Mothers Day, Puerto Escondido




A child's moment is so long when she looks into her dinner plate and counts the string beans and pieces of steak.

On the sightseeing bus, the teenagers slept and talked and didn't dare be seen looking out the window. Later I asked them to write all that they had seen. They remembered more than I did, and I had paid attention. (What did I eat for lunch?)

Now we are older than the women in the "Golden Notebook" who seemed so old at the time. They bravely invented a world in which they would not be defined by men. What was it like to be defined by a man? I hardly remember.

We grow old, and men grow older. My date tucks his stomach in and does not see the chicken skin spreading under his stiff jaw. When we dance he sees gray roots and broken hairs.

Psychiatrists, pushed in slow motion by what we did twenty years ago, reduce the mind to chemistry. How far is biotech from hope? Hope, something wonderful will happen and I will be there. Hope, a kiss planted on my lips; hope, the world will reconstruct; hope, I did not die at forty to spend the rest a disinterested observer comparing ailments. (The vitality of others no longer interests me.)

But we talk and I think our telephone words enter the ether, mend holes in the ozone, affect the collective unconscious - which everyone else has forgotten.



Tarantula in my kitchen






Where is my valiant
less frail than I am?
What would he give
for a woman who'd wake
before him to put on her maquillage
like Colette for her husband?

Lovers must tryst on a divan
and test their trust
in a tournament of giving
ritual, ripened kisses
after which there is no morning after.

Where is the keeper of the wildlife?
I am an endangered species;
I can't pay the rent or suffer
needy men who don't need me
to tangle their nets.

In your language, what words can't you say?
What is the name for when we lie naked
side by side, your chest to my back,
our cells magnetized like iron filings,
where we can't see eye to eye?
What do you call the silence
when I drove you to the station
and never saw you again?

Where is the keeper of the wildlife?
I have a body that leaps
to strange flesh,
and no husband.

Who is the keeper of the wildlife?
I would sleep in his arms
and let him see
my face in the morning.






If I loved as the Spanish poets do
without a moon and paid in blood
for this my last love...

I, a woman of blood and tears,
from the race of Freud
and women who were never satisfied
in the usual way, but must have
doctors for sons.

Your hands would trace my breasts
round like moons, and my buttocks.
And I'd draw you in as the ocean
pulls the sand.






On metallic rollers
the mountains rising
over Barcelona:
Cold wet  curls
for a sailor's breast






Wet sand rubs the nacre
flesh under my bikini bottom.
Sperms swim; we drink some beer.


Starfish on stiff muslin
bedding; coral legs too hot to touch.
O, how we burn to touch.


After the shower's
mindful awakenings, we walk, mute,
colorblind in blue shadows.






   Jonathan answers the door,
fixes drinks, sweeps the floor,
in a railroad flat
vacation apartment
overlooking a dumpster on the beach.

The tiles are thick with mugre.

  Link, an old, old man
in plaid trousers, good
blue eyes, and trim moustache,
drops ashes in his paella,
can barely walk
to the bar in the lobby.

El sol comes too late for the clothes on the line.

   How to praise a man for not spilling his
soup who spent the '20s in smart speakeasies,
had five wives and a rake's charm,
was at a party with Dorothy Parker?
Pot was muggles then;
Cole Porter sang at the piano:

You're the tops,
You're the Touch of Venus,
You're the tops,
You're King Kong's penis.
Moho grows in the shower.

   It's Link's money, what's left of it,
and Jonathan's mothering which keep Link
on his own and not
locked up in an old folk's home
in Paris for bad fathers.

The forks are soft with grasa.

   Jonathan, 6 foot 7, in handsome middle age
fills his hollow dancer's legs
with table wine. He nursed Link's last wife -
twenty years his junior - while she died
of cancer. He tells everyone, but Link,
he was her lover.
Link was a fan of Jonathan's mother
when she was a Broadway star.

The drapes catch humo.

   It's Link's money and the old man's
attention which keep the staggering retainer
on his feet.

Marchitas are the paintings of beautiful women.

   Link keeps losing it;
Jonathan gripes the old man's not doing
the best he can. Beneath his bantering
nag is fear Link will grow too difficult
to tend - grow wild, incontinent,
lose his friends.

The records are torcidos, but we listen anyhow.

   We sit, Jonathan, Link and I
on the tea-cup balcony,
a month before link dies,
watching Khashoggi's yacht
and sing off-key as loud as we can:

You're the tops,
You're the Touch of Venus,
You're the tops,
You're King Kong's penis,
        You're the tops.






Ellen likes smack, a lot.

It takes a month to get hooked, she says.
If you do it, it must be for a reason, she says,
It's that good, she says.

Ellen snorts lines in the bathroom.

She enters the living room sniffing and animated,
pupils wide she throws her arms like sticks from her elbows,
chatters about neighbors and TV shows,
loads the washer, cooks lunch, does not sleep the siesta.

Life is less, clean.

Even I can see this:
the pleasure she shares with her confidante and dearest friend,
the powder spirit she loves in herself.

The habit cannot be maintained.

She is running out and her kid asks questions and she wants to go back to the States where people like her do not do what she does and she thinks it's affecting her behavior, making her scattered, unable to focus on the task at hand or come to the end of a thought.

We travel a week in Andalucía, the two of us and methadone.

I never say a word. I won't play mother, doctor, judge.
I carry my own unhappiness alone; I won't even name it.
It's not hers, hers isn't' mine.
We sightsee like crazy -- faithful believers in a change of scenery.

