I went bare-assed into the battle

--Charles Simic




On her freckled bosom we drew a map of the world 


This dream begins and ends in an attic

Black attic!

Grandfather running with stick!

Hidden treasures!

Baby carriages!

A still living baby!

Burnt bonnets!

The baby is smiling!

We feed it sugar!

It nods its head like a queen

A little queen!

And tiny kings!

Pumping their hands in greeting

Tiny kings who love us!


My king kneels down every evening

My king does that for me

His royal lips uncovering all stories

I have held inside

My stomach

And my king makes a pancake supper

A pancake supper!

For us


Back to the attic

Where we found a living woman

A living woman!

Her throat constricted

Her belly blue!

Her words confused

We found her!

Lying on the attic floor

What glory, what horror, what skies flew over her


On her freckled bosom we drew a map of the world

On our own living woman

Who was lying down on the attic floor

Our grandfatherís attic

Where he used to roar!



Where are our magic horses that would jump through our rings of fire?


His thighs hold semen inside

From so long ago!

We have to coax it out

Onto his hands

Something we would not

Sing or dance about


She is small and clean

Her bathroom in order


Where are our magic horses

That would jump through our rings of fire?


One trick dog

On 6th street

Broken from riddles

A woman cries from the window

Come home!



Says her mother in a whirlwind


In her pajamas

Her fist full of lollipop

Face tight to the wall

Pure hair revolving

Her mother walks down the hallway

The black telephone rings

On the other side of the world

Her father is trying on a new pair of pants  

Trains shrug down the track

Her brother is crying

The angels skip down the street

Her sunny street is turning

Songs enter and exit

Says her mother

In a whirlwind


Says her mother in a whirlwind

Frankly, I was talked out of skipping from cloud to cloud


And the babyís face blackens

And the moon comes out



Hands fattened, folded


They look in

Her tiny eyes; his firemanís shoulders  

Vodka in hands

Furniture all over

They look

Into my dark and bitter corner


Where are you?

I am in flatland

I am besieged by male animals

I am broken at the hip

I am lied to

I am a liar

I cannot sing

I have a heart that doesnít beat


I am in flatland

I am without comfort

I walk in the yard like a doll still in her package

I am in flatland

No vacation, this strangled hut that serves as my



They look in

Hand in hand

Fattened waists, bending

His dull mind clicking

Her smart will to keep on ticking

They look in

Her tiny shoes




Blurry, but still having some notion of time


You knew you had it in you

This hurricane sleeps through all the magic minutes

Senorita hands me more tequila

Smiles and yellow walls

And him there

Somewhere, it doesnít matter

Breathe in the Mexican chatter


She brings you her neck, her fingers

This black-haired brainless gal of a widow

I am broken she says

In broken English

I am not a man

I tell her

Not with boots

Not with a gun

Or a horse

Or even tambourine


Bells are ringing!

Our morning just begun!



You, who I remember


Slept next to me

A nest of small children

Thumbs sucked, bottoms whipped

Brainless, we continued chasing our sex

Huck Finn-style


You, who I remember

On that hill

Brain dead

From too much orange juice

The kind you drink when there is no heroin

And the birds were banal

Even that, even that


You, I remember

Stuck your head in

Said I loved you

In that walk-up kitchen

Bright lights, so bright!



When the music stops


Our merry young lad

Comes in panting

Yellow shorts in a twist

A tiger bit him!

His mother shot his eye out!

A policeman followed him

Into a corner bar where they sat for hours!

His stories go on forever


But I love him

No more

Because time has stolen even the grass in my yard    

Even the statues that stood at the door

Even my best dog

And my photograph of the time when

All the music died down


He doesnít hear my wrapped-up voice

Stuck in its tin can



Now comes a torrent of song


Two crocodiles, tiny

Try to kill me

Someone saves me

I am hanging from a wall

Over a mountain of water

And the tiny crocodiles are hanging on, too

Their teeth bleeding my hand

I am bruised

But still here



Into this tavern where we are holding onto very small glasses


Endless days in this tavern

Mexican road with chickens bleeding

Walking, pecking, his hand in the till

Mexicans drinking

hot water down our throats


In comes Mr. Handsome

This yellow day


Our fields growing watermelon and oranges and turnips

Our aprons filled with money

Our women steady-eyed and thin

He is standing on one leg

The other is gone, gone!


Into this tavern where we are holding onto very small glasses stealing glances

Comes this northern wind



All the girls with their slim necks pushed up against their windows


Train comes rolling

Mister hanging off it

Face half black, face half white

His shirt is beautiful

All the girls with their slim necks pushed up against their windows

His heart like a maneless horse, like a frozen daiquiri

Like a man without a hat, like an ant who marches straight into the harsh north!


