cleaving
Li-Young Lee, 1957
He gossips like my grandmother, this man
with my face, and I could stand
amused all afternoon
in the Hon Kee Grocery,
amid hanging meats he
chops: roast pork cut
from a hog hung
by nose and shoulders,
her entire skin burnt
crisp, flesh I know
to be sweet,
her shining
face grinning
up at ducks
dangling single file,
each pierced by black
hooks through breast, bill,
and steaming from a hole
stitched shut at the ass,
I step to the counter, recite,
and he, without even slightly
varying the rhythm of his current confession or harangue,
scribbles my order on a greasy receipt,
and chops it up quick.

Such a sorrowful Chinese face,
nomad, Gobi, Northern
in its boniness
clear from the high
warlike forehead
to the sheer edge of the jaw.
He could be my brother, but finer,
and, except for his left forearm, which is engorged,
sinewy from his daily grip and
wield of a two-pound tool,
he's delicate, narrow-
waisted, his frame
so slight a lover, some
rough other
might break it down
its smooth, oily length.
In his light-handed calligraphy
on receipts and in his
moodiness, he is
a Southerner from a river-province;
suited for scholarship, his face poised
above an open book, he'd mumble
his favorite passages.
He could be my grandfather;
come to America to get a Western education
in 1917, but too homesick to study,
he sits in the park all day, reading poems
and writing letters to his mother.

He lops the head off, chops
the neck of the duck
into six, slits
the body
open, groin
to breast, and drains
the scalding juices,
then quarters the carcass
with two fast hacks of the cleaver,
old blade that has worn
into the surface of the round
foot-thick chop-block
a scoop that cradles precisely the curved steel.

The head, flung from the body, opens
down the middle where the butcher
cleanly halved it between
the eyes, and I
see, foetal-crouched
inside the skull, the homunculus,
gray brain grainy
to eat.
Did this animal, after all, at the moment
its neck broke,
image the way his executioner 
shrinks from his own death?
Is this how
I, too, recoil from my day?
See how this shape
hordes itself, see how
little it is.
See its grease on the blade.
Is this how I'll be found
when judgement is passed, when names
are called, when crimes are tallied?
This is also how I looked before I tore my mother open.
Is this how I presided over my century, is this how
I regarded the murders?
This is also how I prayed.
Was it me in the Other
I prayed to when I prayed?
This too was how I slept, clutching my wife.
Was it me in the other I loved
when I loved another?
The butcher sees me eye this delicacy.
With a finger, he picks it
out of the skull-cradle
and offers it to me.
I take it gingerly between my fingers
and suck it down.
I eat my man.

The noise the body makes
when the body meets
the soul over the soul's ocean and penumbra
is the old sound of up-and-down, in-and-out,
a lump of muscle chug-chugging blood
into the ear; a lover's
heart-shaped tongue;
flesh rocking flesh until flesh comes;
the butcher working
at his block and blade to marry their shapes
by violence and time;
an engine crossing,
re-crossing salt water, hauling
immigrants and the junk
of the poor. These
are the faces I love, the bodies
and scents of bodies 
for which I long
in various ways, at various times,
thirteen gathered around the redwood,
happy, talkative, voracious
at day's end,
eager to eat
four kinds of meat
prepared four different ways,
numerous plates and bowls of rice and vegetables,
each made by distinct affections
and brought to table by many hands.

Brothers and sisters by blood and design,
who sit in separate bodies of varied shapes,
we constitute a many-membered
body of love.
In a world of shapes
of my desires, each one here
is a shape of one of my desires, and each
is known to me and dear by virtue
of each one's unique corruption
of those texts, the face, the body:
that jut jaw
to gnash tendon;
that wide nose to meet the blows
a face like that invites;
those long eyes closing on the seen;
those thick lips
to suck the meat of animals
or recite 300 poems of the T'ang;
these teeth to bite my monosyllables;
these cheekbones to make
those syllables sing the soul.
Puffed or sunken
according to the life,
dark or light according
to the birth, straight
or humped, whole, manqué, quasi, each pleases, verging
on utter grotesquery.
All are beautiful by variety.
The soul too
is a debasement
of a text, but, thus, it
acquires salience, although a 
human salience, but
inimitable, and, hence, memorable.
God is the text.
The soul is a corruption
and a mnemonic.

