alfred eisenstaedt

The night he fed me oysters and I thought maybe this is love

by Taylor Roberts

The night he fed me oysters and I thought,
Maybe this is love. It happened at the peak
Of the taste in a little French restaurant
In the middle of Virginia. The moment
When the salt of the brine hits your throat--that,
That moment--why not call it love? He fed
Them to me like love. He held each shell
In rugged hands that could have strangled me,
But, delicately, he offered them to my lips.

I am trying to measure those moments,
Repeating the motion in dozens.
Is a lifetime of pleasure divisible by 12?
Maybe it is. Maybe I am
Too hungry. I really wanted roses. I don’t
Know why my heart died a little each day
Without them; why my crimson heart chose
To close like a rose in winter without friends.

I don’t know why his eyes were enough
To take me to the edge of the cliff, and
Not enough to make me undo my coat and to
Pour my body into the sand where it touches
Both the ocean and the sun all at once.
Why the feeding with his hands could only
Feel like love if we kept repeating it,
Thinking maybe if we do it again and again
The pearl will fall into my teeth and
We’d know.
We’d know.

I am really a pearl diver, a body of sand.
I can wait here, under the feet of
Tourists to be swallowed, myself, by the
Oyster, instead of the other way around.
I can wait until a piece of my existence
Is stolen in its trap and covered completely
In pearl, because nothing is worth the crimson
Pain of a closing rose, not even when
He feeds you decadence, not even when
He wants to love you well.

I don’t know why my lips were not enough
To pull the pearl from his hands
But you know, I loved trying.
I did love trying.

I did.

[copyright Taylor Roberts, 2015]
allan grant

Peace Love

by Taylor Roberts

Dare I miss the days without the fog 
When all we sought was that purest note of wonder,
The jasmine gasp. Fallen Wasp,
I wandered where the groves once were.
I wandered, wanting nothing more.

In the Summer it was easier to miss you;
That bliss-filled silhouette of sunlit leaves,
The trees raising up their arms wanting to be noticed,
Indian Summer, before the autumn slaughter,
All the fallen leaves and daughters.

In Fall I stood among the ruins of a love
That had been Spring; a delicate, wounded
Blossom of a thing. When we were alive 
And your arms were my arms, or at least too 
Tangled to tell where you started and I fell.

Winter's child brought relief like a song. 
A sharp knock--a broken clock, handsomest of any
Time to miss you. Days tumbled after the dark
Without quarrel, smashing the past like an easy 
Punch line. The one about the fog, the bird’s nest and the dog...

As cruel as April is in all its verse, the Spring 
After all its bloom and glory and curse--
I cannot for all the jasmine and the sea 
Miss you in the sublime wonder of Spring.
Not the sugar quest, not the broken breast,

Not the days without fog when your arms were my arms, 
or at least too tangled to tell where you started and I fell.

[copyright 2014 by Taylor Roberts]

The Interrogation Of The Man Of Many Hearts

by Anne Sexton

Who's she, 
that one in your arms?

She's the one I carried my bones to
and built a house that was just a cot
and built a life that was over an hour
and built a castle where no one lives
and built, in the end, a song
to go with the ceremony.

Why have you brought her here?
Why do you knock on my door
with your little stories and songs?

I had joined her the way a man joins
a woman and yet there was no place
for festivities or formalities
and these things matter to a woman
and, you see, we live in a cold climate
and are not permitted to kiss on the street
so I made up a song that wasn't true.
I made up a song called Marriage.

You come to me out of wedlock
and kick your foot on my stoop
and ask me to measure such things?

Never. Never. Not my real wife.
She's my real witch, my fork, my mare,
my mother of tears, my skirtful of hell,
the stamp of my sorrows, the stamp of my bruises
and also the children she might bear
and also a private place, a body of bones
that I would honestly buy, if I could buy,
that I would marry, if I could marry.

And should I torment you for that?
Each man has a small fate allotted to him
and yours is a passionate one.

But I am in torment. We have no place.
The cot we share is almost a prison
where I can't say buttercup, bobolink,
sugarduck, pumpkin, love ribbon, locket,
valentine, summergirl, funnygirl and all
those nonsense things one says in bed.
To say I have bedded with her is not enough.
I have not only bedded her down.
I have tied her down with a knot.

Then why do you stick your fists
into your pockets? Why do you shuffle
your feet like a schoolboy?

For years I have tied this knot in my dreams.
I have walked through a door in my dreams
and she was standing there in my mother's apron.
Once she crawled through a window that was shaped
like a keyhole and she was wearing my daughter's
pink corduroys and each time I tied these women
in a knot. Once a queen came. I tied her too.
But this is something I have actually tied
and now I have made her fast.
I sang her out. I caught her down.
I stamped her out with a song.
There was no other apartment for it.
There was no other chamber for it.
Only the knot. The bedded-down knot.
Thus I have laid my hands upon her
and have called her eyes and her mouth
as mine, as also her tongue.

Why do you ask me to make choices?
I am not a judge or a psychologist.
You own your bedded-down knot.

And yet I have real daytimes and nighttimes
with children and balconies and a good wife.
Thus I have tied these other knots,
yet I would rather not think of them
when I speak to you of her. Not now.
If she were a room to rent I would pay.
If she were a life to save I would save.
Maybe I am a man of many hearts.