Thatís how we see him

As the train pushes north



The motherís tale


Says a mother to a man traveling:

Listen up

I will tell you not about milk

Or a chubby boyís leg

Or how I hopped at the sock hop

Or felt a girlís fever

Or knelt at the crib while the sun went down in the meadow

Or put my lad on a horse so high

Or sewed his medal

Or how I, one night, kissed his sleeping mouth

Listen up!


I will tell you about

Two swans floating

About a god in the midst of finding his future

About an island of such sorrow

About a house we dream of

About her with the misty eyes

About the way we must kneel

About the heavy weight of an arrow

About the pain of leaving sweet behind 

About the rain

About the rain!



We pick him up to see the world


My murky little child

Messed-up lips

Tells his mother a story

About ghosts


His chubby fingers pointed

O farm we love!

Rolling thunder, luscious sun, blue night coming

His large head pushed up against the horseís heart

Just to hear that song

Our little mushy man!

Pants on wrong


We pick him up to see the world

Over allís heads

Lightening then bursts

And he turns his head

Toward that burn



At a table our man sits


At a table our man sits

Teeth on his plate

Eyes plucked

Fingernails counted

Hair, each strand, cooking

Itís sweltering in there!

Our hut of all huts

He came back, our man

After such a long journey

Into the heart of nowhere, he laughs

His wrists are blue from all that hurting

I came from that place

He points

The fireplace

Where his boots lie burning





So much noise

Cars crash and salesmen flatter

My waist

I have no money to offer

An almost dead father

Whose mouth opens without teeth

In his cupboard is nothing

His wife stands on stilts

Her mind gone


In the hospital

His penis empties

How can I tell this story?


But to beg you

My monster

For a map



My mother enters her final chapter in which she is given a heroís welcome


This house must be thrown away

Horrible smell

Three saints walk in the rain

One is dreaming of me

Her pulse?



My father still lies in his hospital bed crying

The prisoner in the next bed

Still has tubes in his nose

I am in love

With the guard

Her stern black glasses

And the hammering of the cranes outside

Is he still alive?


Her name is Thera

And her eyes are silver

And her body small

And her words like flowers

And the needle has punctured his muscle

The nurses run

To see the man

Who is vomiting

Which man?

My father


Meanwhile my mother

Small and unnoticed

Slips past the doctors

In her wig



I, alone, in adolescence succeeded to swim


There was the dog

Who ran away

And the cat who stayed

And the hamster throttled

And the car that stopped

Too suddenly

And the husband

Who went astray

And the storm

And the pastry

And the goat that ate everything

And the path that led to



Open wide

If you can stand the stench

For a few moments

She tells the handsome youth

I will tell you of my broken neck


And he waits for her glory

But I, alone, in adolescence succeeded to swim

When the story


Too gory



Someone in an elevator is dying


Saint number 342

Is beautiful

A bell rings

Every time she breathes


I feel like I am in an elevator going up


Every floor gets us higher

Ding! Ding! Ding!

What floor are we on?


Now the elevator man asks why I am crying

And the saints in the back shuffle

Like timid nurses

Who do not ever want to see blood

And yet there is blood

There is blood!

There is fire!

And the elevator is going higher!


The saints like timid nurses

Cluttered in the back

Holy smoke hides them

Heroes are beneath them

Their gasps like tiny mountains

Help her

Demands the elevator man

Help her!


I look at them

These timid nurses

Shyer than gorgeous virgins

Wings practically rise from their

Magnificently slim hips

Boyish bones crackling

Oneís slip shows beneath her fiery dress

Stars burst from it

Should I bend and bow and kneel?


My blood is like a river

Says one




And our very sweet mothers touch themselves!


In an ambulance

We rush our god

The streets empty!

People building houses stop!

Horses rise to their hoofs!

A policeman ceases beating his mistress!

A girl in a Mercedes looks on high!

A thug kisses the bar counter!

A priest sees the splendid shore!

A dead man brings himself back to the brink of wonder!

An old man surrenders!


A lion stutters

A crocodile buries his head

Some of us bury our dead


We bury our dead

And the clock says itís time to drink

And the clock says itís time to sleep

And our babies turn in their urine

And our fathers force their piss

And we look at the weeds

And we drink from cups

And we hurt

And we bear our births

And we walk from room to room

Moving furniture around


And our very sweet mothers touch themselves

While our god goes rushing by

In His ambulance!



I finally kill those around me and then ask for forgiveness


Will it happen?

That I could bite into this apple?



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