A garland of lyrics to desire,
love, and loss.
Contents

Awakes My Heart

Tercina

At First Sight

Allusional

Sonnet for the Flames

Rondel

Fatal Amaze

Reader Sleeping

Incognita

Signs and Sighs

Hot Monsters

The Glass High-Heeled Pump

Sexy Fruit

Upon Her Face

To Live

Love Letters

The Museum of Ordinary Objects

Sense Memory

Leaving Me

The Hourglass

The Darkening

Paradelle: Return

Leaves, Lines and Rhymes

Deconstruction, Mon Amour

The Hourglass

My Mild Child and Me

Roundelay

To Hear with Eyes

Awakes My Heart

 

awakes my heart to heart’s and eye’s delight

         — William Shakespeare, Sonnet 47

 

As if on her cue, the rack of my life breaks,

and driven by the momentum her smiles impart,

awakes.

 

She's cobalt brushstroke ballet as her greetings dart

like haiku; her perfection of all the arts

awakes my heart.

 

And all around the room attention starts

to orbit her; the hush of silent sighs

awakes my heart to hearts.

 

Then couples pair, each with a look that implies

more than their words; taut hum through lines of sight

awakes my heart to hearts and eyes.

 

In its cell, a cage of bone, that eremite

of muscle stirs, and all I see aches, slakes,

awakes my heart to heart’s and eye’s delight.

 

Tercina

 

The boys watch the girls while the girls watch the boys who watch the girls go by.

— “Music to Watch Girls By” words and music by Sid Ramin and Tony Velona

 

From the corner of his eye, he sees three-fifths of a thigh

as a girl in halter and skirt sways past on roller blades;

too awed and tongue-tied to flirt, he’s joined the religion of skin.

 

He’s been struck dumb as his grin, wanders gardens of skin

under the soltice sun. Blesséd heat bares the thigh,

and to show it’s just begun, unveils the shoulder blades.

 

A swim-suited girl in shades reclines on grassy blades

like a begging Hindu fakir, her fortune a faith in skin:

so near to touch, so near: a cheek, an arm, a thigh.

 

Soon the sun’s last blades of light caress the twilight’s skin, the moon a pearly thigh.

 

At First Sight

 

The way a bloom amid a multitude

will turn and tilt to drafts that seem its own,

she turns her face, and I am caught in cones

of light that funnel to her eyes, and through.

 

And then, I float within a vast, dim sphere;

a beam of sluggish light streams in and throws

inverted scenes upon the far side’s slope,

my tiny shadow but a flicker there.

 

I struggle, though the glassy fluid clings,

to reach the aperture to magnify

my image in the center of the screen;

and I can only hold my breath so long.

 

Allusional

 

I spiral down flights of gentle perplexity,

each step a shingle of frozen quarks,

a fall like the moon’s orbit.

The light and dark, in amorous struggle,

splash themselves upon the walls,

her face, my retina.

A delicious strangeness,

intimations of.

Sonnet for the Flames

 

Flame in flame orchards, pearl of fiery hail,

you plunge like x-rays to the tendered lip,

and through, to leave dim shapes of bone while, pale,

flesh welts, each raining touch a seething whip.

 

But memory fails, what glory in the hymn?

She has, I'll write, a walk like rustling reeds,

a sinuous mouth. Like burning seraphim,

with nimbus beamed beyond form, she exceeds.

 

How can I last the unimpeded night

while invisible infernos exhaust

my thoughts of you to ash to fill each line?

 

By livid beams, I bruise the leaves to write;

my heart a lamp annealed by holocaust.

The pages wait, parched, for your burning sign.

 

Rondel

 

She undressed in a foreign language,

caressed my ears with her strange tongue

in whispers sighed as if wrung

reluctantly from secret anguish.

Her lines all flowed like languid liquid

and rolled with all their rhythms sprung.

She undressed in a foreign language,

caressed my ears with her strange tongue.