Our lunch is broken by loud words.

In a restaurant in an 18th century park
two angry young men harangue
the bourgeois of Seville.
I expect slogans;
they yell:
"We are hungry and we have the right to eat. We just got out of prison and have no money."
The taller one comes to our table.
Ellen asks, "What were you in prison for?"
"In what?"
(I think she's flirting.)
She smiles and gives him more than one should.

Hot, tired and broke, I'm searched for drugs at LAX.

The man empties my bags, handles my things, keeps his eyes fixed on my face.
"Why are you doing this to me?" I ask.
"Why are you so nervous?" he asks.
He puts his nose in a packet of white powder and sniffs
detergente de copas de nieve.
Can't he see I'm clean?






M., copping feels, takes
    my arm awkwardly down
    steps I want to
    walk alone
at the ruins of a mosque
on the hill above Córdoba.

M., made bold by my silence in his taxi, says
    - Women are my whole life.
    I love to make love to them.

M., confused by my silence, adds
    - Have I offended you?
    - How can words offend me if they're true?

M. tries again
    - You are beautiful.

M.'s hand brushes
    a thigh and breast.
    He pushes his lips against mine
    and steals a kiss
on the path to the chapel
on the next hill above Córdoba.

I keep my cool, don't respond, don't resist.
    Let him think me cold.
    Nothing has happened.

Not speaking, far apart, we
    drive down the mountain
    in heat from pine woods and vineyards
    so intense I'm flushed
    with pleasure;
    M. comes in his pants.

On a hill above Córdoba where we drink wine
    M. pulls out his shirttails
    and we wait for his pants to dry.
    - Is this why Spaniards wear their shirts outside?
    - No, no, - he protests - it rarely occurs.
    Gently I stroke hair on his arms,
    long black hairs.

Intimates, we talk about our kids. He has six.
    The oldest gets bad grades.
    The wife is good; they married young,
    make love almost every night,
    no matter how late
    he comes home.

We drive down the mountain; we park.
    On a blanket, under a fig tree,
    I lift my skirt
    M. drops his trousers
    on the blanket
    under the fig tree.
    that's all; it's over...

I could lie forever in the sun, with my
    legs spread and his hand on my crotch.
    M. says it's not safe to stay too long;
    the car can be seen from the road.

Down the mountain to Córdoba
    We are speechless strangers far apart.
     Nothing has happened, nothing.
     Nothing can be that easy, sometimes.






Paris; the first day he saw
a man fall past his window.
in the Cote d'Ivoire his front
teeth fell from gum disease.

Strangely, he kept all his hair.
An alto sax rose from his lips.
He arose whenever night fell.
He often said I'd stolen his soul.

I rose under him falling,
his weight falling onto me.






My mother went to luncheons
in this jacket
from Altman's Manhasset.

I am wearing her seed diamonds
and baby pearls
to the laundromat.

The black lace blouse from your forties
is too tight across my chest.
Mother, my breasts
grew bigger than yours.
How is that?






When I get shot
it will be my accident
while buying a pack of cigarettes
in a liquor store
on a Saturday night

My rapist in a room without Picasso prints
with his thick fingers at my throat
wears no condom
doesn't care about safe sex
is apprehended by impotence and rage
which he shares with me
so I emerge
impotent and in rage.

War is contagious:
cars smash each other,
I've passed my allotted mileage.
Men die more often
or wander off.
Women work, raise children,
some with the face of
an enemy soldier.






This old hag, I,
bag lady once
removed, confront
a slush puddle
and fall into
the scummy water of a
New York nightscape
and come up dry
in an alpine meadow of
pastel love.




Santiago Yaitepec, Oaxaca
Jesus is dressed in contemporary clothes and Mary is in medieval robes.


La Reforma,
San Pedro, Mixtepec, Oaxaca.






Gabriel at 12,
Bad blood will tell --
his father's and mine.
You don't know what you've got child-wise
'til the hormones drip through.

The infant marsupial
jumped from womb to pouch.
Now he's poised to jump again,
and he jumps
up and down the kitchen floor
juggling china, knives,
my nerves.

He does his skateboard instead of drugs.
When he's not out jumping he deals
last year's G.I Joes
for skateboard paraphernalia.
(Little kids knock at the door,
Gabe snaps: waddayawant?
They plead: I got money, waddayaselling?
It's pathetic. I say: Give the stuff away!)

This is the kid who won't take shit,
who calls everything bullshit
like history, science, math
and English, of course,
who proudly stands his ground
of non-attention,
whose book is always open
to the wrong page,
who waits at the classroom door
after the bell has rung
and takes detention like a badge of honor.

I have come to fear the child
not quite my height but so much
stronger than I am, whose
voice is as low as a man's
but whose mind still can't reach


We fight over the TV.
He wants to move it, I say leave it.
It falls on his feet.
Enraged he throws a chair, pulls
the telephone so hard the thick cable
breaks in two, exposing wires.
Then he takes a swing at me, knocks
the glasses off my nose. GET OUT,
I order, and he's gone 'til dawn.

That night he slept in a vacant lot
in the empty shell
of an abandoned school bus.
And I dreamed I had four little ones:
two boys, two girls,
whom I sent away,
who all returned --
but the police found out
and I had to say something.

When he cuts through
the silk tent of my sheltering love,
where will he go that I have not been?
What will he do that I won't understand
when he becomes a man
far away and never writes home?

I once heard an old man call
his wife "mother"
when their children were grown,
when she might have imagined
herself a young woman again.