Saturday, May 16, 2009

Warm Veneer

What's real in us is void, and the warm
veneer of porcelain covering the face
cracks easily, abandoning its form
and falling back inside us, out of grace,
into the void. If you catch a glimpse
of your reflection in a mirror, and
see rosy cheeks and hair that curls and crimps--
the very paints that vivify the bland
and vapid faces gracing all of your
acquaintance--do not be alarmed, for all
is as it must be; for if any store
his face intact 'til other faces fail,
he wins the world and all he sees therein.
Do not allow the anger growing just
beneath the mask to burst and break the skin.
Each tiny crack is a defeat that must
sting dryly to remind you that you've failed;
a fault laid out before your enemy;
the invitation to a feast; a jailed,
unransomed vassal. Do not ever be
convinced to leave that mask; but neither, like
a fool, believe the lie that painted shields
are made of honest human feeling. Strike
decisively and rarely. Weakness yields,
unhesitating, to the flagrant pride
of one who sweetly smiles and won't confess,
who knows the truth: that what is real inside
him is the anger and the emptiness.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Story of My Life

She says, “Hold me,” and I hold her,
and her arms wrap around me like tentacles,
like the coils of a python, and I can’t breathe.

She is crying, and I have no mercy,
can’t summon the mildest twinge of sympathy.
Is she really upset?

A sad person doesn’t squeeze and threaten;
a sad person doesn’t run to my arms
or call me at half past midnight.

She is crying, and I have no mercy,
unable to believe that this is anything but a stunt,
with no faith in anything but the chime of history.

I cannot breathe. I cannot love her.
She runs her fingers over my skin,
looking for an entrance to my self,

looking for a way in so she can insert her feelers,
suck the energy from my soul,
tear my self-respect from me in tiny, precise pulls.

I have no mercy. This is why I hate people;
this is why I fear promises.
They are cages; they are chains.

But how can I turn a suffering person away?
I am impelled to caress her, impelled to say comforting words,
to rape myself like this every time she comes to me.

I mustn’t turn away when she pets my hair.
I mustn’t close my eyes briefly in pain when she tells me
she’ll cure me of my fear of commitment.

I don’t run away, but I have no mercy;
I simply grow colder and colder
and pray she will cease to need me.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sonnet LVI

That old-ish man whose voice was cracked like clay
said frankly that he liked the way I smelled
and asked if I had maybe bathed today,
disturbing reservations that I held.

And then he started in on how I looked
just like a high school girl, which, to be fair,
is something I have heard before, and crooked
his finger luridly and sniffed my hair.

But when I caught a whiff of what he'd drunk,
my brain went off and added up the sum:
tomorrow, if he's worked out of his funk,
when he wakes up, he's gonna feel real dumb.

And my compassion's tender to the touch:
I think that I did not dislike him much.

Sonnet LV: Spelling Error

It is a single, small mistake, uncrowned
yet obvious; it doesn't seem so much
a hurried misprint as it does the clutch
of ignorance upon a lazy ground.
I fear the guilty do not fear the sound
of judgment over every subtle touch.
What shame to live in squalid lodgings such
that ignorance is shameless and renowned.

I feel no flush of ugly, self-smug pride
at seeing on another's roof this blight;
it brings to mind instead all of my own
uncharted, inmost shame, which has not died
though I have suffered lifetimes--as is right--
both in the public forums and alone.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Sonnet LIV

At times, I'm overcome, and to resist
the world's unspeakable vulgarity
becomes too much, as though I saw the gist
of all that Is in piercing clarity.

I wake in morning's cold austerity
with paling resolution: I conclude
that sleep, like humankind's sincerity,
will never be enough to cure my mood.

I see the end of all things; we've accrued
humiliation only. We invoke
our passions and our efforts, but, reviewed,
they're nothing but the Instigator's joke.

