Honey, you will lose your beauty,
going to be an old wrinkly lady
while we wait for the worst--
you're dead, nothing can hurt you.
Forever, women immolating themselves,
the prospect full as an old etching,
these tracks I've left
songs of love beneath disguise --
gum-snapping hard-girl dialogue.
I wanted to walk without clothing,
prepare for next year's famine with wine.
Like a pig in a trenchcoat I grew,
and not in the paths of high morality,
throwing myself forward with violence,
people passing without turning their heads.
It was sweet and lonesome:
the solitude of celibacy.
Now to stand still, to be here
not made of stone,
the days nouns: touch them,
hysterical birds rushing up the scale --
I will try those wings myself,
farther, a bit farther each time,
distance an absolute value
that keeps the world afloat.
Sources in order of lines, including title:
Mary Bast, "Tinker Toys"
Maggie Anderson, "Ontological"
Alicia Suskin Ostriker, "Wrinkly Lady Dancer"
Maxine Kumin, "New Hampshire, February 7, 2003"
Louise Gluck, "A Myth of Devotion"
Kate Barnes, "To a Skylark"
Sylvia Plath, "A Winter Ship"
Marge Piercy, "Tracks"
Kate Light, "Reading Someone Else's Love Poems"
Barbara Hamby, "Ode to American English"
Irene McKinney "Atavistic"
Linda Pastan, "The Cossacks"
Anne Sexton: "Rowing"
Emily Bronte, "Stanzas"
Jane Kenyon, "Depression in Winter"
Jane Hirshfield, "This Was Once a Love Poem"
Jill Bialosky, "Fathers in the Snow, 2"
Paula Sergi, "Vocations Club"
May Sarton, "Now I Become Myself"
Rebecca McClanahan, "In The Face Of"
Naomi Shihab Nye, "Daily"
Elizabeth Bishop, "Florida"
Muriel Rukeyser, "Waiting for Icarus"
Julia Kasdorf, "Flying Lesson"
Jessica Goodfellow Ueno, "1. Road Trip, A Pilgrim's Guide to Chaos in the Heartland"
Maurya Simon, "The Fishermen at Guasti Park"
This poem also appears in my collection Unmuzzled, Unfettered