Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Small Enough to Fit

After thinking, consciously and not so consciously, about monkey's response to my idea of compiling a chapbook of all my songs, I've decided to keep "There Is No Safety in Distance" as a sequence on its own. I've been moving the other songs around, seeing them in different permutations, flattering myself that I'm doing the same as Matisse with his scraps of colored paper when composing "The Dance" (1931-3, Paris version).



So how do I know when to stop moving things around? Matisse shows the way: "In his mid-seventies he felt himself approaching the clarity, power and purpose evoked by Paul Valery in a passage Camoin copied out for Matisse at the end of 1945: "Perhaps what we call perfection in art...is no more than the sense of wanting or finding in a human work that certainty of execution, that inner necessity, that indissoluble, reciprocal union between design and matter, which I find in the humblest seashell" (Spurling, Matisse the Master, p. 431)."

So these combinations are what I have so far: "Small Enough to Fit," "Swamp, Trickle, Blood," and "Fetishes." A very few other songs are strong or individual enough to stand by themselves: "Don't Ask me More Than I Can Give," "I Want to Live with a Beautiful Man," and "Perpetual Movements."


Small Enough to Fit

Stevie is my heroine.
Stevie loves a song.
Stevie loves sad people
who get life wrong.

Stevie wants to blame God
if there is one to blame.
Stevie thinks there's no one left
who goes by the name.

Stevie wonders what to do with sin
and with redemption too.
She can't keep returning panties,
pretending they are new.

*

I was deceived by Augustine,
without knowing him,
into believing that the soul
is more than a meme;

believing that a given body
should substantiate
through crotch and crucifix
godhood and love and hate;

believing that forgiven body
amounts to a proof
a body does not hate a body
nor a body love.

*

What can I purchase with my body,
this gift certificate,
yellowing but not invalid
till the expiry date?

Pay for me,
commands the trophy
in the twinkling mall.
Leave with me, sighs the token,
outside the capital.

I long to hear what the grave speaks
for tokens or for trophies.
It has already spoken what
the body certifies.

*

How hard it is to be honest
and think well of myself,
hard to decide which ornament
to secure for the shelf.

One owns the virtue of diamond
cut to make it shine.
The other, fired earthenware,
is a vase I may call mine.

But I, much too poor to be proud,
much too weak to be good,
must leave the old shelf empty,
standing where it has stood.

*

This voice you hear is not my voice
stuttering on the phone,
snapping at the ghostliest slight,
or sighing all alone.

This voice you hear sings on the branch
of my pelvic bone.
It sings the song of love and death.
It sings of the unknown.

It sings a sweet, repeating phrase
that flies after what’s flown.
This voice is small enough to fit
the span of a headstone.

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