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Rosalind Brackenbury Rosalind Brackenbury


You can find the carved warnings
on the slant gravestones — “Reader,
in health and strength, death may be near.”
And “You and I can walk together
only for a while.” You can see the long lives
spent together and apart, the reunions, made
and believed in, under this green turf.
Dead shells, the bodies slung together
in a final bed, while the souls that loved
are — where? in this blue air, with gulls?
up over the high hill, in the green secret
of gorse and bracken, where the deer
hide? The bones are here,
a belt-buckle, a ring to encircle
in the end, nothing. I think of lying
bone to bone with you till nothing's
left, just my ring, your belt-buckle,
our American crowned teeth; like
sharing a bath tub once the water's
all run out, in the certain and sure hope
of resurrection, would we wait it out
till we'd crumbled, while the real party
was going on elsewhere? I'd rather
have my old parts scattered, ash to sea,
than be worm-compost, dead meat with you,
our bed of stone, earth like a too-heavy duvet
flattening us into place. I'd rather be
star-stuff, lichen, leaf-mold, anything,
and let my unknown soul go search
the universe for yours again.

Cafe des Artistes

. He shows us to our table, white linen,
the places for two made placid and ready
as a turned-down bed; leaves us with menus
to choose from the world's store.
Salmon, thin and pink as tongues, swims to us
on a white plate, that snip of dill like clippings
of summer grass. Here is the ballet of waiters in black
with their pure aprons and quiet feet,
the little shaded lamp, the solemn mirror
that reflects us: he, me, no strangers yet
wishing tonight to be strangers, to take
that step, taste each other with this same
reverence, place ourselves in slivers straight
upon each other's tongues. The meat
will teach us to eat it, to want what is
indescribable as filet mignon, no more
just meat, but sealed, seared in the ritual
of transformation, the oldest imagined act:
to want, to have. The taste of the holy, a swallowing.
I am in love here with what will feed me,
I believe in the meat which is enough,
the wine which is enough; in enoughness;
in the distinct knowledge that there will be dessert,
in being satisfied. In this place in which I remember,
a restaurant is to restore you, the way God does,
to yourself; so that you may go back out to all
the fury and rashness, and yet know. Restore me,
I ask, lead me to the calm of restaurants, seat me
in the place where the man will be both husband
and stranger, and will feast with me. Let the artistes
work upon us, blend us, sizzle and cool us to perfection,
serve us to each other, body, soul.

Picasso Erotique

In the Picasso Erotique show in Montreal,
people were smiling. Even without realizing,
they went smiling with recognition, past
the nipples, slits, huge hands, fringed
and joyful penises, the women spread
like clouds, the little scribbled intense
hairy men. The watchers, the joiners.
The carpentry and fit of sex.
Bulls, boudoirs, brothels, beds of flowers —
we don't all share the scenery, but the desire,
ah, that's the core of us, it's between the eyes
like a unicorn spike, it pulls our dreams
through us, ribbons us on the spool
of memory; it's in us all, he knew that,
he drew it from the inside on a long
unrolling, out. I am all parts,
this morning, like a Picasso woman,
breasts, belly, opening slit; my head
small, thrust back unpillowed, hands
that fly out like birds. You can see
through me, I am tunnelled so
the bolt can move straight through,
fit me and socket me; my joints
stretch in their holes, in your hands,
under your long bones, I am
redrawn, crunched to a Cubist mass,
a scribble, a giggle, a small cloud.
a smile floating down the street.

Life Works

I thought I was alone in the bed I often share
with a human; but felt a soft touch on my leg,
a sort of crawling brush of other life.
There on the bare blue sheet: toffee-colored,
slick as a varnished yacht, its hard shining case
polished as a violin, its carapace
dark towards the head, paler behind
like a sucked sweet, my visitor.
I looked close: a palmetto bug, the sort
that vanishes down holes in the sink
leaving only whiskers to twitch like a lobster's
from under a rock, when you go to the bathroom
at three. This one lurches, has uneven antennae,
a dud radio, its legs — all six — are furred above the knee,
their delicate feet turned out like an antique chair's.
I think it's sick. On the plain of the sheet
it runs down like clockwork. I see
it's going through something, here
on my bed, and I'm as far from knowing what
as the surface of Mars. Bug, insect, cousin
to the cockroach, lesser life — killing these
isn't any sort of a crime. It stumbles,
falls about — a humility here,
no life plans that anyone can hear about.
I see it's left a small damp patch on the sheet.
Do insects pee with fear? Did it come, or sweat?
Does every creature when it releases liquid
feel a small emotion? I don't know.
I don't know how life works, not really,
not what is going on in my bed,
not what happens in the holes, cracks,
interstices of my old house; only the big crude
outlines of what we call our life, yours, mine,
the one in which giants lumber at each other,
their huge gestures roughing in
suggestions for all the rest.

Dancing in Space

We swim for the reef's dark line
far out: you already masked and snorkeling,
I treading water, struggle with my mouthpiece
till I can submerge and meet you
in this other world hidden beneath the skin
of the Atlantic.
Going down together we can't speak,
only grandly gesture, move in grace,
we are gentle, slow dancers; here we may
mate as fish do, semen trails like spit
and eggs suspended in a milky way;
we hang in tender light above the white
floor in a room with a blue lamp in it,
no walls. Purple fish uniformed like
convent girls on a walk pass through,
we pour from sea-house to canyon
where coral juts its fat monuments;
down there the sea fans flap open
frilled labia, in a world of pulse
and suck, of slow closings like the one
we share, blood-flow, heart pump,
lungs like pale curtains filling in a breeze.
I see your feet before me, your clean soles
kicked up; your hand opens, slow
and unfamiliar as if I watched you
dancing alone in space.