We wish that people cared for us, but none
of us can really care for anyone.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Sonnet Cycle: 玄武開伝 [Genbu Kaiden]

[Because I am a huge geek. :D ]

女 [Woman]

So you’re gone at last, completely beyond the stars, beyond my reach, in your father’s homeland, neatly untucked in bed, rewriting speech you believe you should have given. Even if our souls are driven to madness from the parting slap, I’m pushing you across the gap, burning down the bridge that spanned it. I’ve found the reason I was born, and though it hurts to see you scorn (for you cannot understand it) the only gift that I can give, please keep your body whole; please live.

虛 [Void]

Many times, the spears of hated opponents pierced in fierce attack; childhood games have not created the scars upon my arms and back, yet my swift and icy arrows fail to hit their marks. The narrows of mountains thwart me. I am last among a class of heroes cast towering above the cattle, and all my childhood enemies who fled when I began to tease failed to ready me for battle against an army that has wrecked the stars I’m dying to protect.

壁 [Wall]

Thundering, divine, infernal, outgoing as the wintered earth, I take hold of what’s eternal while comprehending all its worth. Thus, the words that never sounded from the stone came forth. They bounded along the mountains, down the path of destiny and silent wrath. Never will I speak, but listen to whispers from the lips of those who trust in me, whose spears and bows can’t without me hold the glisten of starlight, and, without a word, I know that all I say is heard.

室 [Encampment]

With no starlight, silent, freezing, I waited while the heavens shook like a baby, crying, wheezing, a helpless maiden in a book, something lacking any power, locked alone inside my tower—although I was below the ground. I knew that I would not be found, but you found me. Now I’m learning to try to be of use to you; I’m still a nuisance. Take me to my protective shell; I’m turning too slowly into something old enough to stand against the cold.

斗 [Dipper]

Do not think I’ll hear your reason; you’re slavering on stardom now. Your behavior then was treason; you have no claim upon my vow. If it is my whim to save you, you are saved; the grace I gave you was mine to offer you or not. Your cries are nothing; you have bought nothing of me. I remember my younger sister hungry, cold—and she was only five years old. I don’t want to be a member of any people who would hurl those insults at a boy and girl.

[Danger] (2)

If two things against each other are weighed, the heavy one will sink. If two plants grow, one will smother the other, stealing food and drink from its roots. And if a mother bears two sons, the older brother wins favor at his father’s whim, although his brother is to him like a mirror to a mirror. As worthy as I know your cause to be, I choose to follow laws that return the star that’s dearer. Thus I, the second, go to lengths to let the first surpass my strengths.

牛 [Ox]

Once—I don’t remember, really—I may have asked how life was grown. I am no inept or silly stargazer; I have built my own empire on my back, the smelly streets its lowest floor, my belly and thighs its bricks and nails. I rule these countless insects—each a tool—and I feel no shame in saying that I do not rule over kings. And I, who ponder all these things, cannot see myself obeying commands of someone hardly set, who cannot rule her body yet.

[Danger] (1)

I was taught a song, a bother upon my lips, before my birth from the mouths of my grandfather and his grandfather, and the girth, weight, and shape of it is killing, tearing trees from roots and willing the water from the sea; it bars the earth’s embracing of the stars. I continue though I’m dying; I sing though what is mine must die. I sing to tell my heart goodbye. My reflection falters, trying to stop my dazzling sacrifice; my swollen throat is too precise.

Sonnet LIII

The most delicious cup of tea that I ever drank was wetter than all the rain that made a sea of Saint Petersburg--much better than any Earl Grey I had drunk before. The rain had cleansed the gunk from the windows, and the brightly lit café was dry. I lightly stretched out my limbs. The hostel closed, and the train would not come early, and the rain was pouring. Surly baristas clattered cups. I dozed, dreamt of Moscow, città bella, where I left my black umbrella.

Sonnet LII: Foreigner

There is such shame in every word I read,
in every image, each recorded sound.
The others do not understand my need
to wallow in the beauty that I've found,

or if they do, the thought is dipped and drowned
in the deep ugliness that makes its base.
I see it, too--I see it wrap around
the edges, blunting them, smearing the face,

and muddying the paint. And then this place
embarrasses me with its blatant sin,
which isn't mine except I choose to chase
a language not inborn, a foreign skin.

Why couldn't I have loved something innate
instead of pointless daydreams and self-hate?