for Lauren Owen and Ted Mankovich
LILY OF THE FIELD
On Monday I wore the red green purple & gold sectioned sweater
Tandy gave me the pantaloons I made from the green velvet R
gave me the green yellow orange & royal blue scarf Tessie
crocheted for us last christmas the red leather boots Lauren
bought me the red green blue black & yellow mirror cloth bag
Jan sent me from California with plush red band I made from the
velvet I ripped off on first ave & the grey felt Charles Dickens
coat I got on Ave B for $1.50
On Tuesday I wore the cotton square dancing dress Sandy sent
from Iowa the red white & blue american flag earrings L gave
me last summer and that I repainted at Rebecca's with Turan's
model airplane enamels the perfectly good gloves I found in
the trash same boots the beautiful warm red socks I ripped off
from Woolworth's and the curly brown Atlantic fur coat I found
in a trunk in my uncle's attic summer before last
On Wednesday I wore the skinny knit button-up my mother gave
me & that I tye-dyed myself with Darlene's Rit Dye The
long fringed gypsy skirt of loose orange crochet you can
completely see through that Judi bought for me in Italy the
vermilion green violet ocher and white stripped scarf with gold
and white stripes between the other stripes & black tassels on
turquoise strings that Rebecca brought me from Turkey the
same boots the clove and peppercorn beads J made me the cape
Brett gave me in Kyoto & my terrific little antique copper-
mail purse that we traded the books for in the mountains
On Thursday I wore the amber sweater Katie handed down to me
over the black velvet top I got at Royal Rags for 25 cents
the violet suede belt Arlette ripped off for me the baggy
white sailor pants I found in my grandmother's dresser that
had been my uncle's when he was in the navy 20 years before
the same grey felt coat and a pair of perfect-fit tennis shoes
someone had left here
On Friday I wore the yellow dress Adam gave me when he was
working at the cleaners & no one came to pick it up the
cinnabar cork shoes Lauren bought for me the velvet cape I
made and trimmed with the gold stuff T gave me when she moved
the Shaman's cap that George's mother picked up in Brazil and
that Katie gave us last christmas & the little purse D brought
me that was made in Israel from the material left over after they
make the dresses and that has red green yellow & orange tassels
and bright wolf-pink embroidery on the inside
"It seems to me that I should always be happier elsewhere
than where I happen to be, and this question of moving
is one that I am continually talking over with my soul"
--Petits Poemes en Prose
trans. by Arthur Symons
THE NO-TRAVELS JOURNAL
Today is Saturday I get up & put on the earrings I made
from the ivory plating off the piano keys you gave me
on the coast the orange & grey diagonally striped neck
scarf K gave me the powerful sun & moon medallion from
Peru & the opaque sky-blue beads I strung into a headband.
I look at myself in the mirror a long time then get dressed.
I wear the torn black velvet gown covering the tears with
the tiny silver bells from India that L bought for me in
Oklahoma & the yellow tights. I wear M's battered and
softened old brown boots Do I really embody all the faults
you keep telling me I have? I go to the park with the children
we run through the weak grass the bare brown mounds.
Is it expanded household life that causes me to long for
Europe, for the Caspian Sea?
O continent of Asia, I am sitting here
in the park on these sparkling boulders & only the economy
of the nation is keeping us apart!
Coming by foot across 109th girls in tight colors &
embroidered jackets with kinky plaited hair & that
overwhelming little space between their front teeth
smooth stockings & legs Spanish sexiness men in
muted Italian undershirts tan & muscular sun glinting
off tiny gold crosses on Tundra chests off window tiles
& exquisite cornice
I could learn to speak Spanish
if the weather stayed nice & the Puerto Ricans
didn't grab for my tits I could take in subtle idioms
and conversational twitches and eavesdrop whole
sentences into my vocabulary I could be wonderful
& translate Lorca and Raquel Jodorowsky Go
to South America finally & live in Lima and the burning
agate winds of Peru, purified on the dry sun-seared slopes,
skies as intentional as the blue dyes of Morocco, air so
real it moves among the clouds like a benevolent giant!