A bright moment,
I hold up an old head
from the sea and admire the haughty
down-curved mouth
that seems to disdain
all the eyes are blind to,
including me, the eater.
Whole unto itself, complete
without me, yet its
shape complements the shape of my mind.
I take it as text and evidence
of the world's love for me,
and I feel urged to utterance,
urged to read the body of the world, urged
to say it
in human terms,
my reading a kind of eating, my eating
a kind of reading,
my saying a diminishment, my noise
a love-in-answer.
What is it in me would 
devour the world to utter it?
What is it in me will not let
the world be, would eat
not just this fish,
but the one who killed it,
the butcher who cleaned it.
I would eat the way he
squats, the way he
reaches into the plastic tubs
and pulls out a fish, clubs it, takes it
to the sink, guts it, drops it on the weighing pan.
I would eat that thrash
and plunge of the watery body
in the water, that liquid violence
between the man's hands,
I would eat 
the gutless twitching on the scales,
three pounds of dumb
nerve and pulse, I would eat it all
to utter it.
The deaths at the sinks, those bodies prepared
for eating, I would eat,
and the standing deaths
at the counters, in the aisles,
the walking deaths in the streets,
the death-far-from-home, the death-
in-a-strange-land, these Chinatown
deaths, these American deaths.
I would devour this race to sing it,
this race that according to Emerson
managed to preserve to a hair
for three or four thousand years
the ugliest features in the world.
I would eat these features, eat
the last three or four thousand years, every hair.
And I would eat Emerson, his transparent soul, his
soporific transcendence.
I would eat this head,
glazed in pepper-speckled sauce,
the cooked eyes opaque in their sockets.
I bring it to my mouth and--
the way I was taught, the way I've watched 
others before me do--
with a stiff tongue lick out
the cheek-meat and the meat
over the armored jaw, my eating,
its sensual, salient nowness,
punctuating the void
from which such hunger springs and to which it proceeds.

And what
is this
I excavate
with my mouth?
What is this
plated, ribbed, hinged
architecture, this carp head,
but one more
articulation of a single nothing
severally manifested?
What is my eating,
rapt as it is,
but another
shape of going,
my immaculate expiration?

O, nothing is so
steadfast it won't go
the way the body goes.
The body goes.
The body's grave,
so serious
in its dying,
arduous as martyrs
in that task and as
glorious. It goes
empty always
and announces its going
by spasms and groans, farts and sweats.

What I thought were the arms 
aching cleave, were the knees trembling leave.
What I thought were the muscles
insisting resist, persist, exist,
were the pores
hissing mist and waste.
What I thought was the body humming reside, reside,
was the body sighing revise, revise.
O, the murderous deletions, the keening
down to nothing, the cleaving.
All of the body's revisions end
in death.
All of the body's revisions end.

Bodies eating bodies, heads eating heads,
we are nothing eating nothing,
and though we feast,
are filled, overfilled,
we go famished.
We gang the doors of death.
That is, out deaths are fed
that we may continue our daily dying,
our bodies going
down, while the plates-soon-empty
are passed around, that true
direction of our true prayers,
while the butcher spells
his message, manifold,
in the mortal air.
He coaxes, cleaves, brings change
before our very eyes, and at every
moment of our being.
As we eat we're eaten.
Else what is this
violence, this salt, this
passion, this heaven?

I thought the soul an airy thing.
I did not know the soul
is cleaved so that the soul might be restored.
Live wood hewn,
its sap springs from a sticky wound.
No seed, no egg has he
whose business calls for an axe.
In the trade of my soul's shaping,
he traffics in hews and hacks.

