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Lovers:

As we argue,
I drive carefully,
not to make you right.

During a fight, we prefer not to give the other person anything to be right about.


"Let's go to bed,"
she said, as if it were
a place.

Of course, it is a place, but for a lover it may be, rather, a punctuation mark in the day, an exclamation point, perhaps.


I'm so alone
they said to
each other.


Dark room where they've talked
since noon. I turn on the light--
bright startled faces.

They've been talking for hours, too fascinated with each other to notice it's grown dark, too lit up by each other's gazes and smiles to notice that the light is nearly gone. When someone turns on the light, they are shocked to discover they've been talking so long in such a dark room. It's a blinding revelation to them.


A man and woman kissing
in a car in the privacy of me
being a passing stranger.

We have complex rules about what can be revealed to whom. Our dear ones can see us in our underwear, hear our farts, etc., while strangers (a strange concept, "stranger") must not. On the other hand, lovers necking in public might be embarrassed if Mom or Dad appeared, but strangers are simply not there. There are also rules (varying from person to person) about what it is OK for a cat to see or a dog. Orthodox Jews in Eastern Europe used to chase the flies out of the bedroom before sex. (I wonder how they felt about flies having sex in their bedroom.) But surely they left the spider in the corner alone?


Waking. My hand rests
on your thigh, a gull asleep
on the breathing tide.


You thought you had to lie.
My anger must be ugly.
We are both fools.

"I lied because I thought you'd lose your temper." That's the back story.


Window. Watching the
sky turn red after letting
her have the last word.


You doze, one arm out-
stretched, ballerina hand arched
over the pillow.


Across the table
you slowly smile. What now must
I pretend not to know?

You may find this one tricky. It wasn't written about a lover, but about a friend - my best friend for many years. Though the relationship wasn't sexual, the dynamics described above might well arise between lovers. He had a flair for the dramatic. He would start to say something supposedly profound (for example, prefacing it with, "Well, I think I've finally figured it out"), then erase his words in air (shake his hand, say "no, no, that's not it", then try again, interrupt himself again, seem to invite help from me, would receive my offering with a "Wow! That's it!" and then sag visibly and say, no, wait, that's not quite it, and so forth.

The thing is, what he'd seem to be getting at would often seem obvious to me, even banal. And I'd begin to suspect either I was being conned or he was stupider than I thought. But then he'd say something subtle enough (on some other subject) to make me doubt that. But - looking back at our conversations later - it seemed to me he never had said much that struck me as wise or profound.

But during the years of our long walks and discussions, I didn't want to know that, didn't want to lose my sense of his profundity (pretended not to know what I knew, thus making less of myself), partly because he'd tell me that I was one of the few to whom he could talk about such things (how flattering!). Besides he was and probably still is a charming person. But he filled my days with maybe's.

From an enemy, I expect confusion. Isn't that the prayer: Lord, wreak confusion on my enemies? From a friend I expect understanding, not confusion. Sometimes a friend gets himself confused with a Zen Master.


Put your smile against mine,
follow it, and contribute
to the motion.


I lie naked on the bed.
You touch me. The bed acquires
a skyline.


Lady, I love the way
you laugh at my jokes
after I've explained them.


Lady, I'll leave you
if I can just get my eyes
to let go of you.


She is true to me
in her fashion: I set her
free; she went away.

This pokes fun at the familiar mantra about getting her back by setting her free. That's a half truth. A fuller truth is that if you set her free, either way, you have a better chance of getting yourself back.


Solving your hairdo,
my fingers undo all the
locks of your hair.


You listen, your eyes
lit up with the exclamation
points I leave out.


Making love,
your head thrown back -
why two nostrils?

Odd thoughts occur at unexpected moments. But when else are your eyes a few inches from a head flung dramatically back, so that you are looking right up a double-barreled nose? To avoid such distractions, some lovers keep their eyes shut throughout (and who knows what they are looking at!), while others enjoy the ride, including the sights - and the sounds, which sometimes include unsolicited contributions from the guts. And I, I am always grateful to receive a new haiku.


Your paintings on
every wall -- you are really
something! Color me yours.


Honeymoon. Waiting
for a table in a restaurant,
not minding.

When all that matters is to be with one another, there's nothing to be impatient about.


Hand on soft white ass
this morning -- why is it
childlike?