 

I learned semantics' disadvantage:

it's sound on which all logic's hung;

it's not the meaning that is sung.

What fails the mind, the flesh will manage.

She undressed in a foreign language,

caressed my ears with her strange tongue.

 

(First published in The Formalist, 10.1 1999.)

 

Fatal Amaze

 

Perhaps our sleep is best, that clammy haze

that cools and dims enlightenment’s hot flare,

for who would wake and burn in fatal amaze?

 

Accustomed to the shadows, flashes daze,

and pupils narrow, proof of nature’s care:

perhaps our sleep is best, that clammy haze.

 

But could we trace the tangled roots of days,

or know each grain of sand, or strand of hair –

but who would wake and burn in fatal amaze?

 

And knowing the star that shares her name, its rays

and storms, would I grieve which way the false compare?

Perhaps our sleep is best, that clammy haze.

 

Such knowledge, though, could set one’s skull ablaze,

each neuron fired at once, but who could bear,

and who would wake and burn in fatal amaze?

 

But to know the why and how each freckle strays

along her neck, and all, should we not dare?

Perhaps our sleep is best, that clammy haze;

but I would wake and burn in fatal amaze.

 

(First published in NeoVictorian/Cochlea, Spring 2005.)

 

Reader Sleeping

 

Into her dream he melted . . . .

            — John Keats, "Eve of St. Agnes"

 

The book lies open on her breast,

            awakened from oblivion

            by the thoughtless rhythm

of line and phrase in breath,

and seems with restless wings

            to ache for flight, but, for some doubt

or unwillingness to rise, clings

            to that sweetness it has no life without.

 

Most nights she reads herself to sleep:

            she tilts her head, sweeps back a braid,

            half-hears a serenade

and follows its retreat

to where some poet-lover

            offers her dark lilies, rune by rune,

like an invasion of sand that covers

            this scene, this prosy world, beneath its dunes.

 

But soon she lets the book slump:

            a pause before renewed endeavor,

            she tells herself, or whomever,

and so, assured, succumbs,

savors a well-wrought line

            and slips into a sleep so like death

the moving book becomes a sign,

            a proof of life it borrows from her breath.

 

What world she dreams I cannot guess:

            what roiling fears, what streaming glories

            cascade through fitful stories

that merge and then digress

while beneath the disarray

            of sheets her tranquil body lies.

And yet the trembling lids betray

            the quick, chaotic motions of her eyes.

 

Three worlds, or maybe countless more,

            and where she lives as many lives,

            explores, departs, arrives

at once on some new shore,

while I divine affairs

            by the way absent fingers trace,

by the way she adjusts her hair,

            and by the subtle language of her face.

 

And yet I too have been elsewhere,

            within myself, while writing this,

            englobed by artifice

and dreaming unaware

that I have been a reader

            interpreting her signs with themes,

the threads I use once more to weave her

            expressions into my own tales and dreams.

 

I reach and gently lift the book;

            I know quite well it's not alive,

            and yet I am surprised

so much that I must look

at it again and then

            across the bed to where my wife

lies sleeping in careless creation:

            the reader, it seems, lends each world its life.

 

I place the book upon the stand

            and turn to tuck her into bed;

            then from behind her head,

as softly as I can,

I slide one pillow out.

            As I move back to reach the light

her eyes open, mouth forms a pout,

            which fades, and with a smile she sighs, "Goodnight."

 

And for one moment, two readers read

            each other, lending our vitality

            to halves of one reality,

for we too sometimes need

our own lives read, sufficient

            not for insight or what it means,

but for that brief moment of recognition

            before we drift again into new dreams.

 

 

 

◊     ◊     ◊     ◊     ◊

 

Incognita

 

Behind À la Recherche du Temps Perdu

are her lips, the book held like a geisha's fan.

Her eyes are veils; her face and shoulders, too.

 

She leans against the stacks, plays ingenue

with a pose not quite her own, one that began

within À la Recherche du Temps Perdu.

