Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Line Breaks in Poetry

My father never taught
How to change the oil in cars.
It’s something I fudge about now.
Sounds manly, getting down in the dirt on my back
Under an oil plate, a wrench in one hand.
It’s too late for him to show me now.
My mother was a wonder
To carve little bird foot paths
Into the crusts of her holiday pies.
Kept a dish of sweets in the pantry.
It is her voice I have when I sing
In my classrooms and each night at story time
Our line is strong. Her mother Melva wrote
At a metal kitchen table in the little cottage by the lake.
On her window sill were glass figurines
Cinderella shoe, Liberty Bell, blue eye’d squirrel with nut, Eiffel Tower.
When she moved to the retirement home we put them all in boxes
Now lost
I was the last grandchild to see her curled up in the hospital bed like a small porcelain snail
At her end, we had no resemblance, until now.
My daughters will grow to take lovers,
Hold hands in yellow and purple fields,
Stop the car to take pictures beside
The wooden Indian
With boys
I will never know.
I will telephone them at school and they will lie
And slip further away
Because they love me and I must let them go,
Because that is the way,
Because nothing lasts forever.

I walk in the night because I can no longer sleep
I hold onto moments
With a pen in my hand
Scribbling verse for nothing and no one.
The black ink flows out like a giant line from my page
Into an ominous night I'll never soar
Toward a horizon I'll never cross.
Stay night, you’re my lover now, hold.
Never end
Ever end
My reverence for thee.
But she’s fickle, let’s the sun in the back door every time,
Telling me everything, breaking my heart again and again without remorse.
I arrive in Kathmandu lonely, hurting, and isolated from everything around me. The city is full of chaos and commotion, tourists pointing and beggars and drug dealers and honking motorcycles and market stalls and dusty roads and an endless maze of streets. At the airport a deaf mute grunts and leads me to a taxi. I put a bill in his hand later I discover is worth .0001 of a penny. We begin driving in this old jalopy down streets. It is the same as India. Bridges over dead rivers littered with trash. Dirt roads with oxen and aimless youth. One story brick houses waiting to collapse. Down an alley a motor cycle comes straight toward us and hits the car ahead. The driver tumbles over the handlebars and lands in a heap. We must stop and check. Our driver gets out. I get out. There is blood and I am trying to get out of the way for others to help. A girl in the market spots me, without notice she approaches and kisses me right on the mouth and then leaves. I am dazed and disgusted.
An hour later I am dropped off in the center of the backpacker paradise of Thamel, leaping into doorways just to catch my breath. Immediately I don’t want to be here, but I am stuck for the next three days and I go back to my cheap hotel room and sit on the floor next to the bed and hide. That night there is no electricity, only candles in store windows causing shadows in the headlights of motorbikes revealing swinging arms and kicking legs of the other people around me on the roads. I walk all night to Durbar Square, climb a stuppa high above the traffic through the heart of the old city. I sit in the dark surging light. I take pictures no one will ever see. I write letters never meaning to send. I scribble poetry I plan to burn. I watch the people stave off the night like me, all of us in Kathmandu taking part in the end of the world.

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