To order Linda Lee's book: TOWARD DESIRE

Linda Lee Harper


He wiggles the plucked cob of desire over the heads of wedding guests, throws caution, like dice, to the wind. He wonders why they call him snake eyes. Her bouquet is a banquet of sacrifices. Where to start? He consults her whims, a prayer book of conjugal expectations. This is not a delicate woman. Her reason is as effective as a net meant to catch shrimp, but which finds only amphibious buffaloes. She suffers nothing less than a good decline, a rutting as slippery, as unshakeable as the memory of leeches from the creek. They conjoin, possums in their mutual ignorance. He is in love and says so, her hair when she coughs, light convulsing. Her eyes are rings of doubt she wears like Celtic jewels, his vanity a close-cropped beard she would run her fingers through if he weren't so vain. What persists now is a sinuous happiness that blooms and falters, climbing jasmine, fragrant, lovely as a snake bite, punctured skin pouting, rosy lips. And love? Unpredictable, a rabid dog. Truth is filthy old Nietzsche insists, weak as scorched breath. The groom paraglides every night, a liar flying backwards into the moon. The bride writes home that the tongue is the ugliest muscle.

After a Hometown Funeral
Cincinnati, 1999

Walking familiar streets,
I remember thoroughfares
are serious business, but their names,
8888888888 like those of aging family I
888888888888 never liked anyway, I forget.
It's winter here as I walk
down Probasco, up Riddle Road, across,
a handless needle looking to stitch
something together to call home,
the heart, too, a city fortified by this
circuitous route to past addresses, griefs.
As Germanically practical as the vulgar
constraints and precision
of cross-stitching, or a map,
that paper maze of digits, veins, words,
I carry this face, holding in and letting loose
memories, their variance, as I imagine
some policy of easy discovery, closure.
Nothing here seems the same;
the past, intractable, as fog descends,
bolts of clouds unwinding.
888 Now, direction wears no name when
streetlights take dominion,
where the land under my feet
is not mine anymore.
On Clifton Avenue, past McMicken Hall,
watch the pigeons circling
by the neon sculpture in the park.
See how light keeps them aloft,
brightens the short pull
their wings execute against the air,
how their graceful expatriation
from the earth
perfects the art of remorse.
June, the finest month