Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A poem by Margaret Christakos

The problem of confessionality

Months later, actually
years later, a robin
bows at me from the fence
and then sails, in slow-motion
arrival, to my feet. He
with his dried-blood chest
has literally leapt a
fence to enter my yard,
sirens singe the air, I’m not
making this up. Through
the (vertical) fence slats, down a
(horizontal) laneway, a car flashes

its (rear) brakelight and moves
north. You cannot tally
all the motion in
process. The city has a tidal
system circulating human
thought through machinery,
along roadways, squeezing
aside the (persistent) animal
life-force whose musicality
is consonant with muscular
flicker. Nobody sings what
those birds do. Poetry
tries and maybe cooperates

briefly (at a sort of brink) — desiring as we
do “pure sound”
separable from linguistic
code. I don’t know about
this. I don’t think any of
us, ______________
___, do more than signal
a portal that would
open on a room full of
squirming words. Our most
primitive noises seethe
with translateability. But
a bird looks you in the

eye, opens its beak and
speaks. He confesses his
problem; like Woody
Allen making movies over
and over again about a
man who has killed his
wife, his mistress, his
whore. One wants to smile,

for to be entertained is
such release. Underneath
we start to hear the
low surge of schools of small
fish slipping into formation,
coagulating each to the next
to prepare a ruse for
an oiled shark whose
glide (leagues under the turquoise surface) splits the
purple belly of the ocean. All it
is is gathering, seeking
shelter, craving freedom.
Words lock us to

that (day-surgical) look that passes
between us, you and I,
resenting our mutual
fixation on (the brink of) meaning.
Can you not hear me
sing, here, as a bird
to the patch of grass
he hops in? We
are only human,
caught in our
codes of

Unbearably literal. Add
to this the difficulty
that the bird is long
gone, and can only sing in
the yardage of
your waking dream while
you drink beer in a bar.
Someone will cough soon,
and there are those fidgeting
like squirrels. We are like
animals, and birds, like
living creatures, and yet
just as

tuneful begins to tremour the
likelihood that we are
(irreconcilably) fixed to words, and will
never be disgorged from their
craving for clarity. Maybe I

mean something simple,
like the proof of a
(stone), rocks at a shoreline,
free of those timid
sharks and deliberate
minnows. Maybe I
mean murder. Whatever. I
confess, it is more profane
when you are not yet
drunk, and when you are
drunk, it all starts to
seem somehow like
whistling, like a trilled
breeze pricking at your forearm.

It starts to seem like
a bird could sing only
for you, without his
hidden self lost
forever (on the brink of) pure sound,
like you could part the
purple sea between you, as if
your (shark-)mouth could become
a gullet, a swallow,
a belly. Perhaps we can
live inside each other in such
innocence. All this I
mention in my steely gaze

at the robin, sweeping my hand across
the space in front of my
breastline, like Edith Piaf. He says, are
you nuts? Woody Allen is
no murderer!

I should know, for only
today I have eaten
one thousand worms,
which spilled warmth
into my larynx,
added iron to my
impressive chest. I
know what I’ve killed, while
you like to sit
there writing, with
extraordinary silences. He
flies off, a little fucker.
Hours earlier, (actually)
moments before, I had
been writing in the

morning’s fluid hum,
one with all the
cars, having positive thoughts,
drinking a lot of
coffee. The kind of day

that starts well, a portal to
a pleasant afternoon when I
might walk in the park
and (then go to the cineplex to) see a movie,
shoving my hand under
my coat
so no one can see
me rub and tug my
clitoral gland in the
dark theatre. Have that
pleasure, muffled
blossom, insistent
swirling, which women

do as much as
those with cocks, but we
do not confess this so
so as not to
murder the image one
likes to code of us. We
are whore-like, sure,
but only if you consider
the sexual woman’s direct
look at you with(out mutual) wonder.
There is this problem of
confessionality. What if we

don’t know how to put
words to that look, if
she stares us down
in broad daylight?
Purple in her murmurings,
her crisp
and centripetal moans. Maybe she’s
full of herself, a kind of
song you cannot make your
way out of. Maybe she just
dropped by to check your
facebook status, chortle
for a moment, tweet at you.

Perhaps her red breast
is not yours, is not
a mark of the male,
after all. When she flashes
a nipple, it is a gland
you cannot look away
from, and it is a word
with a song you do not
hear, and still it is only
code, always coded, never
pure. We don’t know what

will spurt out of it,
whether drinking is
appropriate, whether
leaving would be better, I’m
not making this up.
Something about a yard,
a song, and an audience.
Moments later and hours ago. For

(like you) I have not wanked off
for a while, and would
like to, soon, if only for
the release from this
problem, which weighs
in me, like language
when (what) you want (is) to
(reside in music) and can’t think
of the word, words
to make sense of an
ocean parting,
a bird agitating
toward flight, the brief,

(deep siren) inside (immense) pleasure that
means, despite confessionality,
it is on its (own) brink, solo, and
will be,

Previously on Lemon Hound: two more poems here, notes toward an essay here, and a brief essay by Meredith Quartermain on Margaret Christakos here. Christakos has published seven collections of poetry and a novel. Her most recent work is What Stirs (Coach House, 2008). A new collection, Purple, is forthcoming in Spring 2010 with Your Scrivener Press. She teaches creative writing and facilitates Influency: A Toronto Poetry Salon.

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