By paul verlaine
Their long skirts and high heels battled away:
Depending on the ground’s and breezes’ whim,
At times some stocking shone, low on the limb—
Too soon concealed!—tickling our naïveté.
At times, as well, an envious bug would bite
Our lovelies’ necks beneath the boughs, and we
Would glimpse a flash—white flash, ah! ecstasy!—
And glut our mad young eyes on sheer delight.
Evening would fall, the autumn day would draw
To its uncertain close: our belles would cling
Dreamingly to us, cooing, whispering
Lies that still set our souls trembling with awe.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Danse sacree et danse profane by Claude Debussy
BY annie finch
Sir, I am not a bird of prey:
a Lady does not seize the day.
I trust that brief Time will unfold
our youth, before he makes us old.
How could we two write lines of rhyme
were we not fond of numbered Time
and grateful to the vast and sweet
trials his days will make us meet:
The Grave's not just the body's curse;
no skeleton can pen a verse!
So while this numbered World we see,
let's sweeten Time with poetry,
and Time, in turn, may sweeten Love
and give us time our love to prove.
You've praised my eyes, forehead, breast:
you've all our lives to praise the rest.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Serenade for Strings, 2nd movement by Edward Elgar
Days of '74
BY mark jaRman
What was the future then but affirmation,
The first yes between us
Followed by the first lingering dawn?
Waking below a window shaded by redwoods
(Waking? We hadn’t slept—),
We found time saved, like sunlight in a tree.
Still, the house was cold, and there were shadows.
The couple in the next room
Rapped the wall to quiet us, like them,
Condescending from a bitter knowledge
That, young as we all were,
Love didn’t last, but receded into silence.
Wedging our pillows back of the headboard
That clapped in time with us,
We let them think we agreed. Then, holding on,
We closed each other’s mouths and felt that slowness
That the best days begin with
Turn into the speed with which they fly.
Flight was that year’s theme, all around us—
Flight of hunter and hunted,
The President turning inward on one wing,
And, on the patio, the emigration
Of termites, a glittering fleet,
Leaving that shadowed house a little lighter.
Within it all, above it, or beyond,
We thought we were the fixed point,
And held still as the quail lit down beside us
And waited for her plump mate to appear,
His crest a quivering hook.
The valley’s reach of sunshine reeled them in.
There was wilderness around us, don’t forget.
Behind the nets of fragrance
Thrown across our path by the acacia
Lurked the green man or the kidnapper.
And there was the Pacific
With its own passions taking place as rain.
The sorrow of the couple in the next room
Was a deep muteness nightly.
That loneliness could come of loving was
Like news of time cored out of the redwood.
The house that we made shake,
Or thought we did, was taking wing already.
After we left, still it took us years
Before we stopped comparing
Every morning together to that first one
And every place we lived to that first place
And everything we said
To that first word repeated all night long.
Intermezzo by Francis Poulenc
BY dorianne laux
Before the days of self service,
when you never had to pump your own gas,
I was the one who did it for you, the girl
who stepped out at the sound of a bell
with a blue rag in my hand, my hair pulled back
in a straight, unlovely ponytail.
This was before automatic shut-offs
and vapor seals, and once, while filling a tank,
I hit a bubble of trapped air and the gas
backed up, came arcing out of the hole
in a bright gold wave and soaked me — face, breasts,
belly and legs. And I had to hurry
back to the booth, the small employee bathroom
with the broken lock, to change my uniform,
peel the gas-soaked cloth from my skin
and wash myself in the sink.
Light-headed, scrubbed raw, I felt
pure and amazed — the way the amber gas
glazed my flesh, the searing,
subterranean pain of it, how my skin
shimmered and ached, glowed
like rainbowed oil on the pavement.
I was twenty. In a few weeks I would fall,
for the first time, in love, that man waiting
patiently in my future like a red leaf
on the sidewalk, the kind of beauty
that asks to be noticed. How was I to know
it would begin this way: every cell of my body
burning with a dangerous beauty, the air around me
a nimbus of light that would carry me
through the days, how when he found me,
weeks later, he would find me like that,
an ordinary woman who could rise
in flame, all he would have to do
is come close and touch me.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Slow Hot Wind by Henry Mancini
BY tom sleigh
Lathe of the ocean. Perpetual
Motion machine of the waves. Everything still
Being turned and shaped to a shape nobody
Foresees: Ten years ago, was it, when we
Walked that shore, too earnest and sheepish
To hold hands? The wind cutting through our clothes
Cleansed and burned, the chill off the Atlantic
An ache we courted in our dumbstruck talk:
Callow, expectant, what wouldn’t love give?
Cavalcanti’s ray from Mars, Dante’s wheel that moves
The planets and the stars, how nervous
We were, awkward and shivering: “Like this,
Do you like it like this?” Up all night,
Then waking to the smell of flannel and sweat,
We lay grateful, winded, goosefleshed in the chill,
Our own atmosphere rich and breathable:
We drank round the clock, embracing extremes,
Too hurried and heartsore to think of time…
Out fishing after midnight, we watched schools of squid
Slide and shimmer, tentacles tight-wrapped
Around our gig’s hooks: Yanked from the water,
They spouted jets of ink, then pulsed and quivered
And faded to dead-white, their eyes, resigned and sober,
Opening wider and wider…Ten years more,
And will either of us remember
That ink sticky on our hands, the moon-glare
Rippling as we knelt underneath the pier
And scrubbed and scrubbed our hands in the dark water?
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Concerto for 2 Violins, 2nd. movement, by J.S. Bach