FIVE SONNETS BY JOHN REED 82 Twenty years, knock knock, and I’m without strings, while you, too, rattle your knobs down hallways. If hawseholes still linger, I don’t look for them. I don’t wonder, darling, about the hand, which waits, without a palm, without an other— no valence of clouds or eyes in the blue— mantled above what we can remember, above the dead side and our varnished pupils. But what if, what-if we, our cords untangled, quivered by our fetters, ensnared again? And the footlights kindled our wooden faces, and we tossed embraces to jointed limbs, suspended, while we clattered painted lips. 80 I knew we’d be seeing each other again. It looks like everyone else is here, too. All of us, once angels, who finally finished falling. We were so crazy about here and there, when the little difference was “always,” or the other eternity, “never.” Just listen to all of this childless laughter. Now we are gone, and here we can stay, you and I, who are you and I no more, who tore apart our daughters for the bears, who offered our sons to God, LOL, who are, we know, we’ve forgotten who, who are now outside of ourselves, without when. 78 (valentine) Momma, are there other wooden children? Momma, am I your only wooden child? The others, momma, are they more alive? Do the meat children offer you their hearts? Momma, you know I have no heart to give, but I have given you axes, and chainsaws, and I’ve said you could cut off my limbs, you could take me down to timbers, momma. Chop me down, momma, and I’ll give you my stars. Why momma, why, do I still have my sky? Oh momma cut me down, or I’ll grow wild. Momma cut me down, if you won’t come again, I have no love, I have no love for the wren. 9 (seventy) Seventy-seven ladies of sorrow, dear hearts, cruel hearts, broken hearts and true hearts, none of us saints, all of us hallowed, for all that we teased, and picked life apart, for all of our dreams, like flashes of dark, for all of our heaving, gone with a puff, for lipstick-rimmed crystal, greasy and stark, for ashtrays of filtered cigarettes, snuffed, for the little we took for far too much, we shall be inurned in chambers of want. For the youth we lost: be mingled in dust. Be one dying breath in a shell of conch. Seventy-seven, ladies of sorrow, farewell my loves, and wake me tomorrow. 6 Come to me like tomorrow to a child. Like the day is cradle, blue world below, to the misty, tussled dreams, half wild, of cherished seraphs in cloudy furrows. Like the dawn will wake us to memories yet unknown, waiting in our baby brows. Our lives of snow to fall upon the sea. Our little losses just the cheer of crows. Wake me, my sweet, to our pinky bodies, like newborn pigs in sacks of spiky wheat. Like she is, she is, she is she: a tease, / an angel, and a laughing whiskey neat. Wake me, baby, from this too too solid dream. / Exit the woman, and enter, the steam.
Dangerous Things This is the island. It is small and vulnerable, it is a woman, calling. You love her until you are a part of her and then, just like that you make her less than she was before—the space that you take up is a space where she cannot exist It is something in her history that does this Don’t mind her name The island is a woman Therefore, dangerous things live below Beautiful things, also—which can be the most dangerous. True, we will never be beyond our histories. And so I am the island. And so this is a warning.
Refugee The brother I do not have is walking into the forest. I follow. Watch his half-hitch gait, the slipknot of his shoulders. Always, at the path’s end, a woman, not our mother, waits. Between us a matchstick and the damp tinder. Always this brother wastes the afternoon foraging, slipping his long fingers along the rough of fallen trees. Do you remember the song our mother sang? he says. He pockets frills of lichen, drops wet bark into my hand. Felled. There is something else. I unremember. When it gets dark, he tells me I loved best the song’s refrain. And later, the woman, not our mother, empties his pockets. There is never enough. Never to feed all the children. Careless Love I am chaise-longued and slipcovered. Lacquered, distracted, give me my grosgrain, my trim. Oh, to be scalloped, braided, blue silk valance and a tassled drape. A sash tied back, a faux anything thrown. Wall to wall, Persianed, hardly. Needle-pointed or shagged, what do you dream? I am fancy and apricot, Chinoisery and something stark. Phillipe–ghost chaired, illumined– –are you ready for my modernity? I can Louis it up, quatorze or otherwise, our excess, excessive, pounded, gold leafingly handled. Queerly we love a sofa, but enough sectional, what about feet stretched on an ottoman? There’s molding to consider. Eggshell? Gloss? Nothing overhead. How dire is the chandelier? And oh, you look lovely. The effect in certain light. Love me, oh, love me. I’ve been consigned. From The Dye Merchant The Apprentice of Blue …throw out the water and keep the blue. From Libri Colorum , 15th century (Delemare &Guineau) The last of the alum. The last of woad and logwood. Dutch smalt. Such blue. Like every band of ocean all at once. Minded the smell of hands but, oh, the blue of my own hands, stained, stinker hands, the dyer’s mark. Woke up blue. Hands bluer than paper. It’s almost my second winter at the papermill. Hauled my share of cow blood added as forbidden filler Metal in the steam rises from copper vats, I beat the rags harder with the beating stick. Time enough in long hours, the awful retting of pulp, to walk my crooked self back through the door of memory Turned out I’d been traded, a final coin in some deal, A man’s chunk of Persian Blue. Not much to remember. I no longer look like anyone’s daughter. It isn’t bad to be a boy, a cap angled on my head. I’ve shaped my mind to the business of keeping fingers from lifting a thing too lightly. I’d lived for two years in Venice, if this swamp can be called Venice. No ostrich plumes out here, no cabuchon of lapis-lazuli veined with gold. Among these slapped-up strung buildings it’s glass blowers and paper mills; the wool shop next door, a burned tatter of a building. In the sticky heat of the swamp, in the boil of the works, ten fired cauldrons, the men strip down, cloth wrapped for bloomers. I wear my pants short, keep them knotted about my waist. I sleep in a reeking shack. Slip out mornings While the others twist closer to their dreams Though it’s begun,…
Before I stopped going out, the waitress at the café
on my fine teeth. I read a book on the uses
and misuses of opium, waiting for my food. A tree
shed in the corner. “William Barret, a surgeon