From time to time
he slept with one who had
what he called "real class,"
who knew how to dress.
Maybe she'd spent time in Europe
and developed a taste for luxury.
She worked for some specialty store
and would watch cooly
as my father--
stylish, darkly Mediterranean,
the sleeves of his shirt
rolled up on his forearms,
colorful tie loosened---
showed her the lastest in sportswear.
asked her to dinner,
business of course (though
A sleek brunette, maybe,
with great legs.
Next day, he'd send flowers
and a romantic note.
"Women," he told me,
From time to time, it
was a prostitute.
not the tough whores he
and his buddies used to drive
up to Albany for
when they were eighteen.
either. A small, neat West Side
apartment. Curtains in the bedroom
like home. She'd never
make him rush. He could take
the full hour if he wanted to.
"They're the only
ones," he told me, "who really know
how to please a man."
But mostly, the women
were like him,
Jews or Italians out
of Brooklyn or the Bronx, one step
from the ethnic ghettos, trying
not to smell of pastrami
or spaghetti sauce, or talk
with an accent;
dressed to kill, slick and ready
with a joke---good-looking, youthful
women who glanced in the mirror
a lot and wore
were determined above all
not to be old-fashioned;
who'd discovered quickly
what marriage could offer,
and what it couldn't; who could
keep their mouths shut
and not tell other people
what they didn't need
to know anyway.
They liked to gamble, but
not too heavily.
The way I imagine it,
only once in twenty-five years
did any woman come close.
He was nearing fifty
and watching the gray make its steady advances
like a disorganized guerilla army
through the countryside
of his thinning hair.
She was fifteen years younger
from a department store in some
town, and something
about her shyness
cut way into him.
They had sex twice, but he was
haunted. She never asked
and he was afraid he
couldn't forget her.
He knew what it would mean
if this ever got out---
what would happen to the family,
what his sisters would say.
He wasn't someone
to throw it all away
on one spin of the wheel.
So he let it die out: watching TV, tossing
the football with me
in the street.
Somewhere in his mid-fifties
he got friendly with a seamstress
who worked in his shop---
a motherly woman
with a sick husband.
They worked late.
and she made him dinner
He gave her extra money,
quietly, just relaxed and
let it happen.
Only his wife couldn't
see it. She was fond of saying
over and over:
the ground I walk on."
Sundays, twice a year, he and I
went to the cemetery where
his father was buried.
We mumbled the
Hebrew prayer for the dead and,
keeping with tradition,
put a small rock on the gravestone
to show we'd come.
Usually, we went home
without a word,
but once, when I was twenty,
I saw him wipe away tears,
and he started to talk about
"He was the sweetest guy.
Everybody loved him. But I'd hear
my mother yelling at him
in the back room.
And he never yelled back.
she said was true:
he ran around and gambled
and..." He stopped.
I wanted to hear him
yell back at her:
"Yes, I"m foolish, but
you don't know me and you
Their friends looked shocked—said not
possible, said how sad. The trees carried on
with their treeish lives—stately except when
they shed their silly dandruff of birds. And
the ocean did what oceans mostly do—
suspended almost everything, dropped one
small ship, or two. The day beauty divorced
meaning, someone picked a flower, a fight,
a flight. Someone got on a boat.
A closet lost its suitcases. Someone
was snowed in, someone else on. The sun
went down and all it was, was night.
The afternoon we traced our 2nd grade bodies
with poster paint, legs V-shaped on paper
like the outlines of victims at a crime scene,
I was the only girl stuck partnered with a boy—
his fists filthy from prying back scalps
of onion grass, bug shells crushed up in his teeth
because he’d liked the sound. He refused
all paint-colors but blue. Leaned over me,
complaining loudly to his friends. Then his lip,
heavy with focus. And the red wing
of his tongue. Dragging his paintbrush
like a match in a room of gasoline. The week before
Debbie Kaw passed a note saying babies
came from standing too close to a boy,
or if one sweat on you, or spat
in your direction. So the girls called it brave, what I did,
letting one trace me. And I let them think so—
let them run ahead in the carpool line,
the blood still returning to my knees.
Let my mother hang it full length on the refrigerator.
The white space something I’d stepped from.
Its thick blue line sort of wobbly
between my thighs, where his hands shook.
In the mornings my little sister would stand
on one foot, looking at it. Her groggy pajamas.
Her hands playing in her lunatic hair.
Megmentem egy tűzvésztől a világot,
de legalábbis elfújok egy gyertyát.
Hagyok egy kis meleget azért,
hogy ne fázzon a kombinémodell a plakáton.
Feltámadt a szél, de nem baj,
elnyomja a fölösleges
Itt jön most egy szakadék,
úgyhogy fölfelé is, lefelé is indulhatok,
mert mindenképp leesek.
Most az a pillanat van,
mikor kizárok mindent,
és most a szélnek sincsen hangja.
Ha vége, majd talán sírok is.
Vagy nevetek. Vagy ordítok,
még nem tudom, épp most dől el.
How do people stay true to each other?
When I think of my parents all those years
in the unmade bed of their marriage, not ever
longing for anything else — or: no, they must
have longed; there must have been flickerings,
stray desires, nights she turned from him,
sleepless, and wept, nights he rose silently,
smoked in the dark, nights that nest of breath
and tangled limbs must have seemed
not enough. But it was. Or they just
held on. A gift, perhaps, I've tossed out,
having been always too willing to fly
to the next love, the next and the next, certain
nothing was really mine, certain nothing
would ever last. So faith hits me late, if at all;
faith that this latest love won't end, or ends
in the shapeless sleep of death. But faith is hard.
