From “The Wild Iris”
The Wild Iris
At the end of my suffering
there was a door.
Hear me out: that which you call
Overhead, noises, branches of the
Then nothing, the weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.
It is terrible to survive
buried in the dark earth.
Then it was over: that which you
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the
bending a little. And what I took
birds darting in low shrubs.
You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again:
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:
from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.
Lost Love .
My sister spent a whole life in
She was born, she died.
not one alert look, not one sentence.
She did what babies do,
she cried. But she didn't want
to be fed.
Still, my mother held her, trying
first fate, then history.
Something did change: when my sister
my mother's heart became
very cold, very rigid,
like a tiny pendant of iron.
Then it seemed to me my sister's
was a magnet. I could feel it draw
my mother's heart into the earth,
so it would grow.
From “Vita Nova”
The Queen of Carthage
Brutal to love,
more brutal to die.
And brutal beyond the reaches of
to die of love.
In the end, Dido
summoned her ladies in waiting
that they might see
the harsh destiny inscribed for
her by the Fates.
She said, «Aeneas
came to me over the shimmering
I asked the Fates
to permit him to return my passion,
even for a short time. What difference
between that and a lifetime: in
truth, in such moments,
they are the same, they are both
I was given a great gift
which I attempted to increase,
Aeneas came to me over the water:
Now the Queen of Carthage
will accept suffering as the accepted
to be noticed by the Fates
is some distinction after all.
Or should one say, to have honored
since the Fates go by that name
A terrible thing is happening –
is dying again, my love who has
died and been mourned. And
music of separation: the trees
How cruel the earth, the willows
the birches bending and sighting.
How cruel, how profoundly tender.
My love is dying, my love
not only a person, but an idea,
What will I live for?
Where will I find him again
if not in grief, dark wood
from which the lute is made.
Once is enough. Once is enough
to say goodbye on earth.
And to grieve, that too, of course.
Once is enough to say goodbye forever.
The willows shimmer by the stone
paths of flowers abutting.
Once is enough: why is he living
And so briefly, and only in dream.
My love is dying, parting has started
And through the veils of the willows
sunlight rising and glowing,
not the light we knew.
And the birds singing again, even
the mourning dove.
Ah, I have sung this song. By the
the willows are singing again
with unspeakable tenderness, trailing
in the radiant water.
Clearly they know, they know. He
is dying again,
and the world also. Dying the rest
of my life,
so I believe.
From “The Seven Ages”
The Sensual World
I call to you across a monstrous
river or chasm
to caution you, to prepare you.
Earth will seduce you, slowly, imperceptibly,
subtly, not to say with connivance.
I was not prepared: I stood in my
holding out my glass. Stewed plums,
stewed apricots –
the juice poured off into the glass
And the water added, patiently,
in small increments,
the various cousins discriminating,
with each addition –
aroma of summer fruit, intensity
the colored liquid turning gradually
lighter, more radiant,
more light passing through it.
Delight, then solace. My grandmother
to see if more was wanted. Solace,
then deep immersion.
I loved nothing more: deep privacy
of the sensual life,
the self disappearing into it or
inseparable from it,
somehow suspended, floating, its
fully exposed, awakened, fully alive
Deep immersion, and with it
mysterious safety. Far away, the
fruit glowing in its glass bowls.
Outside the kitchen, the sun setting.
I was not prepared: sunset, end
of summer. Demonstrations
of time as a cotinuum, as something
coming to an end,
not a suspension; the senses wouldn’t
I caution you as I was never cautioned:
you will never let go, you will
never be satiated.
You will be damaged and scarred,
you will continue to hunger.
Your body will age, you will continue
You will want the earth, then more
of the earth –
Sublime, indifferent, it is present,
it will not respond.
It is encompassing, it will not
Meaning, it will feed you, it will
it will not keep you alive.