I will sit there at the cave entrance laughing in the light
& sticking pins into an adobe image of my high school
Spanish teacher, rolling my r's at the heavens, smoking
yerba buena or whatever it is they do
O Maté Mate!
I have painted the map of South America on my bed & I
sleep in the high fantastic mountains of Peru!
Along the Rue de Fleurus matinee girls dream
of alabaster tubs & roped-off estate boudoir
giddy among ornamental balconies
We want to take you in our arms they sing
I wish I could run into one of them
out of the clear blue
These are not the hills of the Ain & still
the pillars & roof beams are carved with scenes
of the proud emperor's dominions
the hot inspiring air falls across the pavilion
verandah somewhere in China Here -
we have these cross town lights............
Magic Mirror! Take me away from all this
Tell me again how it was when you set out for Perugia
across the hot Italian valley
even now in the provinces the truck drivers
are keeping their eyes out for me.
I could never make a mistake in Spain or Portugal
they would lean from their cabs right throug town
there must be a road we could take together
along the Rio Guadiana The Olives! The
Iron the thousands of sheep bumping in our
dusty sunlight peace comes to me at such times
& Europe will never be complete without me anyway
I could run into you on a street in Malaga
and not make a fool of myself I'm sure of it!
How can the classic pose of centuries fail?
Everyone knows- even now as the demonstration
passes between the barricades construction workers
point at me That girl they say
That girl she should be in Spainl
We go out to fly the kites. Where is the wind
that we need? I lift the great ruby-eyed bat kite
& the little striped fish from the Orient &
we runl over the grassy strip
tiny stars jump from the knees of our dark corduroy
in bracing ochre air the kite goes up & comes down
the children shout & cheer we do it again & again!
I am thinking of my cheek in the soft flesh of
your shoulder. I am thinking of Afganistan! lips
of the fierce mountain fighters
The dust of Khyber Pass on my silver toe ring
Our long limbs resting against denuded cliff tan
& gleaming I will borrow N's pack and
handy Coleman will you trust me just once more?
Passports drop from ornate rooftop molding
stone drapery for the gala reception. Architecture
filling up the space
Raised ornaments who are a part of looking up
Here I am! across the street A gaudy parallel of
your white tiles but both shinning in the clear
for one more afternoon.
Yes I got the card from Spain with the little
donkey and the oranges
and the one with the translucent waters of the
blue gulf sparkling in the sun
tips of the submerged cliff coming through like
miniature craggy islands above the glimmering golden sand.
I put on the little rose carved from the angel skin coral,
my sandals slapping the dusty marble steps
and I think of you climbing the Tuscan hills
as I go down to get the mail.
R sends me the Blue Mosque at sunset
just last week D sent me an interior of the same building.
I often have a mad desire to pee on the floor of such
places. I don't know what it is Something
wrong with me I suppose........ I suppose you can
catch a glimpse of vineyards and stone barns from
the three room villa It's still spring
here in New York everyone is out on the stoops
& in the street flaunting their haughty charms
Yesterday in the park the children built a sand castle
medieval with crenelated walls like the Chateau de Marcues
you saw on the road to Biarritz, overlooking the lovely
Lot River Valley and near the prehistoric caves of
Lascaux! and last night M asked Patrick if he knew
where babies came from and Patrick answered "Paris!"
I keep the souvenirs you sent from Panama
in the little jeweled box you sent from Morocco
But I want to be a foreigner too a stranger
in a strange land To sit down on the Himalayas
and decide between Nepal & China
toss pebbles into the lakes on the Tibetan Plateau
wiggle my toes in the freezing water
I'm not an idiot I know what I want!
Citizens go down the street costumes all aflutter
they don't imagine me where I'm really at
blasted on the earth's highest peak
mountain villages and paths fainting brilliantly
at my feet
O My Heart that flys from the window into
the marvelous night Sublime!
and ridiculous in the giddy altitude
No one from the Embassy would recognize me now
no one from the little bodega
As though I were a masterpiece the snow
falling on my lashes
england and scotland are the paradise of walkers.
