‘Angels of the love affair, do you know that other,
the dark one, that other me? ‘
1. ANGEL OF FIRE AND GENITALS
Angel of fire and genitals, do you know slime,
that green mama who first forced me to sing,
who put me first in the latrine, that pantomime
of brown where I was beggar and she was king?
I said, ‘The devil is down that festering hole.’
Then he bit me in the buttocks and took over my soul.
Fire woman, you of the ancient flame, you
of the Bunsen burner, you of the candle,
you of the blast furnace, you of the barbecue,
you of the fierce solar energy, Mademoiselle,
take some ice, take some snow, take a month of rain
and you would gutter in the dark, cracking up your brain.
Mother of fire, let me stand at your devouring gate
as the sun dies in your arms and you loosen it’s terrible weight.
2. ANGEL OF CLEAN SHEETS
Angel of clean sheets, do you know bedbugs?
Once in the madhouse they came like specks of cinnamon
as I lay in a choral cave of drugs,
as old as a dog, as quiet as a skeleton.
Little bits of dried blood. One hundred marks
upon the sheet. One hundred kisses in the dark.
White sheets smelling of soap and Clorox
have nothing to do with this night of soil,
nothing to do with barred windows and multiple locks
and all the webbing in the bed, the ultimate recoil.
I have slept in silk and in red and in black.
I have slept on sand and, on fall night, a haystack.
I have known a crib. I have known the tuck-in of a child
but inside my hair waits the night I was defiled.
3. ANGEL OF FLIGHT AND SLEIGH BELLS
Angel of flight and sleigh bells, do you know paralysis,
that ether house where your arms and legs are cement?
You are as still as a yardstick. You have a doll’s kiss.
The brain whirls in a fit. The brain is not evident.
I have gone to that same place without a germ or a stroke.
A little solo act-that lady with the brain that broke.
In this fashion I have become a tree.
I have become a vase you can pick up or drop at will,
inanimate at last. What unusual luck! My body
passively resisting. Part of the leftovers. Part of the kill.
Angels of flight, you soarer, you flapper, you floater,
you gull that grows out of my back in the drreams I prefer,
stay near. But give me the totem. Give me the shut eye
where I stand in stone shoes as the world’s bicycle goes by.
4. ANGEL OF HOPE AND CALENDARS
Angel of hope and calendars, do you know despair?
That hole I crawl into with a box of Kleenex,
that hole where the fire woman is tied to her chair,
that hole where leather men are wringing their necks,
where the sea has turned into a pond of urine.
There is no place to wash and no marine beings to stir in.
In this hole your mother is crying out each day.
Your father is eating cake and digging her grave.
In this hole your baby is strangling. Your mouth is clay.
Your eyes are made of glass. They break. You are not brave.
You are alone like a dog in a kennel. Your hands
break out in boils. Your arms are cut and bound by bands
of wire. Your voice is out there. Your voice is strange.
There are no prayers here. Here there is no change.
5. ANGEL OF BLIZZARDS AND BLACKOUTS
Angle of blizzards and blackouts, do you know raspberries,
those rubies that sat in the tree of my grandfather’s garden?
You of the snow tires, you of the sugary wings, you freeze
me out. Let me crawl through the patch. Let me be ten.
Let me pick those sweet kisses, thief that I was,
as the sea on my left slapped its applause.
Only my grandfather was allowed there. Or the maid
who came with a scullery pan to pick for breakfast.
She of the rolls that floated in the air, she of the inlaid
woodwork all greasy with lemon, she of the feather and dust,
not I. Nonetheless I came sneaking across the salt lawn
in bare feet and jumping-jack pajamas in the spongy dawn.
Oh Angel of the blizzard and blackout, Madam white face,
take me back to that red mouth, that July 21st place.
6. ANGEL OF BEACH HOUSES AND PICNICS
Angel of beach houses and picnics, do you know solitaire?
Fifty-two reds and blacks and only myself to blame.
My blood buzzes like a hornet’s nest. I sit in a kitchen chair
at a table set for one. The silverware is the same
and the glass and the sugar bowl. I hear my lungs fill and expel
as in an operation. But I have no one left to tell.
Once I was a couple. I was my own king and queen
with cheese and bread and rosé on the rocks of Rockport.
Once I sunbathed in the buff, all brown and lean,
watching the toy sloops go by, holding court
for busloads of tourists. Once I called breakfast the sexiest
meal of the day. Once I invited arrest
at the peace march in Washington. Once I was young and bold
and left hundreds of unmatched people out in the cold.