With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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The lilies leaning from their vase, opening
their legs, their arms, even their splitting pale-pink torsos
over the kitchen table —
its clutter of bills and crumbs.
Leaning toward the mess of the day,
the endless ordinary scatter,
opening, opening —
as if a mess were something to seduce,
as if, with their rich pollen, offered up like smudged gold dust,
they could bring back wonder to the world,
make it whole again.
Meanwhile someone’s tiny yellow parakeet,
escaped or freed, keeps flinging her bright body
at the window — as I do sometimes,
longing for what’s gone.
Meanwhile my father
the used-to-be doctor,
the once-upon-a-time magna cum laude,
lurches across the border
to the Mexican farmacias,
loading up his old leather bag like a freedom fighter,
like someone on a noble mission, bringing hope and sustenance
to the dispossessed — and perhaps he is,
the dispossessed, in this case, being himself.
Pills mashed into liquid, needle slid into a vein,
breasts of a stranger bought and held
like ordinary fruit —
the brown suns of her nipples, will they coax from him
a sudden, rusty tenderness?
Or maybe not,
maybe he only wants a hand job, or to get sucked off,
or maybe neither of those works, at almost seventy,
after all the drugs — yet still the drive is there, like a kid
in a shut-down arcade, who can’t stop pushing
buttons, pulling levers
on the dimmed machines.
Still, everything connects somewhere;
even my father’s twisted pilgrimage
is fueled by what a poet called
the force that through the green fuse drives the flower —
same force that spreads these lilies open
to the messy world,
keeps us leaning the same way
over the weary debris of the days,
splayed and thrusting
toward what might complete us,
each of us a yellow bird,
flying toward the glass.
And when my father ejaculates, if he still can,
in the hand or mouth or sex of a Mexican whore —
who isn’t just a whore, of course,
but someone’s daughter sister mother, maybe someone’s wife,
maybe even a woman who belongs to herself,
nurtures her own spindly dream, like a scraggly geranium
in a dented coffee can
in front of some shack somewhere,
and if she gives it water, it will live —
anyway, when my father comes,
which, despite the decades of damage,
he probably still can,
what’s there in that fluid is half of
what I am.
And if I truly open, like the lilies on the table,
wide enough to see it all,
the way, in its cloudlessness, the blue sky,
like a giant eye, sees us all —
if I write:
lily, addict, bird,
father, whore, geranium,
if I look closely enough
at each separate thing,
maybe I’ll glimpse the place it joins
each other thing —
and finds it, and is found by it, made whole.
This poem is part of a longer unpublished work.