Ulysses the Cat

Lupercalia, Poetry

Stretched in the sunlight

crowning Calypso’s shore

the big cat dozed,

small blue crabs drown

in a capsized silver urn, cream

filled and slopping beside him.

Why long for plump

tuna steak and cheesecake

crumbs when Apollo

scratches behind your ears

and no storm clouds

threaten tender olive saplings

with shaking? That

rural, stone hearth

plucked from the heart

of the hill your paws pounded

daily is miles away.

Waves lick gingerly

against the pebbly shore

the lambent royal blue of

Penelope’s summer dress.

He is still listless as

he is lifted up by

roughened driftwood hands

and tossed back into the sea.

Things Tourists Love

Lupercalia, Poetry

1. The city went dark, bruised. First pale green at the edges then purple with spots of red where blood burst from the capillary confine and then darker, the black of abused flesh. Flesh left alive to suffer more.

2. We danced in the dust under bare boughs, between the bony cypress knees.

3. Fear is a kind of god, maybe even the oldest god. Fear can make of us one tasty meal despite all the hard work our parents put into the lies they whispered over our cribs about the terrible state of our bodies to gods who only want to eat the most beautiful of children.

4. Some people think vultures are overindulgent. I think they’re just really, really hungry. Their wings choke the sky, fill the atmosphere with feathers but their bellies are never full. One day they’ll eat the world.

5. A voice from the hollow, bound to fingertips of those who reach through the air and feel for what is hiding there.

6. The sunset is beautiful like a jellyfish is beautiful and it kills everything it touches, slowly, with diaphanous, poisonous rays that float through the sky like arms extending for a cruel embrace.

The Factories, Margaret Widdemer, 1917

A Commonplace Book

I have shut my little sister in from life and light
   (For a rose, for a ribbon, for a wreath across my hair),
I have made her restless feet still until the night,
   Locked from sweets of summer and from wild spring air;
I who ranged the meadowlands, free from sun to sun,
   Free to sing and pull the buds and watch the far wings fly,
I have bound my sister till her playing-time was done—

She Goes Away

Lupercalia, Poetry

Mothers who love their children take them along.—Maxine Hong Kingston, Woman Warrior

When my mother goes away

she visits men in cages;

she has always known

the words:

revolutionary,

dissident,

are synonymous depending

on who locks the gate.

When my mother goes away

she takes me with her

sometimes and we walk

along the causeway,

looking for gates.

Childhood’s Index

Lupercalia, Poetry

She always laughed when we caught fire.

She killed a baby bird with a sprig of holly and a cement block.

She was my best friend.

He was my first love.

He was afraid of the things I wasn’t.

He threatened to kill my rat.

She hated me but forgot who I was.

She asked me where I’d been in that way that wasn’t asking.

No one wanted me to be friends with her.

He also forgot about me.

He had nice socks.

She came and went and came and went.

She was the only person who always listened.

He wanted to die before making life better.

He died before I could ask him out.

He was the only person who asked me if I was okay.

She didn’t like the way I did things.

He always scared me.

She was the only one who read my poetry.

He didn’t make fun of my favorite movie.

He thought I would like something that I didn’t but at least he thought of me.

He learned how to hate me.

She made fun of my hair.

He played the cello and wanted her to buy him cigarettes. (I wanted to give him mine but he never asked me.)

He survived cancer.

I don’t know if he’s still alive.

She was jealous of everyone.

He went away.

He didn’t know I could speak.

He kept poking me but couldn’t make me cry.

She could spike a mean volleyball.

She lied to me.

She said I was a liar.

She believed I was going to kill someone.

He took “no” way too personally.

He led her on. She never suspected.

She let her parents push her around.

She didn’t escape.

She didn’t get Dylan Thomas.

She said poetry was way over her head.

She ate a flower.

He made me cry.

She could never quit smoking.

He slammed my hand in a steel door.

His best friend could do no wrong.

He let me play with spray paint. After he grew up he was embarrassed.

He waited for me.

She hated her body.

She didn’t look like her mother.

She didn’t know how beautiful she was.

He wanted to go home.

She cried all night, every night.

She hated herself more than the people who hated her.

He hated the cold.

She was born on the same day as the city.

She had bad luck.

She thought all rooftops should have swimming pools.

She had a voice like coffee and cigarettes.

He had a voice like broken windows.

She said she liked the look the sharks gave her when they cut through uncharted waters.

He was an officer who knew how to bleed alongside everyone.

He looked for things he could never find.

She looked at me and smiled.

She made hunting noises.

He slept loudly.

She felt alone all the time.