Thomas Grey himself walked the Lake Country in 1769
and after a long day's tramp found the inn's best
bedroom damp and dark and so went flamboyantly on
for another 14 miles to Kendal and an inn with a dry bed
O Thomas Grey I would have come too
through 14 miles of blushing crepuscular forest and Europe
under my feet at last I even skip the
pastoral beauty unbound the sound of all those waterfalls
the sparkling lakes that turn completely black when the
long shadows of the mountains throw themselves down
I don't even mention at all the fresh trout and partridge
the oaten cakes young mutton and the good country-brewed ale
I don't rave on about the Druid circles of stone
the serene villages!
is it so much to ask Europe and a dry bed!
A slight drizzle falls on the Ethiopian bracelet
on my arm wet leaves stick to my ankles
water drips through my matted curls The sheep
of the Caracul Mountains of Afganistah have such
woolly ringlets you said
How can you stand in thigh deep sweet clover
and not speak to me now!
Like a heartbreaking still from an Ozu film
under your wide black umbrella or an afternoon when
everyone speaks of trivialities and a hedious
tension mounts, You have manufactured
the perfect silence into which we cannot even breathe
a Great Circumstance from a little event
OH porch swing and juniper and woodpile and rusty pump,
where is the wild and careless? the joy inexhaustable!
the journey to the Crimea? the stunned snow of the
frozen Finnish Gulf!
at exactly five minutes to nine
the whip-poor-will starts up
the grey fox comes up the steps past the honeysuckle
over the bluff and eats the chicken bones we left
for him by the salt block the deer haven't discovered yet
some glittering lights come on across the river
and the two billion cicadas that live in these trees
begin their abrasive melodious chatter
About this time of night in the yachts
off Saint Tropez the marble baths are being filled
from the beaks of gold swans languid oils and fresh cut
roses scent the air Ornate luxury.
here it's just plain soap and cold water
a big enamel tub between the juniper and the oaks
I splash around a lot to keep alive
one eye out for flying squirrels
it feels so good to just lie back goose-pimpley
and clean and scan the southern hemisphere
for the remarkable tail of the scorpion
Like an illustrated silence this blazing brilliant sky!
what does it look like from a deck in the South of France
I climb into bed and roll towards the window
my brother's on a Swedish ship in the Panama Canal
heading out towards Amsterdam and Hamburg
I'm lying here looking up at 2 million Minnesota stars
moonlight some figured brocade trailing over
Canadian Thistle and Common Dandelion over Blue Vervain
and the catnip by the screendoor with the ivy
Burdock under the apple trees Pennsylvania Smartweed
down by the creek and Spiny-leaved Sow-Thistle
in the ditch The windows here
unlike those of a charming Venetian Palace
don't overlook a canal no colored panes
Nevertheless it's Dazzling
the moon blooms on car door and chrome
on granary roof and along the curled tin
of the drain pipe under this dormer
luminous blond tongues and perfumes of red clover
phosphorous angles light up the yard the driveway
the fence the tops of the corn stalks
I bury my face in those fiery gestures! the rustling
silk of that sky!
Everybody in Granada is probably asleep anyway.
I go up on the roof of the half-collapsed barn
A Hamm's in my hand a suntan on my mind.
Over the protruding shingle nails the broken beams
the splintered rafters come small hands with saws
we're going to build a club-house up here! they say
and build and bang and cover me with wood chips
clouds burst into white lace flowers
sawdust floats in the hot still air
some bridges are going up beside the club-house
the noise becomes tremendous
Well I've seen America first
and now I'd like to try some airplanes, yachts,
and fast European cars private Lear jets and
Ferraris the sapphire waters off St. Lucia
some nice peaceful jaguar shooting in Mexico
the black volcanic sands of St. Vincent
I'd like to show this shocking pink bikini
the lavender shores of the Mediterranean.
Coming home this morning wearing last night's velvet
& the opal-studded jacket the lovely pink feathers
brushing my cheek askew
across Amsterdam on the dangerously high platform heels
silvery sidewalks then stones and sand
grinning construction workers stand around on
and make me blush for my uncombed frizzy hair
my sleepy eyes my tottering stride your smell
rising from me a dark throbbing perfume bazaar
Ah! if only one could see the Baltic from here
the soft & whispy fogs
Now is the time to be glamourous and well-traveled
To pause on the vermilion terrace & shake my tousled locks
my earrings and my brooches over the ancient
Moghul tiles perfect symetries in oblong
the whitest sand and the whitest dunes!
the public baths below me on the street vapors curling
in the dust at the base of the flowering almond trees
like a sun-drenched brawl.
