Category Archives: Old Poems

Sonnet

His voice in her darkness, her voice in his light.
Walls she believed firm tumble into waves and wells.
The horn of his voice sounds, and there are shells
where eggs were, at a touch she is water and white.

Mornings everywhere. This something new and yet not.
Transparency. What is a window? What a wall?
Veils play at tents. She takes off her clothes, opens all,
does not pretend. And does — wishing so she were caught

up in his all — sweet reedy cries and sighs
in that wilderness, wind stripping the blossoms bare.
When will I find you? she does not ask, When and where?
knowing the tender roughness of his voice implies

only tenderness as fact. They both ride the wind
of One voice, blowing them wherever they will end.


A very old poem. I thought I’d already shared it here a long time ago. Sharing it now because someone sent me a gift of some lovely broadsides, and this poem is as close as I could come to those shared with me.

De Motu Cordis

UM HSL: Anatomy Exhibit

As you can see, here are two hearts. Note
that each heart in its native state
is solid, self-interested; a singular muscle

dense and active, with an innate knowledge
of rhythm’s importance, what it is

that repeats and circles in the body
or mind, spirit, soul, life. It is a muscle
whose purpose and action is to declare

how life itself depends on
bearing in memory the echo

of the moment before. Systolic, diastolic.
The drawing together, the drawing
apart. The beat and shadow beat.

But there is no shadow
heart — simply the real heart,

muscled and quartered as the earth
is quartered; the heart divided
and beating itself; each pulse

driving blood into the roots
and branches of the tree of life. In this way,

the heart comes to signify life,
just as a circle contains and defines
the concept which it represents.

Ah, but the heart is no Venn diagram. Observe
as these hearts move together and begin to overlap.

Where the hearts touch, they open
and clear. Light enters
at that intersection — diffusing,

flooding through the rest of the flesh
until the whole of each heart has become

translucent, glowing like a child’s hand
cupped over a flashlight. You see this
in both hearts joining at that new ventricle.

Now, as they beat, blood and light
move between the two freely

and they can no longer
be separated
safely.

—–

This poem was originally written decades ago. I remember dedicating it to a friend for his wedding, and I haven’t talked to them in at least 15 years. I think of this as my Boolean logic poem.

Secrets

I have a couple new poems in progress, but in the interests of catching up on some of the sleep I so desperately need after last month’s marathon, I am sharing an old poem today, from several years ago. I think this was around 2005.


SECRETS

Last night the darkness in your secret places
crawled across your silence into my dreams.
This morning I painted my nails the color of blood

clotting darkly in black hair curled flatly against
a head wound. The color is called blackberry.
Last night the darkness in your secret places

had me curled tight against you, hands pressed flat
against the black hair of your chest, muttering.
This morning when painting my nails the color of blood,

my hands ached, my hands shook. Crooked paint
on feet walking too many crooked miles.
Last night the darkness in your secret places

scratched eyes open to see the same as when closed,
dark images overgrowing my night like thorns.
This morning I painted my nails the color of blood,

the color of the darkest petals of the darkest rose
when they dry as blood dries, as dreams dry in that
last night’s darkness of all our secret places.
This morning I painted my nails the color of blood.

Sunslant

Sun slants down, hot and hard, although
the faint breeze is still cool. Nothing

of night is left in this bright day —
the sun’s angle promises more

heat; the earth itself seems to slant
to match the sun and I, I tilt

my head sideways to find balance.
There is a gasping in the light

as if breath itself is lacking,
the light itself cracked and misplaced.

Where is everyone? Streets empty,
sidewalks carry only a rare

and distant stranger, who, like me,
navigates this erratic air.

Sun slants down, at a hard angle,
distorting what it strikes. So still.

The dim light inside the building
whispers this a lie, the air

and light that seem benign cannot
be trusted, will beat us all down.

Originally drafted/written June 1, 2010

The Eyes of Men with no Mouths

It wasn’t the first war, but it was
the first World War. It wasn’t
the last war, but it was the last
war in which guns in personal combat
were weapons of choice. Now

the choice seems to be bombs.
Nobody sees the impact & lives
to tell the tale, except perhaps
the cleanup crew, but that is
a different kind of impact.

