Feb '03 [Home]


. No Body On Earth, But Yours
Margo Berdeshevsky

inquiry of the tribunal
Christopher Mulrooney

Punch Line
Michael Gause

Fran Montane

[Edward Hopper:  Woman in the Sun]

~ . ~ . ~

No Body On Earth, But Yours
Margo Berdeshevsky

Yours are the only feet with which He can go about the world.
Christ has no body on earth, but yours. —St. Teresa of Avila

Who shall be hung,
how he writhes, bottle-eyed animal moaning for an eager
war, how a president stamps for orgasm not to be denied for —
now his troops are massed and time, the all we have, chanting.

In a dank stone prison cave in middle Paris, time-balm for
the hour, cave kitsch-ily named la Guillotine, its shined blade-
machina alertly cornered, wall behind our heavy heads we note
has words carved in since fourteen-twenty-one:  Je serai pendu.

I shall be hung. Who shall be hung, all souls, our damp
impatience for — I think that time's invented helm is wacky
spinning Weimar bodies, think it's spewing signs we can't
elude, this night a poet prays, her head
lolling and as though in her own bottle-glass-eye, blind too,
she now can see

a blade's truth of it, how it lowers so necessarily
out of this historic — glow,
more then more our — nineteen-thirty-nine lifts now
with each sun's knife, lifts now. How hawks are bellowing.
How friends position to demand their prejudicial shoe to
stand in — is the human fact I find most evil to bear.
It stands so tall for — thrumming drum and trumpet ready
letting blood notes for —
Indeed "Israelis have chosen their 'Jews'," dear poet.
How deserts choose their endless sands. The dead, their eyes.
Indeed self-righteousness grows toes and fingers hourly, what
monster child is this we call our safety for —

A taller man at dinner — motor-minding so from the bowel of his
hates for fears for I must wish to leave the table and the de-boned
sole not to hide but out of protest for — oh I must not weep how a brown-
shirt rhetoric so spits like vomit from descendants of the last world war.
What world shall we defend, God, as we bear our beautiful
rope of causes, who'll be hung — for hoping?

(With thanks to Marilyn Hacker. Paris, Jan. 2003)

~ . ~

inquiry of a tribunal
Christopher Mulrooney

skullcaps have we on our caps
for the due deliberations?

Dominus Christi seclorum
etc. amen
be seated please
here are the tomes in question
crack them lightly
a bothersome muddle this
who's in charge of dusting?

first witness deposes as follows
in a glade or lea
I chanced to see what I ought not to have this
sight or thing revolved in my mind
days or weeks
until I forbade myself food or drink nine days
pondering itself
and resolved from then on to cleanse my bosom of the mishap
thankfully the sheriff masticated data with some ease
and we were not long coming into town with the facts

second witness likewise goes on to say how
marshaled were the lab boys and the

we have to say how fortunate is the feeling that overcomes us
considering the depredations in town seeing
we have the lab and a constabulary at all
God be praised in His mercy to us

third witness swears to tell the whole truth
etc. as regards the character and faith of
two witnesses preceding
this was noted

fourth witness a prominent citizen attests
the same as third and vouches for third

beyond this we have no authority
nor there is needed none

lab reports are in that bundle there
undo the ribbon kindly so

three scientists pre-eminent in their field
give significantly evidence of no misgivings
as regards their handling of these matters
we have their university diplomas and say no more about that
one dictates to his secretary a letter outlining
the general facts of the case as he sees them
another takes them point by point and decides
to forgo any footnotes
leaving these to the last

thus you have a comprehensive document

the accused identifies the victim says no idea
could have taken place within the accused's mind
that would have taken more than a few seconds to engender
the horrible misdeed and therefore
released on own recognizance

the victim scattered belongings everywhere
in the path and they were collected
as far as possible under the supervision
of the museum director

one will turn away from Heaven for an instant
and so be lost

thanks be to God who in His wisdom foreordained
this mission to the vaults of the past
that we would wake the sleeping and raise the dead

~ . ~

Punch Line
Michael Gause

(fade from black)
A figure looks out from inside his moving car
blue eyes
St. Paul?
Cello on the radio
driving home on back roads

(cold cut)
crimson drops
onto fine stationery
shaking hand
               wax seal

(cold return to car)
Eye twitching two-lane focus
Blonde in a red car (always a red one)
Cellos and car stop outside
The figure looks up to second story window to
Another in window pacing
with blue eyes
sees the car below

has learned to hate letters


~ . ~

Fran Montane


we met for the first time
on the other shore
forsaking the winged steed,
dead to time; to notion, ideas,
thoughts, visions, fantasies,
just still and present
in an embryonic embrace,
one sudden, happy,
and unexpected moment,
          a phoenix forming on the hull

I arrived as Kama, carrying a bow entwined
with fragrant flowers and five arrows whose
points, for you, were aromatic blossoms—
               and it seemed the gods were smiling on us

you, with the shape of the head of an elephant,
called out to me four hundred and eighty-seven
thousand times,
               A palette spilling over into the night,
in another place, we came and went in increments
                  of strength

precarious love,
               insidious kindly sentiments
tedious and unwelcome exhortations
               knowing the German linguist was
sleeping in your bed

two world annihilating riddles
wrapped around white vibrations
lips saturated in fresh blood
an elixir poured
from a pitcher of gold,
you cracked open the mystery
with the kind of cynicism
which binds an infinite
number of selves
to the bonds of illusion

such is the way I will leave,
in a spectacle of happy confusion

I left you in that hotel room in Delhi
               (there are no stars in Delhi, you said)
to tip over into the whirlpool
of death and rebirth
neti, neti (neither thus, nor thus)
and went off to the shores of the Ganges,
whose waters, for us,
flow backwards on the page