 

Who is this bijou with artless shoes? Parlez-vous?

our eyes inquire as she adjusts her Walkman.

Her eyes are veils; her face and shoulders, too.

 

And when she whiffs book dust, her soft "ahchoo"

sounds vaguely French and cosmopolitan

behind À la Recherche du Temps Perdu.

 

We read the tarot of her gestures (adieu!)

as she hands her card to the librarian.

Her eyes are veils; her face and shoulders, too.

 

But we can't really know her, entre nous,

for though they seem expressive as they scan

above À la Recherche du Temps Perdu,

her eyes are veils; her face and shoulders, too.

 

(First published in The Formalist, 11.2 2000.)

 

Signs and Sighs

 

Their horoscopes attuned,

and so beneath the moon,

still waxing,

they sip the wine approved,

and feel, in time, a swoon,

relaxing.

 

The planets are aligned,

the Hand is on the Thigh,

and rising.

With fates and fingers twined,

they read the signs and sigh,

surmising.

 

With Venus on the cusp,

and a shooting star’s bright blast,

light spilling,

the two with one breath gasp,

the prophecy at last

fulfilling.

 

Hot Monsters

 

Dracula la la, I’m a sucker for your love ....

-- Toto Coelo, “Dracula’s Tango”

 

So, why are vampires the erotic spooks?

They’re cold, controlling, live in dusty ruins.

You’d think the tux and cape were Daisy Dukes.

Wham, bam, hemorrhage is whose idea of wooin’?

 

Those who like it wild might sample werewolves.

Their hunger’s honest: sniffing, licking all.

Unlike slick vamps, there are no debonair wolves.

Moon them till they howl, and beg, and maul.

 

Now zombie love is all-consuming stuff.

They need your tender heart, and all your veins:

they love your guts. They never get enough.

And who – no line – can want you more for your BRAINS!?

 

I’m The Invisible Man in our little haunt,

so, dear, you can imagine what you want.

 

The Glass High-Heeled Pump

 

(For MC, who said men don’t write poems about women’s shoes)

 

The pair of ballet flats that Lisa wore

were a tawny suede, a few shades from her skin.

Barefoot, almost, she sighed across the floor,

the real-ist unreal girl to make me spin.

 

Alexa favored high-heeled, peep-toe slingbacks,

pin-striped jackets and above-the knee-skirts.

Each step cracked, echoed thunder of a blackjack,

the promise of a welt with every flirt.

 

Jill liked the oxford-look, heeled ankle boot;

she didn’t mind the need to tie the laces.

With glasses, they made her “grad-school, nerdy-cute”:

a goofy wit, plus all of the usual graces.

 

So, shoe-bearing princes and pawns of the world,

what matters is how the shoe fits the girl.

 

Sexy Fruit

 

A poem should be palpable and mute/As a globed fruit

                                    — Archibald MacLeish

 

As I marched by a clique of chatting women,

I caught the line, “What is the sexiest fruit?”

I did not hear replies, but hurried on.

To me, the question’s nonsensical, and moot.

 

First, I hate fruit: the colors, tastes, and worse,

the smells – decaying, vain, and dissolute.

And any fruit that one might use for sex

falls to a gross and tawdry disrepute:

for sexy is seduction – hints, suggestions.

So, not the act itself, but its pursuit.

And mixing food and sex is not my thing;

though some like nothing better than to shoot

some chocolate sauce, or dab whipped cream; to me,

in seconds flat, we’ve gone from nude to newt.

 

But yet the question lingers, and as I muse

an image germinates: branch, leaf and root.

I see a navel orange, round and shining,

supple, tender, smooth: a real beaut.

What’s sexy, though, is the mock umbilicus:

delicate, precise and convolute,

so like the real, fleshy, mortal knot.

 

But does this semblance really constitute

a proof that produce can have sex appeal?

Or the reverse? It owes the attribute,

its carnal charge and lure, for me at least,

from that sweet button on the birthday suit

of beauties I have known, or seen, or dreamed.

