p o e m s, v o i c e s a r a h a r v i o
I was moving from crisis to crisis
all through my life, with a few calm days
between them like a caress or a charm
descending unexpected from above.
Up there, god’s hand was pointing toward Adam
when it could be turning toward the Sybil.
Who cared for love when there was wisdom?
All that stuff in my satchel full of scrolls—
a chrysanthemum or a chrysalid,
for crying out loud, wasn’t that enough.
Crystallizing the future as an eye,
lifting up the future as an eyelid,
always gazing with a critical eye.
But how sad not to have loved the Sun God
when he might have given me all I wished.
What was so bad about a night of sex?
Here I was, hanging shriveled in my cage,
saying I want to die—want to be dead.
Oh cry sister—or else just suck it up—
or spend some time with Savonarola.
Maybe it was just those sulfuric fumes
rising from deep in the Stygian swamp
that caused my sad moment of misjudgment.
When all the while a mere stanza or two
might have saved the day, saying I love you
—eternities ago—or maybe not.
Or was there still time for some kiss-and-tell,
or some scissoring schism of the heart.
Come down to Cumae and open my cage.
Sad! I had forever but not a kiss.
I said I couldn’t love and it was true,
not a ploy, or coy. I couldn’t love or
sing. Not canti or canzoni or chants
or airs—not—I could do sex but not
without love, and I couldn’t love so I
couldn’t do sex. Oy, oy, as the Jews say,
no love and no song, that means no joy.
Happiness, you once said, is not a goal,
it’s a happenstance. It happens to some
and not to others. It may have happened
sometime to Mina Loy, or to Myrna,
or to Terry Malloy, but not to me.
Life without love is life without love, as
dry as a stick; it’s sick, though saying so,
my love, is cloying. It’s not worth a stick.
La, la, I sometimes almost broke into
song—a broken song, could you call it that?
We were drinking rob roys! Those were the nights.
I had inner singing and inner love
but not for me, not for you, I had love
for a boy I once knew but not for you,
never a loyal and unalloyed joy.
This was my stance, and maybe my stanza,
and this was the substance of my romance.
I never could love, now I was oily,
ogling their pants, their hearts, and their hairlines.
Oh how annoying, a blonde with no beau,
an old girl with no toy and no ally.
Oh boy, boy, I know I broke your heart
with my broken song. I know I was wrong.
Traveling / Shadows
Thesaurus / Grace
Grief / Hope
Veronica (Vera Icon) / Trauma
Sistine / Song
Excerpted from SONO by SarahArvio.
Copyright: © 2006 by Sarah Arvio
Published in arrangement with Alfred A. Knopf,a division of Random House, Inc.
Sarah Arvio read these poems at Chapters Bookshop, Washington, D. C., April 1, 2006
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