In freezing and scorching regions and in a bedroom
decked with irises with all the increasing and wild
speed of success fluttering through the construction dust
a woman made without past or history in love
but never in Europe!
Kicking the step with the tip of my wet tennis shoe
I thought OH I'll never get to college or even
to Mexico where everyone has been
including the sturdy TARHETA POSTAL in my pocket
Sandy has written on the back "I don't like washing
and cooking all day" and on the front
the Nayar Mountains form a radiant green blur
over the shoulders of two "Natives of the Nayar Mountains"
colorful mantles held on with safety pins the one
on the left clutching a midget-sized fiddle Here
is the victory of those whose hearts break
over the spaghetti, forever leaving the table
and returning as though nothing has happened,
To demand a front row seat!
the waves on an embroidered dress in the heart of China
where lines of outdoor toilets define the angles of the road
& tufts of hair stand up like promise on the heads
of the populace. I want to loose control
the way I used to throwing my arms around him
madly kissing his vest and lapels a straining ever upward
caught in that intensity of humiliation risking everything
again for one sign of love one step
into that future I am proclaiming Oh balmy
breezes blowing dirt into my face Oh herbal medicine!
I have seen a picture of the Wild Goose Pagoda.
The emperor sulks in his pavilion
he is not accustomed to this glaucous light
paradisical darkening that will soon be rain
& I sulk on the pine bench beside you
I want the beginning back again
These volumes of self improvement have done me no good
I want the auspicious beginnings the first glances
the first trembling fingers on my lips and
pressing the flimsy curls wetly against my neck over and
over and over again Puppy Love! High School Romance!
oh so delicious to be wanted that way
when every time you saw me you got a hard-on.
human nature lets go too soon
I don't want to be your first casual relationship!
transported alone to the frantic lush of Nepal
the Great Sad bushes and their vegetative wisdom.
I would squat down there with a heavy heart
I would fall back I would loose everyone
under a cloudy sky.
Now, through the flaming saffron turban on the postcard
I understand the meaning of the art of travel
Just as Chang Hsu understood calligraphy while hearing
the music of a street band and the wine-loving monk
Huai-su while watching the wind blow summer clouds
You see I know I Know
we have all been somewhere
Yet the emperor is sulking in his pavilion
& he has Everything!
and all my life I've answered "a little"
when what I really meant was "a lot.'
"In the first place, the true motive of travel
should be travel to become lost and unknown...."
Bob and Judi board the Greek freighter on Thursday
MaryJane flys to Luxumberg tonight
Jan arrives from Java and London
Sandy leaves Wales
Larry shakes bags of rings from Burma unto the rug
"heading to Cannes then to Greece North Africa
& Saudi Arabia 2 cars and 7 people......... asleep on
the beach" the last line squeezed and indecipherable
rumours of Vienna
The Orient Express
C says when friends of his took it
they boarded up the windows all across Russia
a blond kid goes by driving a load of oats to town
he is the scornful young Andalusian
amorous & grubby
why is it it frivolous
to want to see the dark swans of Tanzania
the children might feed them water plants & I
could sun my ankles on the harmless cement border
of the pond Sweet dissolution of my fantasies
I scoff at the rashness of the Habitat
We would sleep together among the goat tracks
Exposed to a real life.
Removed from the centerfold of your imagination
I will be able to distinguish myself a facet
of the Great MidWest strong & sensible
a girl who can follow the moon right down the middle
of a gravel road.
A monument of the Pioneer Spirit
I was born here in the land of sky blue waters
just like Hamm's Beer
Flowers that are truly orange are
relatively few. as for birds
at L's the Indigo Bunting and at B's
the American Goldfinch.
"from which all tenderness"......he said
and then fell so silent
the burble of the stream bruised the air
Pale Hydrangea I too
have admired the paintings of Dutch life.
