as I’ll be in Boston for the summer, one of my two favorite Boston ladies… Anne Sexton
In my dream,
drilling into the marrow
of my entire bone,
my real dream,
I’m walking up and down Beacon Hill
searching for a street sign -
namely MERCY STREET.
I try the Back Bay.
And yet I know the number.
45 Mercy Street.
I know the stained-glass window
of the foyer,
the three flights of the house
with its parquet floors.
I know the furniture and
mother, grandmother, great-grandmother,
I know the cupboard of Spode
the boat of ice, solid silver,
where the butter sits in neat squares
like strange giant’s teeth
on the big mahogany table.
I know it well.
Where did you go?
45 Mercy Street,
kneeling in her whale-bone corset
and praying gently but fiercely
to the wash basin,
at five A.M.
dozing in her wiggy rocker,
grandfather taking a nap in the pantry,
grandmother pushing the bell for the downstairs maid,
and Nana rocking Mother with an oversized flower
on her forehead to cover the curl
of when she was good and when she was…
And where she was begat
and in a generation
the third she will beget,
with the stranger’s seed blooming
into the flower called Horrid.
I walk in a yellow dress
and a white pocketbook stuffed with cigarettes,
enough pills, my wallet, my keys,
and being twenty-eight, or is it forty-five?
I walk. I walk.
I hold matches at street signs
for it is dark,
as dark as the leathery dead
and I have lost my green Ford,
my house in the suburbs,
two little kids
sucked up like pollen by the bee in me
and a husband
who has wiped off his eyes
in order not to see my inside out
and I am walking and looking
and this is no dream
just my oily life
where the people are alibis
and the street is unfindable for an
Pull the shades down -
I don’t care!
Bolt the door, mercy,
erase the number,
rip down the street sign,
what can it matter,
what can it matter to this cheapskate
who wants to own the past
that went out on a dead ship
and left me only with paper?
I open my pocketbook,
as women do,
and fish swim back and forth
between the dollars and the lipstick.
I pick them out,
one by one
and throw them at the street signs,
and shoot my pocketbook
into the Charles River.
Next I pull the dream off
and slam into the cement wall
of the clumsy calendar
I live in,
and its hauled up
45 Mercy St., Anne Sexton
Sometimes I know I love you better
than all the others I kiss it’s funny
but it’s true and I wouldn’t roll
from one to the next so fast if you
hadn’t knocked them all down like
ninepins when you roared by my bed
I keep trying to race ahead and catch
you at the newest station or whistle
stop but you are flighty about
schedules and always soar away just
as leaning from my taxicab my breath
reaches for the back of your neck
- Frank O’Hara
Looking For Each of Us, by Linda Gregg
I open the box of my favorite postcards
and turn them over looking for de Chirico
because I remember seeing you standing
facing a wall no wider than a column where
to your left was a hall going straight back
into darkness, the floor a ramp sloping down
to where you stood alone and where the room
opened out on your right to an auditorium
full of people who had just heard you read
and were now listening to the other poet.
I was looking for the de Chirico because of
the places, the empty places. The word
“boulevard” came to mind. Standing on the side
of the fountains in Paris where the water
blew onto me when I was fifteen. It was night.
It was dark then too and I was alone.
Why didn’t you find me? Why didn’t
somebody find me all those years? The form
of love was purity. An art. An architecture.
Maybe a train. Maybe the shadow of a statue
and the statue with its front turned away
from me. Maybe one young girl playing alone,
hearing even small sounds ring off cobblestones
and the stone walls. I turn the cards looking
for the one and come to Giacometti’s eyes
full of caring and something remote.
His eyes are loving and empty, but not with
nothingness, not for the usual reasons, but because
he is working. The Rothko Chapel empty. A cheap
statue of Sappho in the modern city of Mytilene
and ancient sunlight. David Park’s four men
with smudges for mouths, backed by water,
each held still by the impossibility of what
art can accomplish. A broken river god,
only the body. A girl playing with her rabbit in bed.
The postcard of a summer lightning storm over Iowa.
Just Once, by Anne Sexton
Just once I knew what life was for.
