Here in front of the summer hotel the beach waits like an altar. We are lying on a cloth of sand while the Atlantic noon stains the world in light. It was much the same five years ago here. I remember how Ezio Pinza was flying a kite for the children. None of us noticed it then. The pleated lady was still a nest of her knitting. Four pouchy fellows kept their policy of gin and tonic while trading some money. The parasol girls slept, sun-sitting their lovely years. No one thought how precious it was, or even how funny the festival seemed, square rigged in the air. The air was a season they had bought, like the cloth of sand. I’ve been waiting on this private stretch of summer land, counting these five years and wondering why. I mean, it was different that time with Ezio Pinza flying a kite. Maybe, after all, he knew something more and was right.
From the sea came a hand, ignorant as a penny, troubled with the salt of its mother, mute with the silence of the fishes, quick with the altars of the tides, and God reached out of His mouth and called it man. Up came the other hand and God called it woman. The hands applauded And this was no sin. It was as it was meant to be.
I see them roaming the streets: Levi complaining about his mattress, Sarah studying a beetle, Mandrake holding his coffee mug, Sally playing the drum at a football game, John closing the eyes of the dying woman, and some who are in prison, even the prison of their bodies, as Christ was prisoned in His body until the triumph came.
Unwind hands, you angel webs, unwind like the coil of a jumping jack, cup together and let yourselves fill up with sun and applaud, world, applaud.
A woman who loves a woman is forever young. The mentor and the student feed off each other. Many a girl had an old aunt who locked her in the study to keep the boys away. They would play rummy or lie on the couch and touch and touch. Old breast against young breast…
Let your dress fall down your shoulder, come touch a copy of you for I am at the mercy of rain, for I have left the three Christs of Ypsilanti for I have left the long naps of Ann Arbor and the church spires have turned to stumps. The sea bangs into my cloister for the politicians are dying, and dying so hold me, my young dear, hold me…
The yellow rose will turn to cinder and New York City will fall in before we are done so hold me, my young dear, hold me. Put your pale arms around my neck. Let me hold your heart like a flower lest it bloom and collapse. Give me your skin as sheer as a cobweb, let me open it up and listen in and scoop out the dark. Give me your nether lips all puffy with their art and I will give you angel fire in return. We are two clouds glistening in the bottle glass. We are two birds washing in the same mirror. We were fair game but we have kept out of the cesspool. We are strong. We are the good ones. Do not discover us for we lie together all in green like pond weeds. Hold me, my young dear, hold me.
They touch their delicate watches one at a time. They dance to the lute two at a time. They are as tender as bog moss. They play mother-me-do all day. A woman who loves a woman is forever young.
Once there was a witch's garden more beautiful than Eve's with carrots growing like little fish, with many tomatoes rich as frogs, onions as ingrown as hearts, the squash singing like a dolphin and one patch given over wholly to magic - rampion, a kind of salad root a kind of harebell more potent than penicillin, growing leaf by leaf, skin by skin. as rapt and as fluid as Isadoran Duncan. However the witch's garden was kept locked and each day a woman who was with child looked upon the rampion wildly, fancying that she would die if she could not have it. Her husband feared for her welfare and thus climbed into the garden to fetch the life-giving tubers.
Ah ha, cried the witch, whose proper name was Mother Gothel, you are a thief and now you will die. However they made a trade, typical enough in those times. He promised his child to Mother Gothel so of course when it was born she took the child away with her. She gave the child the name Rapunzel, another name for the life-giving rampion. Because Rapunzel was a beautiful girl Mother Gothel treasured her beyond all things. As she grew older Mother Gothel thought: None but I will ever see her or touch her. She locked her in a tow without a door or a staircase. It had only a high window. When the witch wanted to enter she cried' Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair. Rapunzel's hair fell to the ground like a rainbow. It was as strong as a dandelion and as strong as a dog leash. Hand over hand she shinnied up the hair like a sailor and there in the stone-cold room, as cold as a museum, Mother Gothel cried: Hold me, my young dear, hold me, and thus they played mother-me-do.