Beyond them the sunlight on the gravel was stunning
the sweltering heat dashed upon the lilies
the Hibiscus bloomed and wilted 2 hours later
I won't explain my actions there
O Rustic Hymn
I know what it is to lie awake all night
without even being able to take yourself seriously.
Still gaga from the flourishes of the day ........
He erected cairns to mark the trail I scooped
dry earthstars into my pockets and mailed them away
to you He had entered his element Light
leaked between the trees to guide him
We joked a lot the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo
flew from the Mexican Juniper to a nearby thicket
damsel flies balanced on the toes of our shoes idyllic
& heraldic like turquoise like the ruins of Tiffauges
At the evening dishes in front of the sink
I was buying maps of the Syrian desert where the
hills are sand colored
just to glimpse your camel's feet
Blue Ash and Ashleaf Maple
big chunks of blinding cotton clouds
space and everytime I saw the hawk
I didn't have the binoculars with me
I wasn't sure if it was Gray Goldenrod or Pine-Barren
I never really knew what the bird with the yellow front was
it lacked the black V of a Meadowlark I am convinced
that the growth I thought was Catnip was in fact
catnip despite the arguments of outsiders
The Mimosa did not have thorns and as far as I could tell
it looked exactly like the Albizzia. Maybe
those were Shining Willows growing in the marsh
maybe Bayleaf? & the stately somber
poplars were probably cottonwood but
even allowing for the fatigue, the encroaching darkness,
and the excitement of the children it was a Horned Owl.
In spite of numerous efforts I failed to locate the cat
that yowled all night and vanished during the day
were all the elms American Elm frankly, who knows!
was the brown bird with the popsickle-orange belly
a female Baltimore Oriole if so where was her mate?
For God's sake what were those birds in the flock that
flew over us at the cemetery that afternoon Red heads
with a black body! Most of the gulls were
Franklin's Gull the "Prairie Dove" of the Great Plains
but in truth a large number were not though
they may have been in the process of seasonal color change -
it was just not possible to get excited about those few
the majority were so perfectly marked! on second thought
none of the swallows were Bank all of them were Barn and
they stood on the wire
ridiculously tiny passengers on transatlantic steamers
arched over the railings ........
The cyclist from Bologna
stands to the right of his cycle
his moustache is so large
I thought he was holding a taco
in his teeth.
Dotty lay figures on postcards lacking individuality
poised on foreign hillsides at least they have gone somewhere
and had time to sit down A rosy wash
the shade of ripening apples floods their temples
Thanks for the Rugged Grandeur of Glen Coe & the
lapland tundra under the midnight sun.
Tragedy requires emotion and across the courtyard
a Latin woman screams and screams she is lost in the Andes
in the Black Forest weeping at the foot of the Pyrenees
for her there are no others the scene is desolate
the man has arranged his head at an oblique angle to his
right shoulder strollers are trying to calm her. For me
it's a long story of desertions and abandonments
Time spent staring at the backs of doors or a
vanishing miniature on a path Someone seen from an opposite
sidewalk or a sprinting athelete admired from a
fourth floor window. All nearness banned by his plans for
the Absolute the Ideal
trafficking in that anguish I am stirred forever
by the proximity of the border!
when I throw the coins they say it furthers one to have
somewhere to go I cannot be the angel in the doorway
the patient town one returns to after having lived a full life
In short I will not wait here for you Suckered
by a brush with perfection Germany has famous
walking tours in the Bavarian Alps beyond that
towards Sweden's border are Norway's mountains
She had ruby red lacquer on her fingernails
sprinkled with gold glitter
elbow to wrist tin bracelets
a skinny shimmy-down baby blue gown
of velvet portiere with peaked shoulders
trimmed in squirrel
golded thongs crisscrossed around each lavender ankle
Her hair in the numerous tight braids
of the Saharan girls hung with
dried seeds and etched copper ornaments
with impeccable minute triangular boxes engraved
and stained hinges like the jaws
of some marvelous microscopic fish
under a broad-brimmed European hat of
beaded Zulu designs A plump skin pouch
A piece of flawless quartz at her throat
She was at least six feet tall strapped on her platforms
standing on the corner of 108th St.
in front of a heavenly azure wall with a cloud sign
saying PARIS BLUES
"He flys to Bangkok every now and then just to jack off"
and a flattened thatched cottage arrives in the mail
with a message from M.
