The one who spooned Hebrew into us like oatmeal sprinkled with cinammon. When she told us she was getting married, I was overjoyed. I wished her the best of everything I knew nothing about. Now, I remember nothing of Hebrew and know next to nothing of love. What do I wish for her? That she has not starved on the dry crust of jealousy and the thin broth of self-absorption. That she has carried her cross with courage, knowing when to bleed, and laugh. That she has learned more about Mary than the Jews, or the Christians. More than I was taught — I, whose heart of stone must yet, by tears, be ravaged, that tears may flow more freely still.
The one who said I wanted her cunt. No, not her cunt, her heart. No, not her heart, her past. She never saw my teeth.
The one who calls herself radical lesbian. When Stokely Carmichael said the best position for women in the movement was lying down, she wanted to grab him by the balls, shove a flag up his ass. It’s years later. Carmichael is forgotten. The Movement is limp. Her face is contorted with pleasure and rage, freedom’s swollen tongue teasing from her every last capitulation, every feminine grace. Is that the dust of the road, the ash of fallen cities, on her boots, or Johnson’s baby powder, drifted from the valley of her breasts, the snow of a forbidden range, where it’s always winter?
The one who raised her leg, her skirt sliding down to reveal the soft underside of her thigh. “Are you closer to God today,” she asked, “or further away?”
The one who’s pretty as a picture and free as the wind. So different from her parents, whose nakedness she never saw, whose passion was hushed, embarrassed, the seed inside the shell their teeth could never crack. But she rolls the seed on her tongue; she hunts naked, in the forest, eating everything wild. This leaf will kill. Call it caution. This one will cramp her style. Call it poison. What about the others? The ones who weren’t pretty? Who didn’t know how to dress, or undress? Whose hearts burned like naked bulbs, cruel to the eye? They’re hanging by their heels, in the offices of analysts. Forget them. We are tougher than our shells.
The one who brings her husband the morning paper, reads to him about the others who tried. Lets him touch the page. Lets him believe he’s touching her.
The one by the open window. My eyes are famished. Pity for a starving man? My eyes are empty vessels; fill them. My eyes are broken signposts; mend them. My eyes are razors; your garment is thin. My eyes are mirrors; your beauty is revealed. You, who I spy, are the sacrifice I offer, on the altar of my guilt. Will you pray for me? My eyes will rape you from behind in the church of your persuasion. Will you kneel with me? I will lay my gaze like a sheet of silk upon the ground. Will you stay with me? Come, let us see what we can see.
The one who was tricked by love, who tried her best, twisted toward the light, followed the commandments like a diet, and lost nothing but pride.
The one who in me sees more kindness than my own miserly spirit will confess; more beauty than my own veiled eyes will acknowledge; who in me sees the shape of what is unformed, still, in her; who in me sees more than this ruined landscape of manhood, where the ghosts of flesh wander in search of rest, where the flame of sex devours atmospheres, and hungers still. Who in me sees no station on the way, but completion; no end, but beginning; no stranger, but twin — twin hallucinations, her eyes and mine, the One Mind scratching its back with vision, the One Love peering through the shutters to glimpse itself, the One Eye blinded in the shock of total knowing. She who in me sees all this and, safe in her seeing, closes her eyes, as if closing the door where her lover sleeps, and sleeps.
* Why women? Why not Men? Which men? William Shakespeare? Attila the Hun? The jailkeepers? The accountants? The yogis? Which men? The blue-eyed men? The men who set fires? The men who write histories? Any men? The men who open doors for — women?
I’m a man. I’ve a man’s name, a man’s body, a man’s vocabulary, a man’s exaggerated guilt, a man’s pained swollenness in the face of what is simple, a man’s dumb conceits about romance, about — women. Which women? The temple dancers? Business whores? Kitchen slaves? Third-dimensional women, with their riddles of flesh? Fourth-dimensional women, with their acrobatics of salvation, Atlantean seductions, extra set of keys to the Kingdom? All of them. And my mother. And grandmother. And hand over hand back the apron strings to Eve. The unwinding umbilicus, the lifeline to my drowning gasps, the lasso round my neck and round my heart. I’ve loved you, fucked you, in how many lives, by how many names? Born to you, wed to you, how often traitor, and sacrifice, in the suburbs, within the gates? Stapled at the navel, your stud, your cripple. Oh, Florence Nightingale, bend to me. I want to see under your dress — are there demons and serpents there? And at night, when the nurses of infinite pain have rinsed the blood from their shirts, is there conversation and laughter? Girl talk ? What is that? I am deaf; show me with your fingers, your lips. Miss College, taking the words of the men so seriously, the men in the books and in the bed — I am blind; take me by the hand, lead me to your wisdom. Make of it something to hold, in the night when I am empty; make of it a dance without steps, a heart without ache, a sex without distinction. Queen of the Liberation, your tongue moving like a restless snake, promising freedom (men have died for it), promising equality (men have killed for it), promising the evening of accounts — I am mute; speak for me. My own tongue has suffered the recitation of too many poems, too many unanswered questions, too many stinking lies. Let your voice be my voice. Face the camera directly. Bare the breast and explain about the blood. Where the chains were. And the milk, where the soldiers nursed. Before dying, for your right to speak. Talk about the New Day. Sex roles — abolished. Menstrual pain — abolished. Rough hands, cold feet, bad breath — banished to the frozen past. An ocean behind us. An ocean of ice separating Then, and Now. I will wait. Dumb and deaf and blind. To talk again, hear again, see again, even to feel. On the distant shore, till the ice is broken, for the touch of your waves. Patiently, like a man.