There I stood,
on the steps of the ghat,
taking in the smoke of burnt wood,
gazing at your frail body,
                    subtle body,
                         gross body,
under a crimson glow,
               your memory a blur,
shooting out from the blazing fire
the sparks that come from that
impassioned state, from being,
and verily, you returned; invisible,
ineffable, intangible, inconceivable,
               wrapped in red,
            charcoal faced, half human
carcass, floating past the eye,
your body
          her body,
                    my body,
"the fire burns it but the wind does not wither it,
and the water wets it not"

Mind, paddling downstream,
     beaded anklets clanging,
               the beating of wet clothes
against slabs of stone,
               an array of marigolds
illuminating the river at dawn,
               I reached down and
grabbed an earring. I still keep
it for sanctity's sake, a reminder
that I had come to be free
from the sins of the past
and to attain enough merits
to always have a place to rest

Apka nam kya hai?
(what is your name, respectfully)
I offered chocolates to the little girl
               with the mud
stained dress — Sunita,
          you and I will be born tomorrow

How did I get here, this place where transitory
superimpositions meet their unchanging source?
city of Shiva and Parvati — alleyways with golden
temples and flies, this place where children flock
to my side, "aaaalo aaaalo, two rupees,
                          two rupees"

The void within the seed of the fig
suffers like the salt in the pan of water,
making my way back, on a rickshaw,
swerving in and out of cars, cycles
and disenchanted cows
moving in the direction which stars appear to travel,
I stopped for a coca cola,
and held back the tears,
because destiny was not mine to own

To them, I walk on water,
skin and bones,
silver bowls,
crawling on their knees,
to some they have no face,
only oversized
and expectant eyes
protruding through bony
oval frames and meeting
the horizon with chants,
images in the sky that
even I am ashamed of,
and so, dropping a coin
I make sure not to touch
their gaunt hands,
this self-absorption
will always haunt me
and this is the reason
I will never hear from you again

Om is the imperishable sound
of the visible world
It was a treacherous road
to the Maha Bodhi Temple
where the Tibetan monks
fall to the ground in disciplined
oblations of recurrence, renewal,
                    and reduction
I touched my head to the Bodhi Tree,
and gathered leaves that had fallen
for friends back home,
just as the spider pours forth its web
from itself and takes it back again,
a lama greeted me with an extended hand,
our palms gripped and withdrew,
Umesh smiled at the sacred thread,
"mostly they keep to themselves,"
he said, then invited me to his home
                    for tea

Beloved wife, dignified and devoted,
for fifty years she cooked over a fire
in a cement hut, and kneaded masala
with a stone, for us, she made kheer
and tea, we laughed and sat on Umesh's
wooden bed, he knew my incantation
to bypass reason was roused
long ago by shifting pigments of light
and a tongue that sets off the sun,
he nodded as if hearing my thoughts
like the butter hidden in milk,
then curiously asked for sneakers from
the States — ones just like mine

I returned from Bodhgaya to take shelter
in your incandescent eyes, but in your face
there was a blank fatalism,
where from my words
turned back on themselves,
with the mind not having attained,
the knot of the heart is cut
by the pink lotus in the Buddha pond
and the whole world is dwindling in importance
even moksha is finally meaningless


          Lift up your voices
Mamu is planning the massacre of "Man",
an eclipsis occurs in eery synchronicity,
language is thrown into the shade,
and we sit staring
               at the rhythmic fluctuations
of our thoughts,
          bewraying tones and tangent curves,
the long horizontal strokes of a wood
carver's chisel, invoking thousands of years
of suspicious syllables and unrighteous motifs

Between two earth lives, dancing girls and
courtesans are mirrored in your new black
mascara, "the time," you say "has come"
and your ceremonial oration, determined to mend,
     ("the androcratic male dominated society
of about 10,000 years is coming to an end")
slapped hard against the imminent combustion
of tall towers
          far away,
in a land both revered and loathed,
the land where I was born,
"a land," you say,
"that has never been able to address
its own contradictions"

I hear you each winter
with great luster
and a little harshness,
your rights of passage
your sensations,
your predispositions,
your trisyllabic
your flowing waters,
we are not far from the ferryboat
and we want to change things before we leave

Mamu, I remember you
I saw in you a duty to forbear the images
and never desist from our cause
but are we not all guilty of adding a letter
that does not contribute to the making of a word
We have to go back even farther than that,
to the critical juncture where the charioteer
spoke and gave him heart

               That night never seemed to end,
a river crossed,
of no more force than a mirage,
broken, inaudible sounds,
echoing through centuries,
penetrating the moon,
in tattered rags,
two minds, becoming one woman —
Lift up your voices
Mamu is coming

limping like a troubled bird,
having fallen on the way down in an
abysmally profound frenzy thrown into
the vortex of the world,
I hitched a ride from a man and wife
on their way to Pooja, grabbing my
bags and a handful of purple and
rose-pink flowers, on that desolate
road the universe spoke, with the beatitude
of conviction,
     "Nothing which exists can remain unchanged"

                    and behold,
               I saw the stars in Delhi

such is the way I will leave,
in a spectacle of happy confusion

~ . ~ . ~