 

So I’ve bought an orange to settle the dispute,

examine it from every tangy angle.

We sit unmoving, like any absolute,

or like a still-life, palpable but mute.

 

 

 

◊     ◊     ◊     ◊     ◊

 

Upon Her Face
Briefly Reflected in my Watch Glass

 

I am the hour, and she, the minute hand:

one out of sixty changes, she finds me,

and for a moment, we advance as one.

 

But soon, the space between us will expand;

the spring exerts its force, and she must run

though each escape will prove she is not free.

 

If she could stay, I doubt she would agree

next time around the dial. As Fates command,

the earth herself must sweep around the sun.

 

And so, she cannot stay, we cannot be.

The spring exerts its force, and she must run

the measured track along the curving strand.

 

We’ll meet at last, and stand in unison,

some time around the dial, as Fates command,

when all the world winds to finality.

 

The spring exerts its force, and she must run;

one out of sixty changes, she’ll find me,

next time around the dial, as Fates command.

("villanoid" form created by Ryan Peeters)

To Live

 

To live in hell, and heaven to behold

                        — Henry Constable, from Diana

 

I saw you today: your friendly look was cold,

and once again I am compelled by you

to live in hell, and heaven to behold.

 

It’s been six years, some months; you never knew

I loved you. Yet I must be forgiven

to live in hell and heaven too.

 

And I have what no angel has been given;

when I first saw your face, I flew and fell

to live in hell and heaven.

 

Though now I suffer more, it’s just as well.

Without you there’s but one alternative:

to live in hell.

 

Six years hell’s inmate, heaven’s fugitive,

but once again I am compelled by you

to live.

 

Love Letters

 

Did I forget? Or did I know

the alphabet, or even talk?

The words are mute, faint hieroglyphs:

the worn down icon of a hawk

or eye, etched brutely into cliffs

or tablets, dry as time and sand.

 

The past is dream, a fairyland

of omen, sign, that I can’t read.

Although the theme is clear, I drink

each day’s new wine, the moment’s need,

again, until I cannot think.

 

I read her will, what’s left to me,

in pages folded ... written when?:

nine long love letters, addressee

unknown, I’ve told myself, but then,

did I forget? Or did I know?

 

The Museum of Ordinary Objects

(syllabic sonnet)

 

Blue toothbrush: plastic. Sand: mixed silicate.

Thumb tack: tin, polyurethane. Shoebox:

cardboard. Book: paper, glue, ink, acetate.

“Love You” stone: nail polish, igneous rock.

 

Ball point pen: plastic, steel, ink. Aspirin

tablet: salicylic acid. Earring:

gold, pearl. Tea candle: tallow, cotton, tin.

Brass key, decorative: copper and zinc.

 

Restaurant receipt: paper, Beaujolais,

ink. Lawn chair: aluminum, plastic, steel.

Potted plant: rosemary, gravel, soil, clay.

Poem: paper, ink. Red scarf: silk chenille.

 

Pillow case, navy and black checked design:

dyed cotton sateen, sodium chloride.

 

Sense Memory

 

the scent of broken geraniums

and storms on the horizon

awakens something

collected and collected again

 

an air a strain tuning

refrain alone repeated

strikes its melancholy

upon the ledges of dreams

 

and mingling with small time

blue dragonfly an orange blossom

a tempo a moment

tarries in mist and is lost

 

and then again vague pangs

a time a girl a loss unremembered

Leaving Me

 

I see your face is moist with tears,

and you have clearly said some things.

I can not hear, I can not hear.

Upon the coffee table, dear,

a tiny man gavottes and sings:

 

“A bullet to the brain, la-la.

A bullet to the brain, ha-ha.”

 

Some questions hang upon the air,

condense, and fall like fangs of rain.

Who is that strange but tiny man?

What the bullet? and whose brain?

 

And like a ray of sunlight stabs

through ashen clouds, the answers shine:

There is no tiny man at all;

the bullet’s yours; the brain is mine.