Years later a prince came by and heard Rapunzel singing her loneliness. That song pierced his heart like a valentine but he could find no way to get to her. Like a chameleon he hid himself among the trees and watched the witch ascend the swinging hair. The next day he himself called out: Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair, and thus they met and he declared his love. What is this beast, she thought, with muscles on his arms like a bag of snakes? What is this moss on his legs? What prickly plant grows on his cheeks? What is this voice as deep as a dog? Yet he dazzled her with his answers. Yet he dazzled her with his dancing stick. They lay together upon the yellowy threads, swimming through them like minnows through kelp and they sang out benedictions like the Pope.
Each day he brought her a skein of silk to fashion a ladder so they could both escape. But Mother Gothel discovered the plot and cut off Rapunzel's hair to her ears and took her into the forest to repent. When the prince came the witch fastened the hair to a hook and let it down. When he saw Rapunzel had been banished he flung himself out of the tower, a side of beef. He was blinded by thorns that prickled him like tacks. As blind as Oedipus he wandered for years until he heard a song that pierced his heart like that long-ago valentine. As he kissed Rapunzel her tears fell on his eyes and in the manner of such cure-alls his sight was suddenly restored.
They lived happily as you might expect proving that mother-me-do can be outgrown, just as the fish on Friday, just as a tricycle. The world, some say, is made up of couples. A rose must have a stem.
As for Mother Gothel, her heart shrank to the size of a pin, never again to say: Hold me, my young dear, hold me, and only as she dreamed of the yellow hair did moonlight sift into her mouth.
My business is words. Words are like labels, or coins, or better, like swarming bees. I confess I am only broken by the sources of things; as if words were counted like dead bees in the attic, unbuckled from their yellow eyes and their dry wings. I must always forget how one word is able to pick out another, to manner another, until I have got something I might have said… but did not.
Your business is watching my words. But I admit nothing. I work with my best, for instance, when I can write my praise for a nickel machine, that one night in Nevada: telling how the magic jackpot came clacking three bells out, over the lucky screen. But if you should say this is something it is not, then I grow weak, remembering how my hands felt funny and ridiculous and crowded with all the believing money.
Perhaps the earth is floating, I do not know. Perhaps the stars are little paper cutups made by some giant scissors, I do not know. Perhaps the moon is a frozen tear, I do not know. Perhaps God is only a deep voice heard by the deaf, I do not know.
Perhaps I am no one. True, I have a body and I cannot escape from it. I would like to fly out of my head, but that is out of the question. It is written on the tablet of destiny that I am stuck here in this human form. That being the case I would like to call attention to my problem.
There is an animal inside me, clutching fast to my heart, a huge crab. The doctors of Boston have thrown up their hands. They have tried scalpels, needles, poison gasses and the like. The crab remains. It is a great weight. I try to forget it, go about my business, cook the broccoli, open the shut books, brush my teeth and tie my shoes. I have tried prayer but as I pray the crab grips harder and the pain enlarges.
I had a dream once, perhaps it was a dream, that the crab was my ignorance of God. But who am I to believe in dreams?
Wait Mister. Which way is home? They turned the light out and the dark is moving in the corner. There are no sign posts in this room, four ladies, over eighty, in diapers every one of them. La la la, Oh music swims back to me and I can feel the tune they played the night they left me in this private institution on a hill.
Imagine it. A radio playing and everyone here was crazy. I liked it and danced in a circle. Music pours over the sense and in a funny way music sees more than I. I mean it remembers better; remembers the first night here. It was the strangled cold of November; even the stars were strapped in the sky and that moon too bright forking through the bars to stick me with a singing in the head. I have forgotten all the rest.
They lock me in this chair at eight a.m. and there are no signs to tell the way, just the radio beating to itself and the song that remembers more than I. Oh, la la la, this music swims back to me. The night I came I danced a circle and was not afraid. Mister?