No easy thing, violence.
One of its names? Change. Change
resides in the embrace
of the effaced and the effacer,
in the covenant of the opened and the opener;
the axe accomplishes it on the soul's axis.
What then may I do 
but cleave to what cleaves me.
I kiss the blade and eat my meat.
I thank the wielder and receive,
while terror spirits
my change, sorrow also.
The terror the butcher
scripts in the unhealed
air, the sorrow of his Shang
dynasty face,
African face with slit eyes. He is
my sister, this
beautiful Bedouin, this Shulamite,
keeper of sabbaths, diviner
of holy texts, this dark
dancer, this Jew, this Asian, this one
with the Cambodian face, Vietnamese face, this Chinese
I daily face,
this immigrant,
this man with my own face.
Identity?
next
Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100
Martín Espada, 1957

for the 43 members of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 100, working at the Windows on the World restaurant, who lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Center

Alabanza. Praise the cook with the shaven head
and a tattoo on his shoulder that said Oye,
a blue-eyed Puerto Rican with people from Fajardo,
the harbor of pirates centuries ago.
Praise the lighthouse in Fajardo, candle
glimmering white to worship the dark saint of the sea.
Alabanza. Praise the cook's yellow Pirates cap
worn in the name of Roberto Clemente, his plane
that flamed into the ocean loaded with cans for Nicaragua,
for all the mouths chewing the ash of earthquakes.
Alabanza. Praise the kitchen radio, dial clicked
even before the dial on the oven, so that music and Spanish
rose before bread. Praise the bread. Alabanza.

Praise Manhattan from a hundred and seven flights up,
like Atlantis glimpsed through the windows of an ancient aquarium.
Praise the great windows where immigrants from the kitchen
could squint and almost see their world, hear the chant of nations:
Ecuador, México, Republica Dominicana, 
Haiti, Yemen, Ghana, Bangladesh.
Alabanza. Praise the kitchen in the morning,
where the gas burned blue on every stove
and exhaust fans fired their diminutive propellers,
hands cracked eggs with quick thumbs
or sliced open cartons to build an altar of cans.
Alabanza. Praise the busboy's music, the chime-chime
of his dishes and silverware in the tub.
Alabanza. Praise the dish-dog, the dishwasher
who worked that morning because another dishwasher 
could not stop coughing, or because he needed overtime
to pile the sacks of rice and beans for a family
floating away on some Caribbean island plagued by frogs.
Alabanza. Praise the waitress who heard the radio in the kitchen
and sang to herself about a man gone. Alabanza.

After the thunder wilder than thunder,
after the booming ice storm of glass from the great windows,
after the radio stopped singing like a tree full of terrified frogs,
after night burst the dam of day and flooded the kitchen,
for a time the stoves glowed in darkness like the lighthouse in
Fajardo,
like a cook's soul. Soul I say, even if the dead cannot tell us
about the bristles of God's beard because God has no face,
soul I say, to name the smoke-beings flung in constellations
across the night sky of this city and cities to come.
Alabanza I say, even if God has no face.

Alabanza. When the war began, from Manhattan to Kabul
two constellations of smoke rose and drifted to each other,
mingling in icy air, and one said with an Afghan tongue:
Teach me to dance. We have no music here.
And the other said with a Spanish tongue:
I will teach you. Music is all we have.
Identity?
next
Tanka Diary [Don't need picket fences, brick wall]
Harryette Mullen, 1953
Don't need picket fences, brick wall, 

or razor wire. Our home's protected by 

prickly pear cactus and thorny bougainvillea.


*

Native or not, you're welcome in our gardens. 