When he turns his back to me now, I think:
disappear. I think: not what I want. I think
of my mother lying awake in those arms
that could crush her. That could have. Did not.
A kirakatban lévő asztalhoz ültünk
végül. Üres egyébként ez az egész.
Az étel ehető, de inkább csak
beszélünk, így hárman:
mi ketten meg a tulaj, aki tőlünk nem
messze járkál és egy érthetetlen
nyelven hadar a mobiljába.
A falon tükrök kirakva, körben,
mintha öröm lenne magunkat nézni;
és nem történik semmi, ha kérdik,
majd azt mondjuk, beszélgettünk;
te elmesélted, hogy Keleten
valahol, nem tudod pontosan, hol,
úgy kell enniük a nőknek, hogy nem érhet
étel az ajkaikhoz. Ott arrébb átjött a
felhők résein a nap, szemembe süt,
de mindegy, sokáig csak nézlek aztán;
vajon tényleg nem vetted észre, hogy
két napja nem értem hozzá a szádhoz?
Beszédünk mögött valaki egy
érthetetlen nyelven hadar,
szembenálló koszos tükrökben
egy közhely, meg mi ketten.
Ha már nem kellett, legalább
mondd meg, mi volt ez.
Tudjam, miért fizettem.
I leave the number and a short
message on every green Volvo
Is anything wrong?
I miss you.
The phone rings constantly.
One says, Are you bald?
Another, How tall are you in
your stocking feet?
Most just reply, Nothing’s wrong.
I miss you, too.
Tudod, társnőm, az ember
olyan tétova, zavaros képződmény,
még a magamfajta eszélyes lény is.
Hol fatalista, hol csak
szeszélyes és gyenge,
lökdösik pillanatszülte vágyak.
Közben fél is, amolyan
fedett félelem ez, elfedik
feladatok, közeli célok, mert az ember
tervező állat. A tervezés reflex
– mint a nyálkiválasztás vagy a
a fényviszonyoknak megfelelően.
És persze dolgozom: köddarabokat
dolgozok át jéggé.
A fordítás egy szabadabb neme ez:
az ősz lágy, nyirkos impresszionizmusát
eltolom a tél rideg realizmusa felé.
Úgynevezett színházi fordítás ez
a saját belső színpadom számára,
hol én vagyok a rendező,
s nemkülönben az összes szereplő is.
Más aspektusból nézve
már ami a költő és a vers,
úr és szolga viszonyát illeti,
a szolga én voltam.
Cat stands at the fridge,
cries loudly for milk.
But I've filled her bowl.
wild cat, I say, Sister,
look, you have milk.
I clink my fingernail
against the rim. Milk.
With down and liver,
a word I know she hears.
Her sad miaow. She runs
to me. She dips
in her whiskers but
doesn't drink. As sometimes
I want the light on
when it is on. Or when
I saw the woman walking
toward my house and
I thought there's Frances.
Then looked in the car mirror
to be sure. She stalks
the room. She wants. Milk
beyond milk. World beyond
this one, she cries.
Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves ...
Don't search for the answers,
which could not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, someday far in the future,
you will gradually, without even noticing it,
live your way into the answer.
I will say no when I mean yes,
I will say no when I mean no.
When you answer the phone,
I will spit out my water and play in it.
When you write an email I will demand to be on your lap.
Oh, and trust me everything tastes better when it comes from your plate.
At two I will be contrary just because I can…
Yet at two,
I will learn to dance, Even when people are looking.
I will sing and, applaud myself.
I will give you hugs and kisses so full of love they will make you cry.
I will smile and try to tell you about my day.
I will always be excited when you come home.
Two comes only once…
At two I will sing, I will count, I will have fits.
At two I know I love you, and I know you love me.
The first cell felt no call to divide.
Fed on abundant salts and sun,
still thin, it simply spread,
rocking on water, clinging to stone,
a film of obliging strength.
Its endoplasmic reticulum
was a thing of incomparable curvaceous length;
its nucleus, Golgi apparatus, RNA
magnificent. With no incidence
of loneliness, inner conflict, or deceit,
no predator nor prey,
it had little to do but thrive,
draw back from any sharp heat
or bitterness, and change its pastel
colors in a kind of song.
We are descendants of the second cell.
I believe in the Tuesdays and Wednesdays of life, the tuna sandwich lunches and TV after dinner. I believe in coffee with hot milk and peanut butter toast, Rose wine in summer and Burgundy in winter.
I am not in love with holidays, birthdays—nothing special— and weekends are just days numbered six and seven, though my love dozing over TV golf while I work the Sunday puzzle might be all I need of life and all I ask of heaven.
1. if you ever feel like leaving him, renting a rich blue convertible and becoming someone else somewhere in the desert, i’ll go with you
2. thank you for all the horrible and/or dangerous things you did first, so i could learn from your mistakes. specifically: getting herpes, dropping out of school, getting a trendy dream catcher tattoo.
3. i dropped acid with your ex-girlfriend.
4. remember back during your chunky crystals and channeling spirits phase, when you told me in the back seat of a Ford Taurus that you had spoken with my higher self and she was “really worried about me”? i haven’t trusted myself since.
5. i took French in school because you did, and i thought we would be able to have top secret conversations about sex and drugs and rated R films in front of mom. why didn’t we do that?
6. i was the one that destroyed your Black Crowes tape, not the dog.
7. every time you ran away from home, i followed you.