The Hourglass

 

Magic Realism Bot ‏@MagicRealismBot Jun 13

A poet invents a better version of regret: Thinking about hourglasses.

 

Blake proposed a way to see a world

within a grain of sand, eternity

in an hour, as if those were impossible,

but I see world after world in slow whirlpool

tumble, slip and stream in gravity

into another universe below.

 

The flow of present, past a flow of sand;

the emptiness reversed by one blithe turn.

 

I watch a grain, and study faces, fall

again to the delicate neck, or run my glance

along the perfect curve of swelling glass,

the modest machine, the elegant stand, until

a final crystal waits upon the lip

and, tear-like, yields to join the waiting sea.

 

The Darkening

 

“Thou shalt darken his eyes with thy tresses.”

                                    — Algernon Swinburne

 

Though now in the throes of delight

and the pangs of all passion’s excesses,

as the moon of your face fills his sight,

you shall darken his eyes with your tresses.

 

Though there’s fire in all his decisions

and a fever in all of his sighs,

as your shadow eclipses all visions,

you shall darken his eyes.

 

Though his wandering gaze winds to you,

and his talk is embroidered with yeses,

as your figure occults every view,

you shall darken his eyes with your tresses.

 

When his lips have been chafed by your kisses

and he thirsts no more for your thighs,

with caresses that once were his blisses,

you shall darken his eyes.

 

When nothing sparks light in his stare,

neither tears, nor closets of dresses,

nor perfumes in the web of your hair,

you shall darken his eyes with your tresses.

 

Once awakened to your apprehension

when his kisses taste bitter as lies,

you will warm to your icy intention:

you shall darken his eyes.

 

At the stroke of some midnight’s last note,

as your weight and its gravity presses

and you twist your long locks round his throat,

you shall darken his eyes with your tresses.

 

Paradelle: Return

 

I mind the words, my love; return a heart.

I, mind the words my love, return a heart.

In every sense, of course, inertia winds

in every sense. Of course inertia winds

my heart; I sense return in words of love,

the inertia a course every mind winds.

 

The grooves we've worn: our edges parallel

the grooves. We've worn our edges parallel

in lines of force within that spiral in

in lines of force. Within that spiral, in,

within that spiral of edges, in our grooves,

the parallel lines we've worn force in.

 

The ratio wheels. Within a cell and a shell,

the ratio wheels; within a cell and a shell,

at helix source, or by that recurrence, wheels spin.

At helix source, or by that recurrence, wheels spin,

or by that ratio spin cell and shell:

at, within the source a helix, a recurrence, wheels, wheels.

 

At the edges of my mind I sense a force:

recurrence, words and lines in parallel,

grooves we've worn by inertia, love, a course

that winds in ratio, a spiral shell,

or wheels within wheels within the helix source

that spin return in the heart of our every cell.

 

Leaves, Lines and Rhymes

 

“Leaves, lines and rhymes seek her to please alone….”

Edmund Spenser, sonnet “Happy ye leaves!”

 

The page’s brightness mirrors her skin’s own;

the letters beg her voice to sing and tease:

leaves, lines and rhymes seek her to please alone.

 

She pauses at the window: frost vortices

in air, and rays on glass; the oak’s reds stir.

Leaves, lines and rimes seek her to please.

 

Pen poised, the virgin paper will demur

from strokes and tones endeavoring sublimes.

Leaves, lines and rhymes seek her.

 

On Beauty’s alabaster, this vine climbs;

each curve’s defined as each brushed tendril twines:

leaves, lines and rhymes.

 

Though she’s unmoved by our devices, signs,

still our discipleship to that unknown

leaves lines.

 

 

Deconstruction, Mon Amour

 @MagicRealismBot Aug 17

A university student owns a long lost book of Derrida on the subject of your heart's desire.

 

And having read that book, it’s more

and less, my reader, I’ll confide,

than you expect: a door

that’s always and already wide

and just as much a bore

as your heart’s desire for

that transcendental signified.