Lavender's dress is not so vibrant as your 

green trousers and purple velour sleeves.
Identity?
next
Believing in Iron
Yusef Komunyakaa, 1947

The hills my brothers & I created
Never balanced, & it took years
To discover how the world worked.
We could look at a tree of blackbirds
& tell you how many were there,
But with the scrap dealer
Our math was always off.
Weeks of lifting & grunting
Never added up to much,
But we couldn't stop
Believing in iron.
Abandoned trucks & cars
Were held to the ground
By thick, nostalgic fingers of vines
Strong as a dozen sharecroppers.
We'd return with our wheelbarrow
Groaning under a new load, 
Yet tiger lilies lived better
In their languid, August domain.
Among paper & Coke bottles
Foundry smoke erased sunsets,
& we couldn't believe iron
Left men bent so close to the earth
As if the ore under their breath
Weighed down the gray sky.
Sometimes I dreamt how our hills
Washed into a sea of metal,
How it all became an anchor
For a warship or bomber
Out over trees with blooms
Too red to look at.
Identity?
next
The Day I Saw Barack Obama Reading Derek Walcott's Collected Poems
Yusef Komunyakaa, 1947
Was he looking for St. Lucia's light
to touch his face those first days 
in the official November snow & sleet 
falling on the granite pose of Lincoln?
 
If he were searching for property lines
drawn in the blood, or for a hint
of resolve crisscrossing a border,
maybe he'd find clues in the taste of breadfruit.
 
I could see him stopped there squinting
in crooked light, the haze of Wall Street
touching clouds of double consciousness,
an eye etched into a sign borrowed from Egypt.

If he's looking for tips on basketball,
how to rise up & guard the hoop,
he may glean a few theories about war   
but they aren't in The Star-Apple Kingdom.

If he wants to finally master himself,
searching for clues to govern seagulls
in salty air, he'll find henchmen busy with locks
& chains in a ghost schooner's nocturnal calm.

He's reading someone who won't speak
of milk & honey, but of looking ahead
beyond pillars of salt raised in a dream
where fat bulbs split open the earth.

The spine of the manifest was broken,
leaking deeds, songs & testaments.
Justice stood in the shoes of mercy,
& doubt was bandaged up & put to bed.

Now, he looks as if he wants to eat words,
their sweet, intoxicating flavor. Banana leaf
& animal, being & nonbeing. In fact, 
craving wisdom, he bites into memory.  

The President of the United States of America
thumbs the pages slowly, moving from reverie
to reverie, learning why one envies the octopus
for its ink, how a man's skin becomes the final page.
Identity?
next
How I Got That Name
Marilyn Chin

an essay on assimilation


I am Marilyn Mei Ling Chin
Oh, how I love the resoluteness
of that first person singular
followed by that stalwart indicative
of "be," without the uncertain i-n-g
of "becoming."  Of course,
the name had been changed
somewhere between Angel Island and the sea,
when my father the paperson
in the late 1950s
obsessed with a bombshell blond
transliterated "Mei Ling" to "Marilyn."
And nobody dared question
his initial impulse—for we all know
lust drove men to greatness,
not goodness, not decency.
And there I was, a wayward pink baby,
named after some tragic white woman
swollen with gin and Nembutal.
My mother couldn't pronounce the "r."
She dubbed me "Numba one female offshoot"
for brevity: henceforth, she will live and die
in sublime ignorance, flanked
by loving children and the "kitchen deity."
While my father dithers,
a tomcat in Hong Kong trash—
a gambler, a petty thug,
who bought a chain of chopsuey joints
in Piss River, Oregon,
with bootlegged Gucci cash.
Nobody dared question his integrity given
his nice, devout daughters
and his bright, industrious sons
as if filial piety were the standard
by which all earthly men are measured.

*

Oh, how trustworthy our daughters,
how thrifty our sons!
How we've managed to fool the experts
in education, statistic and demography—
We're not very creative but not adverse to rote-learning.
Indeed, they can use us.
But the "Model Minority" is a tease.
We know you are watching now,
so we refuse to give you any!
Oh, bamboo shoots, bamboo shoots!
The further west we go, we'll hit east;
the deeper down we dig, we'll find China.
History has turned its stomach
on a black polluted beach—
where life doesn't hinge
on that red, red wheelbarrow,
but whether or not our new lover
in the final episode of "Santa Barbara"
will lean over a scented candle
and call us a "bitch."
Oh God, where have we gone wrong?
We have no inner resources!