A man of many hearts?
Why then do you tremble at my doorway?
A man of many hearts does not need me.

I'm caught deep in the dye of her.
I have allowed you to catch me red-handed,
catch me with my wild oats in a wild clock
for my mare, my dove and my own clean body.
People might say I have snakes in my boots
but I tell you that just once am I in the stirrups,
just once, this once, in the cup.
The love of the woman is in the song.
I called her the woman in red.
I called her the girl in pink
but she was ten colors
and ten women.
I could hardly name her.

I know who she is.
You have named her enough.

Maybe I shouldn't have put it in words.
Frankly, I think I'm worse for this kissing,
drunk as a piper, kicking the traces
and determined to tie her up forever.
You see the song is the life,
the life I can't live.
God, even as he passes,
hands down monogamy like slang.
I wanted to write her into the law.
But, you know, there is no law for this.

Man of many hearts, you are a fool!
The clover has grown thorns this year
and robbed the cattle of their fruit
and the stones of the river
have sucked men's eyes dry,
season after season,
and every bed has been condemned,
not by morality or law,
but by time.

[copyright 1967 by Anne Sexton]


by Taylor Roberts

Nauset was your periscope.
It held out what all you wrote,
Lantern-pages, pipe smoke, smoke-signals, pages.
The waves waxed and receded like the sea was hormonal
And it shook you, didn’t it? It quaked you.

You had liner notes spread on the floor
For cushions,
Heaps of letters and others' fortunes and
Tickets that you’d saved to use for kindling.

A patchwork sea you’d make of scraps and loose news
And, didn’t you?
With those right and pious science minds
Who’d roam
And fluff and ponder and deny your I.
You were elevator music in those days, limp
And see-through; straight through glasses and lenses
And mirrors too, my darling, mirrors too.

Nauset held it like a keyhole, while you
Sifted, shifty, flint without the stone.

[copyright Taylor Roberts 2008]

Rhythm Method

by Yusef Komunyakaa

If you were sealed inside a box
within a box deep in a forest,
with no birdsongs, no crickets
rubbing legs together, no leaves
letting go of mottled branches,
you'd still hear the rhythm
of your heart. A red tide
of beached fish oscillates in sand,
copulating beneath a full moon,
& we can call this the first
rhythm because sex is what
nudged the tongue awake
& taught the hand to hit
drums & embrace reed flutes
before they were worked
from wood & myth. Up
& down, in & out, the piston
drives a dream home. Water
drips til it sculpts a cup
into a slab of stone.
At first, no bigger
than a thimble, it holds
joy, but grows to measure
the rhythm of loneliness
that melts sugar in tea.
There's a season for snakes
to shed rainbows on the grass,
for locust to chant out of the dunghill.
Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes, oh yes
is a confirmation the skin
sings to hands. The Mantra
of spring rain opens the rose
& spider lily into shadow,
& someone plays the bones
til they rise & live
again. We know the whole weight
depends on small silences
we fit ourselves into.
High heels at daybreak
is the saddest refrain.
If you can see blues
in the ocean, light & dark
can feel worms ease through
a subterranean path
beneath each footstep,
Baby, you got rhythm.

[copyright Yusef Komunyakaa via IPA]

Oh little voices of the throats of men

From the unpublished works of T.S.Eliot

Oh little voices of the throats of men
That come between the singer and the song;
Oh twisted little hands of men held up
To rend the beautiful and curse the strong.
Impatient tireless undirected feet!
So confident on wrinkled ways of wrong.
On what remote frontier of heaven and hell
Shall time allow our diverse paths to meet?

Yet you do well to run the roads you run,
Yes you do well to keep the ways you keep;
And we who seek to balance pleasure and pain
We blow against the wind and spit against the rain:
For what could be more real than sweat and dust and sun?
And what more sure than night and death and sleep?

Appearances appearances he said,
I have searched the world through dialectic ways;
I have questioned restless nights and torpid days,
And followed every by-way where it lead;
And always find the same unvaried
Intolerable interminable maze.
Contradiction is the debt you would collect
And still with contradiction are you paid,
And while you do not know what else you seek
You shall have nothing other to expect.
Appearances, appearances, he said,
And nowise real; unreal, and yet true;
Untrue, yet real; - of what are you afraid?
Hopeful of what? whether you keep thanksgiving,
Or pray for earth on tired body and head,
This word is true on all the paths you tread
As true as truth need be, when all is said:
That if you find no truth among the living
You will not find much truth among the dead.
No other time but now, no other place than here, he said.
He drew the shawl about him as he spoke,
And dozed in his arm-chair till the morning broke.

Across the window panes the plumes of lilac swept
Stirred by the morning air.
Across the floor the shadows crawled and crept
And as the thin light shivered through the trees
Around the muffled form they danced and leapt.
They crawled about his shoulders and his knees;
They rested for a moment on his hair
Until the morning drove them to their lair.
And then sprang up a little damp dead breeze
That rattled at the window while he slept,
And had those been human voices in the chimneys
And at the shutters, and along the stair,
You had not known whether they laughed or wept.

[copyright 1971 by Esme Valerie Eliot, photo credit NY Times]
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