The Sonnet of Winter
And now, looking at the snow, how deep
it had driven from just a drop or two
of water, she could see her words
drifting, their white sorrow
multiplying like moisture sent from the south,
sliding up and over the Arctic front,
everything she remembered as warm
and passionate falling into a colder air,
becoming so white and dense that she
could no longer see her way to flood
or April, but only the next white pile of pages:
the blinding sleet, the weeks of dim snow,
the whole continent thick as a mirror,
and on the west coast, the quaking.
The Hospital Sonnet
He had begun to think of her as a nude
between two landscapes, the curve of her foot
repeating the curve of the shore, and her gray thigh,
the reiteration of rain. Each convolution brought day
without daybreak, the lake drained of boats, the field
without lambs. Someone had propped dry flowers
against the window. What had he called himself
before she bent to lace her sandals, before
she embroidered his shirt? Always she had risen
before him so that he would not see her hair uncombed.
Now, the thin eyelashes, the pencilled heart.
Did she remember her delicate shame? Lying on her side,
like this, she was letting the robe fall fallow
from her hips, her face fade beyond his name.
The Inuits have their word—
a woman wrapped in chenille
screaming obscenities at suburban boys,
her bedspread opening like a revelation
of flamingos, convenience stores
and tennis courts settling in for the nights.
We have watched her in our own streets,
so let there be no more confessions.
Cut loose the shamans from their walrus-hide.
In harsh lands half is always hidden,
and a woman can grow sick of her body
and rush naked into the wind,
there will be someone to comfort her,
someone to follow her into the cold,
someone to turn her back.
Somehow we have wandered too far south,
and what I remember I do not know
how to pronounce or how to explain,
but I want to go back to that cold summer
in the black mountains, the glacier
where you slept so easily in your padded sack.
I want to hear your breath unraveling
as it did there, the warm thread
from the lungs of a snowy owl.
How many degrees must we lose to see
the caribou moving across the meadows
like smoke in a snowstorm?
You read me as I have read others
opening the book to part of a sentence,
picking a word or two.
Phone Call to Indonesia
Some things need words we can not guess:
the winter oak cupping a little street light
in the long fingers of a woman
though there have been men
with slender hands that drop
leaves to basket candles;
the wind twisting like a wrestler
who must breathe through his teeth;
our son, his mouth mashed to the hard blue mat.
We have tried to call him in Jakarta,
they say he can not come to the phone,
they say he is sleeping, they can not wake him.
the next day they say he has never been at this hotel,
and when he calls at 9:13 Sunday, from the embassy,
he can not explain, he has been so long waiting.
Phantoum of Betrayal
A thousand white magnolias sleep
in the moon-eyed courtyard of your thigh
and I dream a field of floating thistle
and the wild finch that eats my name.
In the moon-eyed courtyard of your thigh
the white cat curls around her milk
and the wild finch that eats my name
begins to build her silver nest.
The white cat curls around her milk
and in the bowl of my desire
begins to build her silver nest
and sing of parasols with silky claws,
and in the bowl of my desire
a thousand white magnolias sleep
and I sing of parasols with silky claws
and dream a field of floating thistle.