Saturday, December 31, 2005

Blowjob

for C. W.

Are you a survivor who, on touching land, shines
your flashlight into the sea or are you a rock warning?
Like a light seen across wide waters, your cig glows
in the dark before your face appears out of the fog:

the boy, now a man, who described to me a blowjob,
what I already knew but let you go on and on
for I saw you enjoyed drawing from me the filament
of illicit thrill (Your wiry dark limbs were my thrill).

The wink of your dare beckoned me whenever I heard
of you knocking about from job to job—a surf
instructor on Thai beaches, short-order cook
in Hanoi, co-owner of a canoe shop, part-time guide,

and now a roustabout, a proper job this time,
you explain, despite its name. You raise offshore oil rigs
against seaquakes, steel the derrick and crown from which
roughnecks slam the toothed bit into the ocean bed,

pump mud into the pipe to grease the bit and prevent
cave-ins and blowouts by equalizing bore pressure
with the earth’s. You master the force compressing bones
to crude trapped in the domes of the earth’s scrotum.

Months you slave at sea, then retire to your rented space—
a chair, video machine, opened tins on kitchen shelves.
The bedroom is the most done up, with king-sized bed,
vanity table, woman. Your girlfriend of three years.

Oil rigging is hard work, you flex your arms, but it pays
for this flat and trips to Bali, six months on the beach.
You show me, from your window, the oil refinery glows
in the dark, with glimmering towers, balconies and spheres—

your Atlantis. I think of my sterile office with its unforgiving
light; each night I leave it and swim out into the sea
where you already have someone to traverse the girders
of your thighs, her mouth a valve to regulate your gusher.

You are not a lighthouse for passing ships. You loom,
a derrick, stapled to the ground, drilling and drawing oil
till it dries. Seen under stars, you are exerting a force equal
to the earth’s and burning its fuel for a little heat and light.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Reptile House, Singapore

“Mid-flight, the snake makes a perpendicular turn.” The Cold-Blooded Review

My cipher is the Paradise Tree Snake
which flattens itself into aerofoil
and glides. This house on earth is luck’s mistake;
I’m born of air, not water, wood or soil.

Here many snakes exist, less snake than sock.
A python sleeps in its non-Delphic pit.
Two oriental whips pair in wedlock.
And a black spitting cobra does not spit.

This cage has stupefied desire and doubt;
I must escape into the thrashing trees
and navigate in darkness like the scout
who senses through its skin false guarantees

and turns, mid-flight, towards the unforeseen,
not held back by what has, or might have, been.


*

I am flying to Singapore to spend Christmas with my family. I hope to post something new on New Year's Day. Happy holidays to all.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Pedestrian

In Bryant Park, a woman walked past me—déjà vu—
her bare left foot a bruise as big as her right shoe,
traveled with slow, small steps measured by habit, round
the Starbucks stand and stepped towards my bench again.
This time I was ready for her—to imitate
her walk in a stumbling meter, interpret her pain.
She did not stumble. Her eyes threw me off—black dabs
in ovals whiter than the inside of an eggshell.
Her face was a patch. She did not make a sound.
She was not Death-in-Love and, like that mademoiselle
finishing her espresso, meant nothing to me too.

But when I stroke the bolt that locks the metal plate
to your shin bone, imagine how the sudden rain
blinds the bike, the thundering traffic blunts the stabs
of laughter tearing the night air on the Brooklyn Bridge
and how the last possible moment thrusts the yell,
“Watch out!”—she pedals, singing, on the hanging ridge
of my back, ringing and ringing her tiny bell.

Monday, December 19, 2005

What's Left

to my father

Some things leave us like a sigh. Your father,
puffing out his chest, with no fanfare,
walked out on your family for another.

When he returned to live off you and mother,
he filled our two-room flat with his sour air.
Some things should leave us: a sigh like your father.

No one among your seven sisters and brothers
would take him in. For ten years, you took care
to leave him alone polishing, one after another,

his walking trophies—applying wax to smother
the golden tokens while listening in his chair
for something. Leaving us. Sighing, your father

tuned his battered radio to a voice farther
than yours, not once asking his son to repair
what’s left or trade the set in for another.

His funeral rounded up your sisters and brothers.
The women wailed. You were the only heir
of something leaving, like a sigh. Your father.



An early version of this poem was published in "Love Gathers All: The Philippines-Singapore Anthology of Love Poetry" ed. Aaron Lee, Alvin Pang, Krip Yuson and Rayvi Sunico, 2002.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Pay-Per-View

What’s on tonight but lips pressed on lips,
the neck, the hollow of the collarbone,
down on the silver strings from chest to hips,
bass guitar counterpointing basement’s groan;
and on the stirring cord, lips fawn, and tease,
teeth sheathed, to please and worry its backbone:
an arctic wolf licking the meat it sees,
meat spiked onto a knife, the foam its own.
On this white horse, the lancer sits astride.
He jerks the bit and bloods its jaws, care thrown
to the wind, pain spurring the pleasure-ride,
slippery saddle, mounting to one moan -
we come together, separate. Tonight
blunts hunger’s edge and whets the appetite.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Cold Pastoral

I hear a man jerking off at the Met
and straightaway remember you, O, Jack.
I'm flushed with sympathy, to tell the truth,
to hear him groan in the next stall for beauty
captured in voluptuous sculptured stone.
Who is this restroom seer, lover, man?

From hog farmers of Iowa, a man
aspiring to meet his muse? Instead he met
his fate of stunning listeners into stone
at Bowery Road Café. Blind, he jacks
off Perseus, in his mind, asserting beauty
in holding forth the Gorgon’s heady truth.

Or someone more acquainted with the truth
of streets: a skinny kid, almost a man,
from Harlem, pricked by the white muscled beauty
of Ugolino and his starvelings met
briefly in school? I hear him whimper, Jack,
inside his Tower of Hunger, beat off stone.

Or seeing Andromeda chained to stone,
the monster squeezing her in coils of truth
sprung from the sea, does he forget he’s Jack
afloat, on shore leave from his merchantman,
imagine flirting chance and courage met
to petrify the beast, rescue the Beauty?

Or a priest, drawn against himself to beauty
curled in a Cupid, who rebukes the stone
in flesh, the flesh in stone and, having met
himself, confesses to himself the truth?
Or, sick of buzz-saw talk among hard men
and licked by dancing Pan, a lumberjack?

Or is he one like me (unlike you, Jack),
stirred by a torso's mutilated beauty,
an echo of the whole, sufficient man
for him to recreate the missing stone.
His moan as he comes, if you want the truth,
excites me more than any man I’ve met.

I’m telling you, Jack, it's fine to gaze on stone,
but far more beautiful, far more truthful,
is the groaning man, unseen, unmet.


published in October 2005 in "The Rogue Scholars Collective" ed. Miriam Stanley (http://www.roguescholars.com/roguegallery/default.html)

Song of a Reformed Headhunter

The bags and boys are packing.
The boats wait for rowing.
White Rajah of Sabah,
where are you going?

The blowpipes are lisping
where the trees are leaning
and the bones talking
without meaning.

The cave pronounces echoes,
darkness in my hearing.
The birds, doused with feathers,
are disappearing.

Come back up the river.
Come back to Sabah
or row me home with you,
White Rajah.


*

I hope to post at least one new poem a week on this blog. "Song of a Reformed Headhunter" is the title, and the first poem, of a chapbook manuscript I have submitted for the Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship Contest. I'd be glad to hear your comments on the poems since they are, always, works-in-progress.