I was leaning on the glass display case at the party and
someone said "The islands" but I was looking for him
thinking as usual "HA! He hasn't seen anything yet."
Trying to appear less desperate than before throwing myself
forward into the noise the thumb-sized rose at my navel
blushing soft petals of unnamable tortures and fevers
But not unhappy
a person in such a state can be perfectly happy!
someone who realizes their own hysterical clumsiness
is a person in control of herself.
O my arm that traps your hair against the pillow
my elbow in your shoulder my knee in your groin
the night you called from the bed - "See if you can
raise the window-shade without putting your foot through
my guitar and knocking over all the plants."
What a destiny to be the inexperienced actor in Agamemnon
who, whenever he moved his head, caused clouds of powder
to rise from his hair because
in the lst act some foot powder had accidently been spilled
on his head
So past personal history puffs over us and identifies
outrageous failings we work so hard to put them all behind
When I had finished all the tasks he simply
found more for me to do the pressure remained
at a constant level While pucks of rain hit the windows
saying, "Cairo" "Cairo" "Cairo"
Can I be on the street again! a lost soul again
dispatched ignatious into the day with burning cheeks
Buffeted about by your fascination of the traditional
"girlie" figure in silk Oh give it up! give it up
the scarf drops from the firm curve of the neck
the voile blouse faints under the jonquils
Husky bilingual adolescents bash by us on our way
these are the shoes and waistlines of a people
of a nation! tough tight jeans and mascara
passing POPO'S and MARY'S
My ears awash in your ideas of perfection I fling myself
towards them the way one builds a table in order
to forget the state of the world the way
N's mother must have clung to the frozen log
when she realized the bonfires between the thick trees
were in pairs and all at the same level and that
she was surrounded by a pack of wolves.
The best is often so removed it's like a picture
one can only stare at dumbfounded
Collapsing across the pillows Him in Kiev in Moscow
in Siberia the white snow drifting his blue eyes ....
The cold gleam of the icicles drives me nuts!
I should go along make bear skins into coats for him
Russia! Poland Caracas
I don't want to know what's wrong with me!
I'll come down curl up
with the South American Owl Monkey
watch his enormous eyes all through the night.
tightly woven fibers of virtually anything that
could be woven into fabric flax, linen, or
for as long as man has braved the sea he
has relied upon the force of the wind to move his vessels.
Sails of Rotterdam sails hung from the masts asleep
& dreaming of the Indies anchored
at the doors of houses Sails that have captured the wind
& the Nordic trade I have waited for sails
Presenting myself to the sea like a stupendous fjord
I have reduced myself to a brush for the deck
lowered myself to the most ignominous extreme
assumed the look of one so abject the foggy canals
offered themselves as a promise of something better.
I pulled rejected animals from the drowning murk and
slime and they followed me home immediately resuming
the heinous personalities that had caused someone
to chuck them into the canal in the first place.
I surrounded myself with these lives that hated the world.
We gathered in the lichen and fungi, liverwort and fern,
on the broken vegetation that adjoined the cement boundary
of the canal and wept drearily into the fog
bonded by a lover's rejection and common misery
we knew what hard luck was & I think we made the most of it
we dragged back and forth along the grey wall
waiting for sails in an artistic pose ..........
Now here is a shirt sewn from Old Sails
patched and mildewed, weathered and stained
Sturdy sails prized possession of the sailors
authentic old sails changing tack on the open sea!
My mother has given me this shirt made from Old Sails
& I have put it on.
O thick Egyptian jungle
O sodden lilacs of my youth
& the waters that brought us together!
Copyright © 1975 by Maureen Owen.
Originally published by Cherry Valley Editions.
Long out of print, the text of this book is presented here complete.
The cover and drawings for the book, by Hugh Kepets, will be included
in a graphics version if a means of overcoming technical problems with
them can be found.
Light and Dust @ Grist Mobile Anthology of Poetry.