*

Then, one redolent spring morning
the Great Patriarch Chin
peered down from his kiosk in heaven
and saw that his descendants were ugly.
One had a squarish head and a nose without a bridge
Another's profile—long and knobbed as a gourd.
A third, the sad, brutish one
may never, never marry.
And I, his least favorite—
"not quite boiled, not quite cooked,"
a plump pomfret simmering in my juices—
too listless to fight for my people's destiny.
"To kill without resistance is not slaughter"
says the proverb.  So, I wait for imminent death.
The fact that this death is also metaphorical
is testament to my lethargy.

*

So here lies Marilyn Mei Ling Chin,
married once, twice to so-and-so, a Lee and a Wong,
granddaughter of Jack "the patriarch"
and the brooding Suilin Fong,
daughter of the virtuous Yuet Kuen Wong
and G.G. Chin the infamous,
sister of a dozen, cousin of a million,
survived by everbody and forgotten by all.
She was neither black nor white,
neither cherished nor vanquished,
just another squatter in her own bamboo grove
minding her poetry—
when one day heaven was unmerciful,
and a chasm opened where she stood.
Like the jowls of a mighty white whale,
or the jaws of a metaphysical Godzilla,
it swallowed her whole.
She did not flinch nor writhe,
nor fret about the afterlife,
but stayed!  Solid as wood, happily
a little gnawed, tattered, mesmerized
by all that was lavished upon her
and all that was taken away!
Identity?
next
Central Park, Carousel
Meena Alexander, 1951
June already, it's your birth month,
nine months since the towers fell.
I set olive twigs in my hair
torn from a tree in Central Park,
I ride a painted horse, its mane a sullen wonder.
You are behind me on a lilting mare.
You whisper--What of happiness?
Dukham, Federico. Smoke fills my eyes.
Young, I was raised to a sorrow song
short fires and stubble on a monsoon coast.
The leaves in your cap are very green.
The eyes of your mare never close.
Somewhere you wrote: Despedida.
If I die leave the balcony open!
Identity?
next
Blood
Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952
"A true Arab knows how to catch a fly in his hands,"
my father would say. And he'd prove it,
cupping the buzzer instantly
while the host with the swatter stared.

In the spring our palms peeled like snakes.
True Arabs believed watermelon could heal fifty ways.
I changed these to fit the occasion.

Years before, a girl knocked,
wanted to see the Arab.
I said we didn't have one. 
After that, my father told me who he was,
"Shihab"—"shooting star"—
a good name, borrowed from the sky.
Once I said, "When we die, we give it back?"
He said that's what a true Arab would say.

Today the headlines clot in my blood.
A little Palestinian dangles a toy truck on the front page. 
Homeless fig, this tragedy with a terrible root
is too big for us. What flag can we wave?
I wave the flag of stone and seed,
table mat stitched in blue.

I call my father, we talk around the news.
It is too much for him,
neither of his two languages can reach it.
I drive into the country to find sheep, cows,
to plead with the air: 
Who calls anyone civilized?
Where can the crying heart graze?
What does a true Arab do now?
Identity?
next
Kaddish, Part I
Allen Ginsberg, 1926 - 1997