In Boston, quite suddenly, I understood;
walked there along the Charles River,
watched the lights copying themselves,
all neoned and strobe-hearted, opening
their mouths as wide as opera singers;
counted the stars, my little campaigners,
my scar daisies, and knew that I walked my love
on the night green side of it and cried
my heart to the eastbound cars and cried
my heart to the westbound cars and took
my truth across a small humped bridge
and hurried my truth, the charm of it, home
and hoarded these constants into morning
only to find them gone.
Your Catfish Friend
If I were to live my life
in catfish forms
in scaffolds of skin and whiskers
at the bottom of a pond
and you were to come by
when the moon was shining
down into my dark home
and stand there at the edge
of my affection
and think, “It’s beautiful
here by this pond. I wish
somebody loved me,”
I’d love you and be your catfish
friend and drive such lonely
thoughts from your mind
and suddenly you would be
and ask yourself, “I wonder
if there are any catfish
in this pond? It seems like
a perfect place for them.”
There’s nothing worse
than feeling bad and not
being able to tell you.
Not because you’d kill me
or it would kill you, or
we don’t love each other.
It’s space. The sky is grey
and clear, with pink and
blue shadows under each cloud.
A tiny airliner drops its specks over the U N Building.
My eyes, like millions of
glassy squares, merely reflect.
Everything sees through me,
in the daytime I’m too hot
and at night I freeze; I’m
built the wrong way for the
river and a mild gale would
break every fiber in me.
Why don’t I go east and west
instead of north and south?
It’s the architect’s fault.
And in a few years I’ll be
useless, not even an office building. Because you have
no telephone, and live so
far away; the Pepsi-Cola sign,
the seagulls and the noise.
- Frank O’Hara
Fifty. The day I needed forgiveness and how the grieving process is put into motion.
In a dream,
I was on a train to Boston
and I had forgotten my luggage.
There was a vertical rock wall that felt
safe, and then I was flying
over rooftops and trees,
scared that nothing was holding
What don’t I have enough of?
I don’t have enough of my hands
held behind my head,
I don’t have enough
dogwood blossoms or cowboy songs,
I don’t have
enough restful sleep sessions or
the pleasant sort of confessions.
I don’t even own
I am sorry
for many of the things that I am,
more sorry for the things
that I am not.
I get panicky
when my phone doesn’t ring
by eleven-thirty, and I don’t know
how to stare back.
I have too many rough edges,
bones jutting out,
I can’t wear the color yellow
and I miss you
all of the time.
You begin this way:
this is your hand,
this is your eye,
that is a fish, blue and flat
on the paper, almost
the shape of an eye.
This is your mouth, this is an O
or a moon, whichever
you like. This is yellow.
Outside the window
is the rain, green
because it is summer, and beyond that
the trees and then the world,
which is round and has only
the colors of these nine crayons.
This is the world, which is fuller
and more difficult to learn than I have said.
You are right to smudge it that way
with the red and then
the orange: the world burns.
Once you have learned these words
you will learn that there are more
words than you can ever learn.
The word hand floats above your hand
like a small cloud over a lake.
The word hand anchors
your hand to this table,
your hand is a warm stone
I hold between two words.
This is your hand, these are my hands, this is the world,
which is round but not flat and has more colors
than we can see.
It begins, it has an end,
this is what you will
come back to, this is your hand.
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
— Dylan Thomas
the rival - sylvia plath
If the moon smiled, she would resemble you.
You leave the same impression
Of something beautiful, but annihilating.
Both of you are great light borrowers.
Her O-mouth grieves at the world; yours is unaffected,
And your first gift is making stone out of everything.
I wake to a mausoleum; you are here,
Ticking your fingers on the marble table, looking for cigarettes,
Spiteful as a woman, but not so nervous,
And dying to say something unanswerable.
The moon, too, abuses her subjects,
But in the daytime she is ridiculous.
Your dissatisfactions, on the other hand,
Arrive through the mailslot with loving regularity,
White and blank, expansive as carbon monoxide.
No day is safe from news of you,
Walking about in Africa maybe, but thinking of me.