But what do I know about bombs?
No kind of military historian,
I know so little I’d think bombs new
if the Star Spangled Banner did not sing
of “bombs bursting in air”. That is how

I know this beautiful terrible lighting
up of the night sky is not new at all.
So that wasn’t the first war, but it was
the first war in which medicine
had caught up with the damage

that could be caused to the human body
& leave it still recognizable
as a person if not the same person.
With bombs, people mostly just die
or walk away. With land mines,

a leg here or there, probably there.
With guns, that was the first war
when men came home with no mouths.
Before, wounds to the head were
more like bombs now, but one on one —

you usually just died. In that first
& only war when war was still
personal & we finally knew
how to save people from, well,
if a bullet took a man’s jaw off,

Kazanjian could save him, & send him
home to his wife & loved ones,
without a voice, without a smile
or grimace, without lips to kiss,
but alive. At least, if he lost his face

only from the nose down. This was
the birth of modern military dentistry,
when Kazanjian took his passion
for restoration to the Brits when
the U.S. refused to fight. Now another

Kazanjian, perhaps his son, perhaps not,
speaks about faces of war, faces
of peace, & beauty in difference.
But what do I know about war? Am I
a pregnant woman begging at a hospital

for a Cesarean section so that
I will not go into labor under
the expected bombs? Am I the doctor
who delivered a baby in the desert,
without water or gloves, second

hand American fighters overhead,
a baby probably now old enough
to fight in the current conflict?
I know a man who said, among our
friends, there were those present

for whom he would give his life.
This man, to whom ‘love’ is
a four letter word, grieves
for the broken beauty of Baghdad,
that can be repaired by no military

dentist or plastic surgeon. Grief
is the wrong word for this intense
and complicated emotion, but what word
should be used must be in a language
I don’t know. So, I wrongly say he grieves

for off camera death & injuries;
I wrongly say I grieve for his grief
and mine that I witness this breakage
and not the beauty. I know a woman,
an Army Colonel, who went to Bosnia

and told us, her friends, the barest
outside rim of what she saw there. Moses
was sheltered from his own spoken wish
to see God’s atomic glory, given only
a glimpse of his flank while He passed.

She is a mother, balancing sheltered and shown.
Do we really want to see? To watch? I hear
the newscaster describe a mushroom cloud
over Baghdad, speculating cautiously
on what armament was used and where.

The photos of men with no mouths hide
in old journals with almost forgotten titles
on shelves where few know to look. Their eyes,
angry helpless hopeless eyes never asked
to live the life they were left, never asked

to be a forgotten photo, and no one
anywhere has told the story of their lives
after they came home. My friend, where
she is now I’m not sure. I know she had
misgivings about this conflict, but still

will go if sent, or perhaps has already gone,
but wherever she is she will do whatever
good she can. She always does. In between bombs,
we hear the call to prayer. All around
the watching world, televisions flicker

with a lit-up night sky, family rooms
rumble with the drum-beating of bombs
threaded through with a clear reedy call
to prayer. It is said that God takes nothing
away without giving something in return,

although what is given may not seem equal
to what was lost. Those men with no mouths
have the most eloquent eyes on earth,
& they are still speaking, if we ourselves
have eyes to see, ears to hear, mouths to speak.

PF Anderson, March 2003

Notes on the Work of William Morris

binding the blinding the flesh
etched into lace with lines
like stone the bone the skull
the bird beak hooked
like the nose the lips
silent and closed the spear
that will never inflict
injuries the face tattooed
with wounds the eyes
of awe empty and upturned
hollows of blind eyes
perceive the numinous
as backlit ears hear
translations of sensation
the beard of bone the tongue
of bone desiring the wig
of beads rattling with
every move with desire
absence becomes a throbbing
in retinal depths
the shells that open
writhe close the shield
behind the skin that is
the sternum grown
enormous the spear
before it does not defend
but pulses with purity
and absence of desire defines
that lifeforce based in breeding
and seeding that transmutes
as it achieves height
out of sight and light
filled still flesh

– PF Anderson, 2003, in response to the exhibit of his glass art at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA

To Conquer is to Cleave

“To Conquer is to Cleave,” Replied
the Cow to the Gray-Maned God,
“And to be Conquered … ”

Beasts with cloven hooves
have cloven bellies
a chambered stomach
in an abdomen entire.

No, my chambered heart
does not drink you in,
does not devour you.
Yes, my hands split with holding

you, and yes, my heart.
The cloven heart sheds
a clutch of memories, ghosts,
hopes. I lead you, now.

– PF Anderson, ~1984