Monday, April 19, 2010

Good Poetry


It is good poetry, but I must admit, I'm bringing it back to the library unfinished. A lot of it is much too dark for where I am right now (see previous post involving Patty Loveless and Kathy Mattea videos), but I did want to present one of the poems here for you.
Doña María Greets Her Comadre Doña Luna at the Balcony Window

So you're staying up again, doña Luna, waiting
to guide my sons home from the bar.
Then let me help you push out the dark with this face
these hands have wrinkled, a face shaped
the way a restless woman shapes
the folds and furrows on the sheets. How do you
manage it, señora? How do you keep your fingers
from digging into those worries half-stitched

against eyelids? What stops you from throwing down
your cheeks like bowls of beans gone bad, waiting
for the spoon that never comes? What thoughts
swirling with you don't break you off and chisel you?
Someday I too will be bald as rock, having unspooled
that last thread from my head. There is no shame in that.
It's what makes us comadres, a pair of copper cazuelas,
idential molcajetes from the mother stone -

the stone that knows how to hold its breath; the stone
that watches and teaches how to watch; the stone
that keeps the earth in its proper place; the stone
that separates the oceans from the skies; the stone
that stops the floods and snuffs out fires;
that lid of stone, which seals our deaths.
And this old woman will have her peace when her tongue
shatters and all her complaints dissolve into ash.

But you are the unlucky one, aren't you, doña Luna?
Because you will open your eyes a thousand nights
after God has pressed His thumb over my heart
and that night will be the same as the nights before.
And you'll see how one thousand nights after that,
worriers and insomniacs still call on you, supplier
of the knitting needle, rocker of the cradle, guardian
of the blue mazorca, keeper of the restless flesh.

How everyone looks up to you as if you could solve
the riddles in our dreams, as if you had risen
solely to cut through the darkness of our sleep.
How many times we will expect you to tame bad dreams:
when the child awakens suddenly, with a glint of light
scaring his eye, you'll be asked to help him see within you
the harmless white in a dead hen's tongue,
the Lord's round ear, the hand that received his birth.

And this boy will become a man, and that man
might awaken one night to that familiar boyhood fear
and you will soothe him then too, showing him his bride,
her breast, her belly, the wheel that spins inside.
And this man will become an old man, having long since
learned to identify in you his tempered wisdom,
which he will always believe he achieved on his own,
which will trick him into climbing through that hole

and into the pit of the other side.
And another man will rise from the dust,
and another man will unhook his hands from his jaw
to let his voice fly home. And still
nothing puts you out of your sky, nothing -
not the girls who grow their hair beneath you, collecting
secrets like combs and letting in dusks like bedmates;
not the women who round off their faces beneath you,

taking your lines to their calves, your color to their heads;
not the old women who beneath you weave their own shrouds
night after night after night. And every night
is the same night. You were given no choice;
all this time you could have faced the other way
or maybe all this time you never looked our way
and kept us ignorant, because it never mattered that we named
the back of your head "el farol de enamorados,"

expecting you to open a mouth and bring out that passion
called tongue; to lift up the nose like a skirt -
such sweet smells; to expand the cups of the hands,
the pillows of the thighs; to part every cleavage and limb
and expose the hidden moistures caught between dark
and light. How much does it matter if you ever tried
to show us different, when we'll always believe
it is you sending lust through our veins? You're to blame

though when we jerk our heads like owls, trapped in the woods
by the noises of night, you give us your quilt
and say nothing. When we show you the sores on our feet,
those tears on our skins like old clothes,
you give us stitches and expect nothing.
So what comes next? Do we lift our empty hands and mouths
in your direction, and will you, kind señora, kind
mother, take nothing in exchange for your bread?
Poor doña Luna, poor comadre, there is no rest for you.

We have given you so much responsibility, we've forgotten
what tiny bones we have, what small spaces we occupy.
Today, here we are: comadres, a pair of curandera eggs
sucking up the cries that keep the alleys wide.
Tomorrow, my body may adjust itself under the sheets
and you'll wait up for other sons alone, señora. That's why
I'm here now, weak and sleepless, pretending this night
I'll pluck one burden off your eye.

2 comments:

Kyle said...

JP, I'm not sure I have even finished a book of poetry. You have to be in just the right mood and unfortunately my moods change too quickly.

Writer said...

I know what you mean, Kyle. The only poet I can finish with any regularity is Mary Oliver. If you don't know her, she is a poet (and a lesbian) who lives in Provincetown. She mainly writes about her experience of nature. Check her out.