Tuesday, September 13, 2011

LOST CITIES

Masolino's Temptation of Adam - Brancacci Chapel, Florence, Italy - 1424


It's been an unreal summer. Half my town was utterly destroyed in a tornado in April. I was without a home for a month and lived with a man during that time--a man who told tales of moon dresses and gunslingers, a man who lived in a house from my childhood and would inevitably forget me in New Orleans. I ran away to Italy for a month and experienced all kinds of hardships and beauty. I did not speak Italian and languageless seemed fitting. There was a certain symmetry to my interior. Came home and took up my old affair with absence. So much leaving and so many returns.

It's hard to write about, hard to even know for sure what all of this has done--is doing--to me. Some days I feel terribly mean; other days I feel more capable than ever. I now live alone and drink too much tea and also too much gin. For a while I was sure I'd given up poetry for good. I just couldn't go to that personal place, couldn't tap into any lyric residing in me. Four months passed without an inkling. I wrote short stories, though. That was still possible. I constructed other worlds to live in and that sustained me. The rules were my own, even if they were devastating.

All of this to say I finally wrote a poem yesterday. I don't know what this means for my writing life (or real-life) and don't plan to make any projections of meaning. It just came on its own. That's not nothing.

---

LOST CITY

There’s something about a body that resists succinctness.

There was a time where I could not speak, could not be
convinced of being fully hinged in my own skin. I asked a man
Do you ever get the feeling that you’ve lost your body
you left it somewhere and you won’t get it back?


No, he said, I don’t. Shortly after I went to Italy
to fall out of love. Which I’m told is backwards from most.

It was my birthday and I was on a train
watching Tuscany rush backwards by.
I felt the rubble of my hometown slide around
inside me and all at once my nose was bleeding.
In this way I nursed a red-tissued disruption, thinking

I don’t trust those vineyards, the brambles neatly trimmed.
I was not thinking about those few dark moments in a bathroom,
hiding under a mattress with two girls, our hair tangled and
in each other’s mouths as we breathed
and braced and from above a sound descended—

Outside we surveyed the damage. Dearest city
I never thought to call you sweet till wrong-minded winds
rippt the rooves from your houses. Insulation falling down like snow
streets full of sugar. I picked up a knife that had landed in our yard
it had a gilded handle and was bent perfectly in half. My crowish heart lighted
on it, saying, I’ll keep this I’ll keep this and then I threw it down,

wanting nothing but a hidden place.

In Italy the pigeons were deformed, missing feet and beaks,
hopping around on gnarled pink nubs in exhausted light.
In Rome I was relieved to stand in the old world for an hour.
Thinking, Under This City is Another City.

True—I have my sadness but it is not a ruin you can walk around in.

I swam in the Ligurian sea and said, I’m sorry,
there is rain in me I cannot give back.

I returned to town and lingered with stone lions,

finding them easier than people. There was one
on every corner. They either sobbed or roared.

What does a storm look like except what it is? I guess it looks
like a bird’s nest unraveling /
a cone and gyre / a screw turning
in my gut /a word that was deemed unutterable and so hides.


Maybe it is like a woman’s hair

like missing a man who once hovered above you
and you said Covermybodywithyourbody
and what you really wanted
was to be crushed.

I’ll tell you one thing
a storm is not at all like a flower, though it battens.

Yes there was a man in there, too.
The day after the tornado we stood in the street
and kissed through surgical masks.
I thought of The Lovers by Magritte
and wondered
at the word.

How does one become a lover?
Who are these ranks of mysterious people?

The silence in me grew. It was a giving back of hands. There, there,
there, there there there there.
He reached inside me (went right through me)
and pulled out power lines. I sparked spat and finally swallowed all my hurt.
I hid under blankets. I lay still, so still, a stillness that is furious to be unmoved.

Later I stood in the doorframe of a terribly orange kitchen. He was cooking
and I was naked. Or maybe I was in disguise--
yes, disguised as a girl who had a body
and could be naked.
I was leaving soon
for Italy and watching him I said I’ll keep this,
I’ll keep this
. He came forward and covered my ears. I covered his eyes.

Then he moved as if to lift me
and I let myself
be lifted.

---

video

I saw Anish Kapoor's 'Ascension' in San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. I was taken off guard, not expecting contemporary installation art in a Renaissance church--much less a tornado dancing on a podium. I stood and watched light pass through the plume of steam until my nerves subsided and finally I was calm.

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