The White Queen

The White Queen

Comes the White Queen worrying
and hurrying to keep up and losing
her hairpins. Mind pieces slip
out of their sockets.

Because it is all held together
with hairpins —
the old kind, meant to be invisible?

And they were invisible.
I didn’t know they were there holding my mind together
until I started
to lose it.

Someone whose name I should remember
talks of the sweet dishevelment of love,
but this dishevelment is not sweet.

Or perhaps I am wrong,
perhaps I should

no, could, because one should speak
only in possibilities not rules

but where was I

I could perhaps experience
this dishevelment as sweet —
this mental coming apart

or opening up, which is a more
appealing concept —
the mind dropping hairpins
not in the process of falling
in chunks

but of opening up.
Light through the cracks.

So this dropping
off of things — of memory,
cleverness, concentration —

perhaps is not matter for grief
but sign of expansion.

If poetry cannot be made,
perhaps it will come in
as a gift.

Joy creating everything,
even this.

Even the White Queen,
silly and confused and showering
silver hairpins
so beautiful
and full of light.

Myopia in the Afternoon

Myopia in the Afternoon

What landscape is this? My flesh curving
over your bones, pectoral swell
under my cheek, darkness of tangled fur,
and beyond that, the wet

angled branch of a tree, and beyond that,
something white, something pale blue.
Call it tree and window,
sky and snow.

But what this is, so close at hand, I cannot say.
This landscape of pleasure, where we fit together
this way, that way, it seems is nothing
I know, knew, can know –

only the rise and fall of breath,
the slow shifting of light on flesh,
and what has been, and what will come to be,
and here between them,

Fat Time

Fat Time
Under purest ultramarine the raised
goblets of trees overrun with gold.
We should be reeling drunk and portly as groundhogs
through these windfalls of russet, citron, bronze, chartreuse.

Everywhere color pools like butter, like oil of ripe nuts,
like piles of oranges under a striped tent.

Oh, let us be greedy of eyeball,
pigs scuffling in this gorgeous swill!

Let us cud this day
and spend the winter ruminant.

Let us write fat poems, and be careless.

Let us go bumbling about in wonder, legs
coated with goldenrod and smelling of acorns.

Let us be unctuous with scarlet and marigold,
larder them here, behind our foreheads
to glow in the brain’s lamps
in the time of need.

Each tree a sun!
Let us throw away caution,
emblazon our retinas
with the flare and flame of it

so that in the unleavened winter
this vermilion spill, this skyfall,
these oils of tangerine, smears of ochre and maroon

will heat a spare poem, dazzle the eye’s window,
feed us like holy deer on the blank canvas of snow.

Wise to Cinderella

Wise to Cinderella
for Mary Brown

At five, we liked the same stories,
laughed at dissonance, were wise to Cinderella.

We dressed in women’s clothes, tried them on
for size. No tulle or glass slippers,
though we’d have gone for a spangle or two
had anything shiny been in the box.

You were Puss-In-Boots: skirts hiked up,
ready to swash buckles, to outsmart ogres –
a grin, a glint of blue eyes for steel,
one sturdy lace-up shoe toeing the bowsprit.

Cynicism took the starch out of me.
I was Rapunzel drooping in a kimono,
thinking how not to let down my hair and draw up
any more hangers-on. The joint was full already.

You went uptown. I went downhill,
and woke up with a jerk.
In the end we outsmarted an ogre or two,
lost our shirts (both stuffed and hair),

made our comebacks out of uniform.
Fifty years later, we grin at the camera –
swashing our buckles, laughing at dissonance.
No Cinderellas, just wiseacre heroines:

short on the spangles, but shining like stars.

Second Childhood

Second Childhood
for Lucille Clifton

Bless Lucille’s big hips!
And bless my own free-at-last hips!
Here they are dawdling
and not worrying one
bit about where they are
in relation
to anyone else.

You can look at me or not.
I am not saying anything personal anymore.

I am saying hips breasts belly legs feet
roots branches and big thick trunk
monkeys lithe and witty in the dawn trees
tigers shaking out oiled stripes of sun and shadow –

I say you can look at me or not.
I am busy dancing –
and fond
and fat as the fat old sun.