I look at Broadway in the bitter cold,
The centre strip benches empty like today,
And see St Louis. I am often old
Enough to leave my childhood, but I stay.
A winter sky as total as repression
Above a street the colour of the sky;
A sky the same gray as a deep depression;
A boulevard the colour of a sigh:
Where Waterman and Union met was the
Apartment building I’m regressing to.
My key is in the door; I am the key;
I’m opening the door. I think it’s true
Childhood is your mother even if
Your mother is in hospitals for years
And then lobotomised, like mine. A whiff
Of her perfume; behind her veil, her tears.
She wasn’t crying anymore. Oh try.
No afterward she wasn’t anymore.
But yes she will, she is. Oh try to cry.
I’m here – right now I’m walking through the door.
The pond was quite wide, but the happy dog
Swam back and forth called by the boy, then by
His sister on the other side, a log
Of love put-putting back and forth from fry
To freeze, from freeze to fry, a normal pair
Of the extremes of normal, on and on.
The dog was getting tired; the children stare –
Their childhood’s over. Everyone is gone,
Forest Park’s deserted; still they call.
It’s very cold. Soprano puffs of breath,
Small voices calling in the dusk is all
We ever are, pale speech balloons. One death,
Two ghosts ... white children playing in a park
At dusk forever – but we must get home.
The mica sidewalk sparkles in the dark
And starts to freeze – or fry – and turns to foam.
At once the streetlights in the park go on.
Gas hisses from the trees – but it’s the wind.
The real world vanishes behind the fawn
That leaps to safety while the doe is skinned.
The statue of Saint Louis on Art Hill,
In front of the museum, turns into
A blue-eyed doe. Next it will breathe. Soon will
Be sighing, dripping tears as thick as glue.
Stags do that when the hunt has cornered them.
The horn is blown. Bah-ooo. Her mind a doe
Which will be crying soon at bay. The stem
Between the autumn leaf and branch lets go.
My mother suddenly began to sob.
If only she could do that now. Oh try.
I feel the lock unlock. Now try the knob.
Sobbed uncontrollably. Oh try to cry.
How easily I can erase an error,
The typos my recalling this will cause,
But no correcting key erases terror.
One ambulance attendant flashed his claws,
The other plunged the needle in. They squeeze
The plunger down, the brainwash out. Bah-ooo.
Calm deepened in her slowly. There, they ease
Her to her feet. White Goddess, blond, eyes blue –
Even from two rooms away I see
The blue, if that is possible! Bright white
Of the attendants; and the mystery
And calm of the madonna; and my fright.
I flee, but to a mirror. In it, they
Are rooms behind me in our entrance hall
About to leave – the image that will stay
With me. My future was behind me. All
The future is a mirror in which they
Are still behind me in the entrance hall,
About to leave – and if I look away
She’ll vanish. Once upon a time, a fall
So long ago that they were burning leaves,
Which wasn’t yet against the law, I looked
Away. I watched the slowly flowing sleeves
Of smoke, the blood-raw leaf piles being cooked,
Sweet-smelling scenes of mellow preparation
Around a bloodstained altar, but instead
Of human sacrifice, a separation.
My blue-eyed doe! The severed blue-eyed head!
The windows were wide-open through which I
Could flee to nowhere – nowhere meaning how
The past is portable, and therefore why
The future of the past was always now
A treeless Art Hill gleaming in the snow,
The statue of Saint Louis at the top
On horseback, blessing everything below,
Tobogganing the bald pate into slop.
Warm sun, blue sky; blond hair, blue eyes; of course
They’ll shave her head for the lobotomy,
They’ll cut her brain, they’ll kill her at the source.
When she’s wheeled out, blue eyes are all I see.
The bandages – down to her eyes – give her
A turbaned Twenties look, but I’m confused.
There were no bandages. I saw a blur.
They didn’t touch a hair – but I’m contused.
I breathe mist on the mirror ... I am here –
Blond hair I pray will darken till it does,
Blue eyes that will need glasses in a year –
I’m here and disappear, the boy I was ...
The son who lifts his sword above Art Hill;
Who holds it almost like a dagger but
In blessing, handle up, and not to kill;
Who holds it by the blade that cannot cut.
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