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Archive for the ‘hydra’ Category

Water

when the rain fell that day,
the streets were streaked
with oil slicks
splaying in amoeba-trail fractals
and running into gutters
like let rainbow blood

and the sky collected its moisture
from its many private reserves—

you shared with me the riddle
your ancestors passed down in secret—
if I solved it, you told me,
I would understand
everything—
it will sound too easy,
but wait, you warned me—
soon I’ll realize
that life itself
is happening
solely for this mystery

so I observed the clouds first—
since that’s where water came from,
but they told me to look to the ocean.
The ocean refused to answer,
crossing its arms against the rocks
as it whispered its longing for rivers.
And the rivers spoke
of the bodies of creatures,
who opened their mouths and said nothing.

How little I could learn
after all my questioning
of this thing that fills the bellows of the world
and ushers the sprawl of life—
weaving through streets under hidden sewers,
freezing in the blue-green Arctic
and feeding grains and flowers,
falling from mountains in cascades
and trickling through phosphor-lit caves,
resting dormant in underground wells
and fading like wadis in the Sahel—
you asked me the secret of water,
and I thought long and hard
about plumbing,
thirst
and nature,
and in the end,
arrived only at silence

and then the rain fell that day—
a sudden downpour
tickling my tongue,
drowning the streets in a sudden answer
of yes
grace
and cleanliness,
aligning with my heartbeat
and starting everything anew—

there is nothing that cannot be cleansed
and nothing holy but this:
the spirit of flux,
the bending touch of forgiveness
trickling in through all of us,
a universal source of data
connecting all our veins
like the secret spread of a delta

flowing helplessly and constantly
into a single ocean
no matter what we do to stop it.

You cannot separate
good from evil—
or water from time and spirit.
Filth is an experiment
doomed to fail
as long as the rivers
hear it.

© Sarah Noack 2008

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nine days

for Anais Nin



You were every bit a child still, at thirty
when that afternoon in the hot mistral

you invited him in
and in
and in

until he tangled your conscience

with pheromones

and tender insistence,

drowning your homesickness

in his ocean of chromosomes

that gave life to your own
until he filled you up

and came out the other side
through your delicate lips,

whispering and

spilling onto burning pages
that flipped like heartbeats as you wrote
and the pen in your fingertips

which I know for certain
trembled with electric truth

while the rains fell on a dreaming Paris

you stopped descending into

as your rumpled sheets

became your home.

So tell me how it was—
did he stroke your hip,

confess secrets of all the women
he’s kissed, about
how he’d really missed you,

thought of you all these lonely years?

Did he whisper in your ear
that really, this is no abomination,

that you’re his secret garden—

staring into your irises,

watering your trembling orchids,

plucking and admiring

this harvest he created

and telling you how you were always
the favorite child,

a twin phoenix
burning savagely in his bed,

eternally merged in bliss

as the forgetful wails of streetcars
dappled the sighs
of amnesiac Electra

and did he offer, like a gift,
this sickness you’d wear forever
like a glamorous pendant,
diligent student of tristesse—
like those butterfly kisses

he placed on each eyelid
just maybe that once
before he gave himself
into your arms

and returned what he’d stolen

from his littlest devotee
with the contrived debauchery
only true artists embrace.



But darling, he didn’t tell you
that hell is not forever:

just a fleeting velvet station
of shame,

a flowered apostasy
as inevitable as a train wreck—
and when he wanted to leave,

did he make

some spent-sperm excuse

about work or sleep or space

as he left you wrecked and whole?

But he didn’t realize

that you elected this disgrace,
justified your poised madness

with epicurean tastes—
you picked the time,

chose the place—
you showed him your letters

you’d then erase—
rode him to justice

and captured his flattery
in the spiderweb
of your womanhood.

You won his remembrance

after so much neglect
and paid him in vengeance

without ever really intending,

dear curious Anais,

to break him,
but you did—

though only with tenderness.



With the silent grace

of a lioness,
you stole back the fire
he ripped from you

so long ago

and tucked it into your heart,

binding his need delicately
with the silver filaments 

of your words and limbs
to light your white pages

with the dignity of calculated sin.



© Sarah Noack 2007

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inspired by “The Importance of Gourd Crafting” by Rumi and Sobonfu Somé’s “The Spirit of Intimacy: Ancient African Teachings in the Way of Relationships”

Take ash in your hand
and draw a chalk circle around us—

sanctify this space

and define our position

within the laws of nature—
for there are contracts

we will break

and new ones
we will create

within this small circumference.



There is no disgrace

in surrendering

to passion
as long as you remember
to plan it:

with a steady conscience,
cast your libations
to quench the thirsty dead

and honor the thousand invisibles:

you must always remember
the thousand demons that sneak
into the unseen midst

between eyes and electric brain,

knotted knuckle-fists

and through the gaps
between
your thousand wandering kisses
erupting in violets
over skin’s borderless terrain,

blooming from a thousand open pores—

the ripple-wraiths
from a thousand mouths
whispering
innuendos of birth and death,
the scarlet moons of nails
engraving secret hieroglyphs

which tell a thousand tales—

and the audience of a thousand faces

watching from behind the veil,
the hushed rustle of wrapping paper
in the darkened room.

