Orar: To Pray
After the hissed pleas, denunciations -
the children just tucked in -
perhaps her hand on his dress-shirt sleeve,
brushed off, leaving a trace of cologne,
impossible, it seemed, to wash off
with plain soap, he'd go, his feet light
on the gravel. In their room, she'd fall
on her knees to say prayers composed
to sound like praise; following
her mother's warning never to make demands
outright from God nor a man.
On the other side of the thin wall,
I lay listening to the sounds I recognised
from an early age: knees on wood, shifting
the pain so the floor creaked, and a woman's
conversation with the wind - that carried
her sad voice out of the open window
to me. And her words - if they did not rise
to heaven, fell on my chest, where they are
embedded like splinters of a cross
I also carried.
Women Who Love Angels
They are thin
and rarely marry, living out
their long lives
in spacious rooms, French doors
giving view to formal gardens
where aromatic flowers
grow in profusion.
They play their pianos
in the late afternoon
tilting their heads
at a gracious angle
as if listening
to notes pitched above
the human range.
Age makes them translucent;
each palpitation of their hearts
visible at temple or neck.
When they die, it's in their sleep,
their spirits shaking gently loose
from a hostess too well bred
They poured it into his veins
until he became someone else, a drunken man as he tries
to rise from the hospital bed, where the stained sheets
are a testament of shame to the anonymous nights
spent with the stranger his body has become.
He slides down feet first
like a child, hoping his legs will not betray him.
But he gets dizzy looking down at the reflective tiles.
Hanging onto the rails,
he sees himself flat on the ground, until the nurse
leads him by the elbow into sunlight.
Outside, he is hurt by a world where every surface
is a mirror of steel or plastic.
for an old man avoiding his own face like a good friend
he has offended.