Issue 154, Spring 2000
for David Trinidad
In bold black type among grayer headlines
All Time High—Maybelline Stock Hits 60,
Board Acceptance of Buyout Thought Likely.
It wasn’t in my nature to accept
her. It wasn’t in hers to be true,
if true means plain. (Made-up means untrue?)
I saw both views, plainly, as children do.
My mother, in her sixties, was older
than my father, more like friends’ grandmothers;
the same woman, who, after hours
at her vanity, with skill and precision
coaxed those dividends to mature luster,
installed herself in her rightful station—
the restored Empress of all Westchester.
Forgoing imitation, I chose instead
to entertain and admire. Talking
as she colored—brimming, redrawn lips,
eyes oddly alert, by a nostril
a shy mole, brows more poised than natural,
glue and pins, lotions and powders to blend—
This one has a dog, I’d say, that one is
getting her second new father; After
I played at the Ostraus’, I was brought
home by their uniformed, negro driver;
Teacher’s having a baby and leaving
class for good in November. She never
answered. All her mind mapped the regimen
of cracks and crevices and conquering.
I think of Yeats who wished his daughter to
marry rich, her beauty to be good but not
potent. I wish years for us. The beauty
of safety. Lights are ample at the
university. Call boxes shine paths
while nimble trucks patrol the dim campus.
Last night we slept in the same city
for the first time in weeks. I woke
to the noise of a crowd on the street.
Men, maybe boys, their voices like ropes
easily made the climb to our window.
Profane Obscene Corrupt Drumbeat
Language a ladder of knives they carried.
This is how a woman wakes from sleep.
Your mother worked. She blames herself.
Her ambition, she apologizes,
caused (like a virus?) awkwardness in the
kitchen. Mine worked at her complexion.
Now I apologize, having blamed,
belittled her; contemptuous, jealous,
I thought of her only as a diva.
This morning brings its operatic sky.
The day began with the shriek of metal,
a backhoe leveling an old foundation.
A clothing shop becomes a bank, et cetera.
Out of the din your unadorned body reaches
for mine. After, we lay exhausted, mined,
impatient for a rain to settle so much dust.
So unmade, am I then true? I've redrawn
her again in my sleep, myself around
the arc of inventing. Rainy season.
February. Heavy grays mute lush greens
in counterpoint, just as she, alive, saw
death in the seasons. In their kitchens,
a thousand generations of women
make coffee, toast, gather what they can in
the misshapen pockets of robes: ideas,
futures, stones. Children need to be readied
for school, blouses ironed, books, briefcase closed.
It will rain all day and into the night
when we go again to dreaming.
Such an old theme.
This is the fool the body has become:
a retouched advertising icon
hawking cars on billboards and magazines.
The Dow Jones soars higher as the
fairy tale captains of the Nasdaq
force marriage on virgin stocks and
virgin mutual fund investors.
Businesses downsize for businessmen.
The pie gets smaller, the slices larger.
And Maybelline weds L'Oreal. As she
and Yeats wished we would all wed
someone bigger, though in their image.
What other dreams went unsounded
under that foundation, lovingly poured?
What love doesn't also alter its object:
a monochromatic watercolor
of a lake balanced on the window sill,
the concrete frame of a bank eclipsing
the pastoral shade of a church.
Build what you will. Juxtapose wood and steel,
rows of adjoining townhomes, word structures,
the heat of bodies revived, ephemeral.
The watercolor shadows run wild,
out of proportion to the mountains
circling the water—too wide, too high,
made-up, untrue. We depend on
the unlikely composition to survive:
bold black strokes that fasten the grayer lines.