A thousand fingers,
a thousand dancing tongues

a thousand throats
chant precambrian songs—

a thousand teeth,

a thousand ghosts

stalk entombed in shadows—

the dogs of doom 

devour raw meat

and howl lullabies

to the clamoring unborn

waiting restlessly at the gate
in thousandfold hordes

where pollen-water trickles,

tracing sacred scars
of love and war
in underground shale,

rivers of blood

in benign water-guise
and the pale ghost of milk
summoned from invisible daughters

awaiting the code:
flip the switch,
turn the handle

shoulder the cross
and begin the process—
another life,

another death;

sticky-sweet fingers

trick the unwary
into messy descent
further into flesh and stone,

saliva and bone—



a thousand nests,

a thousand birds:

the flocks of wings scatter,

disturbed by the call of
a thousand invisible cocks disrupting
the henhouse,

broken egg-mess and shells cut our feet
as we ride through watermarks
of a thousand scattered incarnations,

disheveled barefoot and clutching 

jewels and earthworms
in the crawlspace between our sternums—
humming incantations
of a thousand buzzing insects,
a thousand exploding
chrysanthemums
fill the sky with peacock light
as our clothes lay lifeless like pinecones

on the forest floor
like the thousand bodies we’ll expend
as we choose the holy death

of falling
over the empty space

of flight—
I choose this.

I choose this.
I sing in forked tongues,

sucked into gravity’s orbit—

deliberately weightless;



I am wary enough

to bring a lantern
and a magic egg of onyx

to protect myself
from the thousand enchantments
drilling inside our wanting eyes—
the lifted limb,

the starlit womb

this treacle madness 

moving in fickle permanance,

yuga upon kalpa, a thousand dramas

leaving forever notes scribbled
in the margins of the universe—
enmeshing us within
a thousand pulsing vulvas,
a thousand revolving breaths,

a thousand eyes to see inside
this locked box of flesh,
a thousand cobras

sprouting from each limb

and encircling us like hydras—
dark diamond heads

penetrating 

a thousand unseen orifices,

breaking the seals 

with greedy finesse—

a thousand spiders

consuming us with the orchid-sweet venom

of need—

a thousand spent black holes

of vacuum universes,

extinguished cigarettes,

hopes unmet,

a thousand waves
of destruction and death—
this ultimate sacrifice

this sacrament extracts—
be ready for it.

Meet it with teeth
and a horn-clash.

____________

The body is ruthless:

inside of us
lies a humming nucleus

containing unseen colors—

kaleidoscope landscapes

of murder and betrayal,

cause of all causes,

the howl of winter hunger
and the scent of danger—
this solemn luxury of excess

consumes us
like a virus,

knowing no ending,
sucking us in.
Is this what you call sin,

the thin flickering horizon

between pleasure and terror?
I embrace it.
From here everything begins.



____________

Are we the ornaments
of experience?
I refuse to believe

in the cool logic of denial,
of black and white rooms
where the good and bad congregate,
obedient to their chosen masters.
I refuse to die
a blank slate—

empty as the bald pate
of a monk who’s given his body
to charity, 

offering the wrapped gift of his chastity

as a stopgap between heaven and earth.
I surrendered my wings
at the tollbooth

and pay my monthly dues in blood;

why should I forsake its purpose?
I am the religion of being

and creating, devouring,

unfolding into bliss—
I smash my fist
into a thousand holy books
that call me witch
for choosing the hymn

of hunger. 

I demand this:

before telling me my limits,

dare to look into the eyes

of my child
and tell me I am not mother

of her universe.

____________

Take ash in your hand
and draw a chalk circle around us.

We are criminals
in the court of cosmic justice.
Don’t offer me solace,
only kisses. 

Make us this church 

so we may worship
in peace. 

Protect us from the envy 

of piousness. 



Take my hand

and look straight in my eyes.

Don’t be afraid 
if you see through me
to the other side. I am meant for this.
I invite all the darkness
our opening brings. 

Whatever we do here is safe 

and secret. 

Fuck me in the senseless harmony of stars;

hold on tight like a jockey to the comet-head of my longing

and streak it across the cosmos.

I am the power of a thousand things.

© Sarah Noack 2007

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for Tori Amos (whose guise my guardian angel assumed in a dream)

in a place safe from battle
she awoke me from my deathbed
gently in a dream
of mauve and velvet
and the starry crowns

of violet-green passiflora

exploding from a fire escape,

attracting sparrows—
the only indicator

of surrealism

and half-asleep and blinking
I waited at her wooden table
as a teapot whistled—
and as she rode through the doorframe
like a birthday candle flame
in a dress made of peacock feathers,

I just listened



and she said:

love yourself—
I mean really love yourself

as in a verb, an act of,
not some abstract notion—
as in a knowing
that your cells 
love the blood oceans
they swim in,

singing psalms
to their only heart.