 

Deferments, supplements abound,

those feints and dreamy stratagems

of yours are hidden/found,

your roses traced to unthorned stems

and back into the ground,

love’s premises each drowned

by its own empty theorems.

 

Impressive, dense analysis,

oh sure, but empty as your glass,

the memory of her kiss

(and now you’re thinking of her ass)

– and yet I can use this:

yes, see your Beatrice

as a beautiful but earthly lass.

 

To deconstruct affairs like yours,

and metaphysics, et cetera,

a trick of matadors:

just wave the cape, and then, ah ha!

It’s play, and the crowd roars.

Ignore Jacques’ nevermores,

and go and find your petit pois.

 

The Hourglass

Magic Realism Bot ‏@MagicRealismBot Jun 13

A poet invents a better version of regret: Thinking about hourglasses.

 

Blake proposed a way to see a world

within a grain of sand, eternity

in an hour, as if those were impossible,

but I see world after world in slow whirlpool

tumble, slip and stream in gravity

into another universe below.

 

The flow of present, past a flow of sand;

the emptiness reversed by one blithe turn.

 

I watch a grain, and study faces, fall

again to the delicate neck, or run my glance

along the perfect curve of swelling glass,

the modest machine, the elegant stand, until

a final crystal waits upon the lip

and, tear-like, yields to join the waiting sea.

 

 

My Mild Child and Me

contra B.B.’s “Mild Love”

 

Some want the fireworks, the headlong rocket

into the sky, the burst of light and sparks,

the smoke après like a shared cigarette

in a pre-code movie set before the stark,

plain facts, the cost of those hot, fatal fruits.

Some want punk rock mosh pit, the rough, the crush,

the ripping clothes, the bodies pounding, brute

flint striking steel until the tender combusts.

 

But we desire the flower’s longing rise

to the sun, the yearning stretch unfolding;

the gentle tendril that caresses, pries

around soft lissome limbs, enlacing, holding;

the wind-licked bud asway, the pressure plumping

at first one petal, then another; the wane

and wax in waves and pulses pumping

until the tense release in the warm spring rain.

And we desire the delicate largo measures,

the notes sustained, endured into suspense,

the slow ascent and each half-step of pleasure’s

chromatic scales explored in every sense.

 

Roundelay

 

With thread and complication wrought,

she webbed all round her empty spaces.

She bound the road’s forget-me-not

with nets and snares, roped round the chases.

And I, with fierce and tender thought,

one by one, untied the laces.

 

She bound the road’s forget-me-not

with nets and snares, roped round the chases.

Her limbs she wound with sashes, taut

with braids and cords to veil her graces.

And I, with fierce and tender thought,

one by one, untied the laces.

 

Her limbs she wound with sashes, taut

with braids and cords to veil her graces.

With ribbons and a strangle knot,

she fixed a mask of many faces.

And I, with fierce and tender thought,

one by one, untied the laces.

 

With ribbons and a strangle knot,

she fixed a mask of many faces.

And hour by hour, her heart she caught

and bound in yesterday’s torn traces.

And I, with fierce and tender thought,

one by one, untied the laces.

 

 

To Hear With Eyes

 “to hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit”

 — William Shakespeare, sonnet 23

 

Without sight, through dark or distance, we know fear,

desire, hold still and wait (for thunders? sighs?)

to hear.

 

It’s true that taste, touch, smell are sweet and wise

for the feasts at hand: well worth my praise in songs,

too, herewith: thighs

 

caressed or sipped are joys, the perfume throngs

the air – but mere content, a cooing dove

to hear. With eyes belongs

 

the distant, next, beyond the reach of our glove.

Or close, to hear the words she would omit:

to hear with eyes belongs to love.

 

To hear tomorrow in the shades that flit

from brow to lips or cheek, one must hold dear;

to hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit.

 

© 1990-2019 Joel Lamore