For Naomi Ginsberg, 1894-1956

Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk on
   the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village.
downtown Manhattan, clear winter noon, and I've been up all night, talking,
   talking, reading the Kaddish aloud, listening to Ray Charles blues
   shout blind on the phonograph
the rhythm the rhythm--and your memory in my head three years after--
   And read Adonais' last triumphant stanzas aloud--wept, realizing
   how we suffer--
And how Death is that remedy all singers dream of, sing, remember,
   prophesy as in the Hebrew Anthem, or the Buddhist Book of An-
   swers--and my own imagination of a withered leaf--at dawn--
Dreaming back thru life, Your time--and mine accelerating toward Apoca-
   lypse,
the final moment--the flower burning in the Day--and what comes after, 
looking back on the mind itself that saw an American city
a flash away, and the great dream of Me or China, or you and a phantom
   Russia, or a crumpled bed that never existed--
like a poem in the dark--escaped back to Oblivion--
No more to say, and nothing to weep for but the Beings in the Dream,
   trapped in its disappearance,
sighing, screaming with it, buying and selling pieces of phantom, worship-
   ping each other,
worshipping the God included in it all--longing or inevitability?--while it
   lasts, a Vision--anything more?
It leaps about me, as I go out and walk the street, look back over my shoulder,
   Seventh Avenue, the battlements of window office buildings shoul-
   dering each other high, under a cloud, tall as the sky an instant--and
   the sky above--an old blue place.
or down the Avenue to the south, to--as I walk toward the Lower East Side
   --where you walked 50 years ago, little girl--from Russia, eating the
   first poisonous tomatoes of America frightened on the dock 
then struggling in the crowds of Orchard Street toward what?--toward
   Newark--
toward candy store, first home-made sodas of the century, hand-churned ice 
   cream in backroom on musty brownfloor boards--
Toward education marriage nervous breakdown, operation, teaching school,
   and learning to be mad, in a dream--what is this life?
Toward the Key in the window--and the great Key lays its head of light
   on top of Manhattan, and over the floor, and lays down on the
   sidewalk--in a single vast beam, moving, as I walk down First toward
   the Yiddish Theater--and the place of poverty
you knew, and I know, but without caring now--Strange to have moved
   thru Paterson, and the West, and Europe and here again,
with the cries of Spaniards now in the doorstops doors and dark boys on
   the street, fire escapes old as you
--Tho you're not old now, that's left here with me--
Myself, anyhow, maybe as old as the universe--and I guess that dies with
   us--enough to cancel all that comes--What came is gone forever
   every time--
That's good!  That leaves it open for no regret--no fear radiators, lacklove,
   torture even toothache in the end--
Though while it comes it is a lion that eats the soul--and the lamb, the soul,
   in us, alas, offering itself in sacrifice to change's fierce hunger--hair 
   and teeth--and the roar of bonepain, skull bare, break rib, rot-skin,
   braintricked Implacability.
Ai! ai!  we do worse! We are in a fix!  And you're out, Death let you out,
   Death had the Mercy, you're done with your century, done with 
   God, done with the path thru it--Done with yourself at last--Pure
   --Back to the Babe dark before your Father, before us all--before the
   world--
There, rest.  No more suffering for you.  I know where you've gone, it's good.
No more flowers in the summer fields of New York, no joy now, no more 
   fear of Louis,
and no more of his sweetness and glasses, his high school decades, debts,
   loves, frightened telephone calls, conception beds, relatives, hands--
No more of sister Elanor,--she gone before you--we kept it secret you
   killed her--or she killed herself to bear with you--an arthritic heart
   --But Death's killed you both--No matter--
Nor your memory of your mother, 1915 tears in silent movies weeks and
   weeks--forgetting, agrieve watching Marie Dressler address human-
   ity, Chaplin dance in youth,
or Boris Godunov, Chaliapin's at the Met, halling his voice of a weeping Czar
   --by standing room with Elanor & Max--watching also the Capital 
   ists take seats in Orchestra, white furs, diamonds,
with the YPSL's hitch-hiking thru Pennsylvania, in black baggy gym skirts
   pants, photograph of 4 girls holding each other round the waste, and
   laughing eye, too coy, virginal solitude of 1920
all girls grown old, or dead now, and that long hair in the grave--lucky to
   have husbands later--
You made it--I came too--Eugene my brother before (still grieving now and
   will gream on to his last stiff hand, as he goes thru his cancer--or kill
   --later perhaps--soon he will think--)
And it's the last moment I remember, which I see them all, thru myself, now
   --tho not you
I didn't foresee what you felt--what more hideous gape of bad mouth came 
   first--to you--and were you prepared?
To go where?  In that Dark--that--in that God? a radiance? A Lord in the 
   Void?  Like an eye in the black cloud in a dream?  Adonoi at last, with
   you?
Beyond my remembrance! Incapable to guess! Not merely the yellow skull
   in the grave, or a box of worm dust, and a stained ribbon--Deaths-
   head with Halo?  can you believe it?
Is it only the sun that shines once for the mind, only the flash of existence,
   than none ever was?
Nothing beyond what we have--what you had--that so pitiful--yet Tri-
   umph,
to have been here, and changed, like a tree, broken, or flower--fed to the 
   ground--but made, with its petals, colored, thinking Great Universe, 
   shaken, cut in the head, leaf stript, hid in an egg crate hospital, cloth
   wrapped, sore--freaked in the moon brain, Naughtless.
No flower like that flower, which knew itself in the garden, and fought the
   knife--lost
Cut down by an idiot Snowman's icy--even in the Spring--strange ghost 
   thought some--Death--Sharp icicle in his hand--crowned with old
   roses--a dog for his eyes--cock of a sweatshop--heart of electric
   irons.
All the accumulations of life, that wear us out--clocks, bodies, consciousness,
   shoes, breasts--begotten sons--your Communism--'Paranoia' into
   hospitals.
You once kicked Elanor in the leg, she died of heart failure later.  You of 
   stroke.  Asleep?  within a year, the two of you, sisters in death.  Is
   Elanor happy?
Max grieves alive in an office on Lower Broadway, lone large mustache over
   midnight Accountings, not sure.  His life passes--as he sees--and
   what does he doubt now?  Still dream of making money, or that might 
   have made money, hired nurse, had children, found even your Im-
   mortality, Naomi?
I'll see him soon.  Now I've got to cut through to talk to you as I didn't
   when you had a mouth.
Forever.  And we're bound for that, Forever like Emily Dickinson's horses
   --headed to the End.
They know the way--These Steeds--run faster than we think--it's our own
   life they cross--and take with them.