Do naked asses seem childlike to you? Often they strike me that way. Why? I don't know. Perhaps because we first become aware of our bottoms and those of our siblings as children, particularly when cuddling into big towels after being given a bath. Perhaps because our bottoms don't usually get much sun, remain pale, innocent quarter-moons, don't wrinkle much (their sag not noticeable in a dark bedroom), remain soft and smooth, ageless, taunting mortality while reminding us of it. Touching them, when this association occurs, becomes touching. But then the whole sex act is rather childlike. It seems an act invented by an imaginative child. I can hear the parent say, "Oh, stop imagining such silliness!" After all, what could be more innocent than sex? During intercourse, there is no separation of sexes. Genitalia are hidden in each other. When are we more like babies?


I warm my hands
between your thighs. Now
other parts grow warm.


Her car in the drive --
three dogs rush the screen door
just behind my thoughts.


The labia -- butterfly wings.
In their flutter
soaring.

It is I who soar in the imagined fluttering of the labia.


Cuckhold

Unfaithful,
she shies away from his touch:
"C-c-COLD!"

A pun that encompasses the way those who are unfaithful find excuses to withhold themselves, just as they withhold the truth of what they've been doing.


Please just kill me --
don't lie to me so I don't know
I'm already dead.

When you're being betrayed by someone and don't know it - or prevent yourself from knowing it because you don't want it to be true, a deadness enters your life. The things you are used to enjoying have lost their savor. You don't know why. When you find out why (for example, that she'd been with another guy on the sly for a year), that whole period becomes retroactively dead, though there's some relief to knowing why you've felt so dead for a year. It's worse feeling dead and not knowing why.


Through the vents,
lovers downstairs...can our cries
be so gentle?

Lower East Side, Manhattan, 1968. I was staying with a friend, sat in the bathroom in the hall, heard the most tender moaning - it seemed to be just a foot from my head (where the vent was). I thought someone was in exquisite pain (not far wrong), realized it was a man and a woman, moans richly intertwined, making love. I learned from my friend that they were a floor below and often entertained the folks on this floor during their bathroom moments. I hope they didn't hear my guts noises. I never met them, never had to blush, probably wouldn't have, enjoyed their moaning, just wished I had a lover myself (at that time, I was not long divorced).


Separating us,
1000 miles -- woods fields roads --
connect us.

A familiar paradox: We are connected by what separates us; for example, our flesh or a continent or even hatred.


Reading about two lovers,
I cry -- in the bathtub with a book
crying.


Cars keep going by.
When will one turn into our drive,
turn into you?


She's driving up...at
the door -- write fast before
present time goes nova!


New lovers laugh,
not at stomach growls, but at
no embarrassment.


Morning. Bloomed overnight
from rumpled nightgown, soft
in my hand, your ass.


On this long bus trip
the thought of you, lady,
makes for discomfort.


In mid-sentence
I stop talking -- space for you
to unfold your smile's wings.


Stroking, moaning, thrashing --
our parents did the same
when we weren't looking.


One breast (ummmmm!), such abundance! --
and yet another breast!...
But who's counting?


Fluent with one tongue
in her mouth, she could but moan
with two.


We turn out the lights.
Soon you begin to glow
in your own light.


In bed, ass to
naked ass, I write, careful
not to wake her.


We kiss long and hard -
it is not easy to learn
a foreign tongue.


Car sound in the drive –
yours? Ask my heart,
sparrow-hopping to the door.


I didn't mean to wake you;
lying here – dreaming? –
I had to touch you.


As my wife reads my
poems, I put my arm around
her shoulders, cheating.

The poet who wrote the poems is betrayed by his later self, who won't allow the poems to speak for themselves, and even exploits them, hoping to take advantage of the mood they create - CHEATER! (And why not?)


In a yard-goods store,
I stroke a roll of soft stuff -
did you feel touched, love?


Lovers in tall grass
up to ankles...hip...shoulders...
GONE! All at one spot!

Note: The lovers are disappearing into the tall grass, but not by walking into it. They are lying down in it. Seeing them vanishing into the grass in the distance, I thought at first they were walking into taller grass, then realized they weren't walking away, only descending.


Spring

Summer

Autumn

Winter

Rain

Wind

Night

Morning

Dusk

Walking

Places

Children

Lovers

Loss and Loneliness and aloneness

Characters

Old Age

Music

A Poet's Life

Cats

Dogs

Beasts

Birds

Insects

Plants

Trees

Telephones and TVs

Things

Mankind