All over the earth,
elegies for the earth.
The shore is in mourning. It mourns what it must soon
see, the sea
implacable, drowning chunks of the intelligible, familiar world.
Creatures of the earth filled with the instinct to wound
the earth. We fear that by an act of immense, unconscious
will, we have succeeded at last in killing NATURE.
Since childhood, you hated the illusion that this
green and pleasant land
inherently is green
or for human beings home. Whoever dreamed that had
not, you thought, experienced
the earth. We needed to rewrite in revenge the world that wrote us.
My parents drove from the Sierras (Bishop), to the almost-
city of their parents, carved from desert (Bakersfield).
To get anywhere you had to cross the Mojave Desert.
It was World War Two. In the Sierras my father was a big shot.
He said It’s better to be a big fish in a little pond. The government
refused to enlist—rich
farmers. So to my mother’s dismay, night after night in bars
drunk, wronged, he fought soldiers who had called him a coward.
They drove their gorgeous Lincoln Zephyr across the steaming
Mojave at night.
carsick, I was in the back seat, inside,
Unprotected. Phantasmagoric enormous
tumbleweeds in the empty
landscape rolled aimlessly outside the speeding car.
. . . telling those who swarm around him his desire
is that an appendage from each of them
fill, invade each of his orifices,—
Oh yeah Oh yeah Oh yeah Oh yeah Oh yeah
until, as if in darkness he craved the sun, at last he reached
—Until telling those who swarm around him begins again
(we are the wheel to which we are bound).
Lie to yourself about this and you will
forever lie about everything.
Everybody already knows everything
so you can
lie to them. That’s what they want.
But lie to yourself, what you will
lose is yourself. Then you
turn into them.
For each gay kid whose adolescence
was America in the forties or fifties
the primary, the crucial
forever is coming out—
or not. Or not. Or not. Or not. Or not.
Involuted velleities of self-erasure.
Quickly after my parents
died, I came out. Foundational narrative
designed to confer existence.
If I had managed to come out to my
mother, she would have blamed not
me, but herself.
The door through which you were shoved out
into the light
was self-loathing and terror.
Thank you, terror!
You learned early that adults’ genteel
fantasies about human life
were not, for you, life. You think sex
is a knife
driven into you to teach you that.
He's still young—; thirty, but looks younger—
or does he? . . . In the eyes and cheeks, tonight,
turning in the mirror, he saw his mother,—
puffy; angry; bewildered . . . Many nights
now, when he stares there, he gets angry:—
something unfulfilled there, something dead
to what he once thought he surely could be—
Now, just the glamour of habits . . .
he thought insight would remake him, he'd reach
—what? The thrill, the exhilaration
unravelling disaster, that seemed to teach
necessary knowledge . . . became just jargon.
Sick of being decent, he craves another
crash. What reaches him except disaster?
Each grinding flattened American vowel smashed to
centerlessness, his glee that whatever long ago mutilated his
mouth, he has mastered to mutilate
you: the Joker's voice, so unlike
the bruised, withheld, wounded voice of Ennis Del Mar.
Once I have the voice
of the line
is a hook
is the soul.
What none knows is when, not if.
Now that your life nears its end
when you turn back what you see
is ruin. You think, It is a prison. No,
it is a vast resonating chamber in
which each thing you say or do is
new, but the same. What none knows is
how to change. Each plateau you reach, if
single, limited, only itself, in-
cludes traces of all the others, so that in the end
limitation frees you, there is no
end, if you once see what is there to see.
You cannot see what is there to see —
not when she whose love you failed is
standing next to you. Then, as if refusing the know-
ledge that life unseparated from her is death, as if
again scorning your refusals, she turns away. The end
achieved by the unappeased is burial within.
Familiar spirit, within whose care I grew, within
whose disappointment I twist, may we at last see
by what necessity the double-bind is in the end
the figure for human life, why what we love is
precluded always by something else we love, as if
each no we speak is yes, each yes no.
The prospect is mixed but elsewhere the forecast is no
better. The eyrie where you perch in
exhaustion has food and is out of the wind, if
cold. You feel old, young, old, young: you scan the sea
for movement, though the promise of sex or food is
the prospect that bewildered you to this end.
Something in you believes that it is not the end.
When you wake, sixth grade will start. The finite you know
you fear is infinite: even at eleven, what you love is
what you should not love, which endless bullies in-
tuit unerringly. The future will be different: you cannot see
the end. What none knows is when, not if.