   Magnificent, mourned no more, marred of heart, mind behind, mar-
ried dreamed, mortal changed--Ass and face done with murder.
   In the world, given, flower maddened, made no Utopia, shut under
pine, almed in Earth, blamed in Lone, Jehovah, accept.
   Nameless, One Faced, Forever beyond me, beginningless, endless,
Father in death.  Tho I am not there for this Prophecy, I am unmarried, I'm
hymnless, I'm Heavenless, headless in blisshood I would still adore
   Thee, Heaven, after Death, only One blessed in Nothingness, not
light or darkness, Dayless Eternity--
   Take this, this Psalm, from me, burst from my hand in a day, some
of my Time, now given to Nothing--to praise Thee--But Death
   This is the end, the redemption from Wilderness, way for the Won-
derer, House sought for All, black handkerchief washed clean by weeping
--page beyond Psalm--Last change of mine and Naomi--to God's perfect
Darkness--Death, stay thy phantoms!

II
   Over and over--refrain--of the Hospitals--still haven't written your
history--leave it abstract--a few images
   run thru the mind--like the saxophone chorus of houses and years--
remembrance of electrical shocks.
   By long nites as a child in Paterson apartment, watching over your
nervousness--you were fat--your next move--
   By that afternoon I stayed home from school to take care of you--
once and for all--when I vowed forever that once man disagreed with my
opinion of the cosmos, I was lost--
   By my later burden--vow to illuminate mankind--this is release of
particulars--(mad as you)--(sanity a trick of agreement)--
   But you stared out the window on the Broadway Church corner, and
spied a mystical assassin from Newark,
   So phoned the Doctor--'OK go way for a rest'--so I put on my coat
and walked you downstreet--On the way a grammarschool boy screamed,
unaccountably--'Where you goin Lady to Death'? I shuddered--
   and you covered your nose with motheaten fur collar, gas mask
against poison sneaked into downtown atmosphere, sprayed by Grandma--
   And was the driver of the cheesebox Public Service bus a member of 
the gang?  You shuddered at his face, I could hardly get you on--to New
York, very Times Square, to grab another Greyhound--