Making Garden Gryphons (Ghazal)

They’re never as practical as you will have thought:
Sphinx moths with a real girl’s face? but at least you’ve thought.

The best invent themselves: perhaps a fox hair brush?
Too slow to beat the hawk, too bright — well, we might’ve thought.

Contrived creatures, and never as we’re taught, “nature”:
we will have felt “dragon” but never thought the thought.

A winged lizard — impossible! Do caves give birth?
Unless…combining fear and earth, evil, half-thought…

Beauty never makes a beast, though beauty kills it dead.
Just think with hormones, not with bioactive thought.

A perfect petri dish: some sleep, cold stew, some wine.
Remembering embarrassments she will have thought.

Ta-da! How’s this? A stag’s body, a cat head couched,
its one eye white as pearl, part blind — full blind to thought.

When, like your narcissus, I go to sleep

When she was young
she would sit, singing birdsong trills
and madrigals in her ptarmigan throat.

We were green flesh.
Our thoughts ran together, acid and restless,
and she sang when she was nineteen,
on a California rail,
her voice in the Big Sur fog.

I built her a wedding bed
from pine and mountain hemlock.
We sleep between our whittled angels.

But she no longer sings.
In our wedding bed
her eyes weep diamonds
pressed by the moon
from some ancient pain,
from a cavernous pain.

When I enter her
she oils the sheets,
resinous as a Lebanese tree.

She rests her eyes
from their inlaying
on my arm, her walnut eyes.
There is no wealth
that does not come
from the body of my lover.

Rising for work,
with a handful of gems,
we sweep away the bloodstones
of her grieving.

In the Beauty of the World

On a canyon road
among the piñon pines
we slowed to pass a cow just hit.
She lay on the shoulder,
the globe of her one eye swallowing wild.
Don’t look, Bella, said my mum,
but the massive tongue,
lopsided, licking road,
and the schoolless night,
still warm with crickets,
said look look look.

That isn’t to say, I know,
there is necessarily
beauty in the dimming light:
the sun sets equally on the fetid swamp
and the flatirons
and there is always dumb calm
in letting go
of pushcarts, or people, or hope.

But if the world is our oyster,
wear the pearl — please,
but eat the oyster too,
that too,
because what is it to love
if you cannot love it raw?
and like Rubens,
that fat intensity,
adore Helena for all her farts
and dimpled knees.

Galatea

At first, she sat in the corner sulking.
There was still a powder of stone on her skin.
Her shoulder, soft as a cat’s,
turned hard rounded in the palm,
but I was used to that.

After all, wasn’t that the idea?
To find a melting point for marble,
to have the crest of her hip push back,
flutter of breath
from the small cave of her mouth.

I just wasn’t ready for the opposite:
my want making her soft,
her hate reversing the charm:
petrifaction of love.

After four days I prayed
some god would take her back.
She wasn’t eating.
She drew caricatures of me
on the studio floor with a stick, saying,

Can’t I go outside? What are you looking at?
Don’t you have any friends?
Then nasty, knowing my weakness:
Can’t you make me a mate —
someone good-looking, younger, sexier?

When she stopped moving
I would pause
in the doorway from the garden,
crunching an apple, a sculptor again,
remaking her with my eyes,
smaller like a child.

They said we had a son,
but what do those liars know.
I took out my chisel.
The boy rose smiling
in the gravel of his mother’s arms.