Meditations On a Moth
How splendid yellow is. —Vincent van Gogh
My poor eye. It has done
so much looking—at the sky, at the dark-fretted
trumpets in the frescoes of the Chrysler Building,
at the opium dens of High and Low,
where bodies sway like white flowers—
amount due, amount due.
Is the blue the blue you think of when I tell you?
Do ghosts have neuroses?
What is the point of the haunting they do?
Here—look. No, look.
I am trying to rid myself of myself;
to see past the tumbling clouds.
All evening drums rumble in the corner park.
The mobsters convene when the cops leave.
What goes down stays down,
the street at three A.M. a fantastic absence of color.
Outside the studio window
a river slides along its dulcimer bed,
aquifers and accordions and Alcatraz.
But you have to get up in the morning.
The brute blind glare of snow in sun.
Look again, and up you may rise
to something quite surprising in the distance.
Pawnbroker, scavenger, cheapskate,
come creeping from your pigeon-filled backrooms,
past guns and clocks and locks and cages,
past pockets emptied and coins picked from the floor;
come sweeping with the rainclouds down the river
through the brokenblack windows of factories
to avenues where movies whisk through basement projectors
and children peel up into the supplejack twilight—
there a black-eyed straight-backed drag queen
preens, fusses, fixes her hair in a shop window on Prince,
a young businessman jingles his change
and does his Travis Bickle for a long-faced friend,
there on the corner I laughed at a joke Jim made.
In the bedroom the moon is a dented spoon,
cold, getting colder, so hurry sleep,
come creep into bed, let’s get it over with;
lay me down and close my eyes
and tell me whip, tell me winnow
tell me sweet tell me skittish
tell me No tell me no such thing
tell me straw into gold tell me crept into fire
tell me lost all my money tell me hoarded, verboten,
but promise tomorrow I will be profligate,
stepping into the sun like a trophy.
We had a drink and got in bed.
That’s when the boat in my mouth set sail,
my fingers drifting in the shallows of your buzz cut.
And in the sound of your eye
a skiff coasted—boarding it
I found all the bric-a-brac of your attic gloom,
the knives from that other island trip,
the poison suckleroot lifted from God-knows-where.
O, all your ill-begotten loot—and yes, somewhere,
the words you never actually spoke,
the woven rope tethering
me to this rotting joint. Touch me,
and the boat and the city burn like whiskey
going down the throat. Or so it goes,
our love-wheedling myth, excessively baroque.