The Bustle in a HouseThe Morning after DeathIs solemnest of industriesEnacted opon Earth –The Sweeping up the HeartAnd putting Love awayWe shall not want to use againUntil Eternity –
"We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That, in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness,
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines”
-excerpt from A Brave and Startling Truth by Maya Angelou, read by the poet at the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations (San Francisco, 26 June 1995)
(1) The vulnerability of their legs
(2) The innocence of their bare chests
It will not happen the first time you forgive him.
Or the second. Or the third. It will not happen the fourth time
you break down in public. When a wine glass is broken
at a dinner party and you leave without saying goodbye.
When a car door is slammed across the empty parking lot
and you have the undeniable urge to call him. Tell him you miss him.
It will not happen when you write this poem. When you finally
claim what happened to you as if it was a child
you abandoned when you were too young to know better.
Say it: abuse survivor. Abuse survivor. You will never
want to say it. Why give your love such a dirty name?
It will happen when you try, so foolishly, to love another.
To crawl naked into their lap like a blind child:
this doe-eyed heart you found in the garden.
Each night, you will try so hard to touch their face.
Your fingers will shake. You will be crying and you will not
know why and it’s not their fault. It’s not their fault.
It’s not their fault they are an un-swung axe.
“A lush-bodied girl in the prime of her physical beauty. In an ivory georgette-crepe sundress with a halter top that gathers her breasts up in soft undulating folds of the fabric. She’s standing with bare legs apart on a New York subway grating. Her blond head is thrown rapturously back as an updraft lifts her full, flaring skirt, exposing white cotton panties. White cotton! The ivory-crepe sundress is floating and filmy as magic. The dress is magic. Without the dress the girl would be female meat, raw and exposed.
She’s not thinking such a thought! Not her.
She’s an American girl healthy and clean as a Band-Aid. She’s never had a soiled or a sulky thought. She’s never had a melancholy thought. She’s never had a savage thought. She’s never had a desperate thought. She’s never had an un-American thought. In the papery-thin sundress she’s a nurse with tender hands. A nurse with luscious mouth. Sturdy thighs, bountiful breasts, tiny folds of baby fat at her armpits. She’s laughing and squealing like a four year-old as another updraft lifts her skirt. Dimpled knees, a dancer’s strong legs. This husky healthy girl. The shoulders, arms, breasts belong to a fully mature woman but the face is a girl’s face. Shivering in New York City mid-summer as subway steam lifts her skirt like a lover’s quickened breath.
It’s nighttime in Manhattan, Lexington Avenue at 51st Street. Yet the white-white lights exude the heat of midday. The goddess of love has been standing like this, legs apart, in spike-heeled white sandals so steep and so tight they’ve permanently disfigured her smallest toes, for hours. She’s been squealing and laughing, her mouth aches. There’s a gathering pool of darkness at the back of her head like tarry water. Her scalp and her pubis burn from the morning’s peroxide applications. The Girl with No Name. The glaring-white lights focus upon her, upon her alone, blond squealing, blond laughter, blond Venus, blond insomnia, blond smooth-shaven legs apart and blond hands fluttering in a futile effort to keep her skirt from lifting to reveal white cotton American-girl panties and the shadow, just the shadow, of the bleached crotch.
Now she’s hugging herself beneath her big bountiful breasts. Her eyelids fluttering. Between the legs, you can trust she’s clean. She’s not a dirty girl, nothing foreign or exotic. She’s an American slash in the flesh. That emptiness. Guaranteed. She’s been scooped out, drained clean, no scar tissue to interfere with your pleasure, and no odor. Especially no odor. The Girl with No Name, the girl with no memory. She has not lived long and she will not live long.”
― Joyce Carol Oates, Blonde
For madness is seductive, sexy. Female madness.
So long as the female is reasonably young and attractive.
— excerpt from Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates
Amir Safi, “Brown Boy. White House”
After whose stroke the wood rings,
And the echoes!
Off from the center like horses.
Wells like tears, like the
To re-establish its mirror
Over the rock
That drops and turns,
A white skull,
Eaten by weedy greens.
Years later I
Encounter them on the road—
Words dry and riderless,
The indefatigable hoof taps.
From the bottom of the pool, fixed stars
Govern a life.