She said:


cultivate radiance—

I mean the kind

that bursts from your eye sockets
like comic book stars
and drips from your pores
like the nectar of lilacs
that calls the irridescence

of hummingbird wings,

like the mystical amber buzz 

of honey—



she said—


be a sister to yourself
be a mother to yourself

be a lover to yourself
be an infant to yourself
be everything to yourself

and elevate yourself

as so human,

as the goddess you are



because no matter what
there’s never enough time
for a woman to heal herself,
to make love to herself
to know herself

to go inside herself,
and no matter what,
the world won’t give you that—



so you have to take your heart
and hold it tight
inside the callouses 

of your palms,

and let it loose 

with the blood jewels

that slip unchecked
from your depths,

let it drag from your limbs
like magnetic rattles

trailing glory
in your wake

as you fold towels,
trip over roller skates

and drive long hours
in industrious solitude

to make it all pay—

choosing daily between 

body and soul,
poems and life—



she said:



no matter how you struggle,

no matter how

the world pulls you under

its bunioned toes
you will have no part in ugly—
for you are
beauty itself—
you rise like the wet pale nymph,
colors awakening
into flight—
you rise 

like the timid pink sun

like the flickering neon rainbow
like the stretch of twilight shadows,
like dangerous thunderheads
like stubborn dandelions
that grow and grow
overtaking trim lawns

no matter how

you mow them—

she said:



you will win this, miss

but not by the user’s manual,

nor any tidy book of rules
and certainly not 
by closing your heart

to its semisweet core



for it is ecstasy only
that supports the orchid
on its frail foundation

of clouds and dreams

and should you dare
invite a draft
into this hothouse
you call death 

to your side—



she said:



wake up from the night

and take this ripe fruit 
of you
into your balled fist

into the hunger in your teeth
into the wide pockets of your dress

into every secret orifice
with a vigilant avarice
and spit out the pits,

don’t let anyone steal this
succulence—
no matter how busy you are,
how poor,

how your child cries

and the world needs more 

and more of you—

you are ripe,

you are whole
down to the strange sewers

of your soul. 

You give best
only when you hold on.
If you don’t know this,

then you’re just a hole, awaiting

a cement mixer to fill you—

and you have had enough 

of sidewalks.



She said:



You are love, love—

poetry in motion,
and all those pick-up clichés
from 1950’s songs
where the boy gets the girl,

only you are the girl

and already know it—



You are all the love you seek.
You are
the mystical musk of the ox,
the delicacy of rainbow
and the fragrance of orchid.

You are not a hole

but a volcano,

taking in and making
and breaking new pathways—
you are the flight of the butterfly,

the hummingbird’s irridescence

and the mythos of honey,
the secret life of bats

and the bitter melt of chocolate.

You are all things nectar

and beautiful,

you are darkness

and light
and you have no right

to deny us this,

woman—
all your sun and shadow.

She said,


Love yourself

(as in love yourself)

so that we all may love you,

lady:

bearer of light,

keeper of night,

guilty of the sin
of purity.


Spread yourself like grape vines

over these prison walls,

over each edifice
that reins in the flame

of spirit

and usurps your wine

for religion—

wash the just and unjust

with the rain of your senses,

and curl pigs and lepers

and infant angels
into the womb of your arms—

and 

with delicate skin,


press all the world’s wickedness
like pourcelain clay


into the sacred kiln
of your heart.





© Sarah N 2007

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Hothouse

for Nanci



After thirty,
no one takes love seriously

anymore—
if you speak of surrender

your friends will only warn you

to hold on to your scorecard,
to calculate giving
and ration it out
into prudent parcels

like the mutual funds
on your bank statement—
to always think
about what makes sense,
to never pick up the ball

unless it falls in your court;

to keep your words

short and sweet,

sharing only the skin
on the milk of your heart.

But you understood

that this is not love at all,

after thirty or any time:

dreamer, friend, 

partner in crimes of passion.


In a mirrored apartment

that your father bequeathed

to you after his murder
I escaped the world,

skyrise-high 

above the East River

and the bleached ribs
of the Whitestone bridge

where seagulls lazily played
in the panoramic blue
outside your picture window.

We savored meals 

of dreams and secrets:

hiding in bookstores,
swimming in crystal blue
of chlorinated pools,

wandering Manhattan streets,

returning to commune
at a glass table

that captured the glow

of sun and streetlights

from brunch to midnight

when the moon would rise 

like a brooch 

above a city, sparkling
like a sequined evening gown—
and we’d watch the sky:

silent snow, pane-shuddering rain,

airplanes passing like thoughts
as we spoke of love

and love’s absence—
savoring both equally

as you stroked your black cat.

It was always just us,

alone in our secrets

and fragrant fantasies

that sustained us endlessly

as we chose our next adventure:
the monk I loved silently

who’d sent us gifts of rambutans

he’d climbed a wall to steal,

sleeping peacefully between us
with cherub breath

as your Barry White bed
with its sheets of purple satin

snickered in chaste irony
and we yawned like sleepy sphinxes
under alabaster nudes
that your father left in his wake—
vague ladies in dim tracklight

combing their hair, gazing in pools
like pallid sentinels of Venus.



You were never afraid of death,

only of dying young
without having tasted enough of life—

so you kept your suitcase ready
for my calls:

restless road trips
through forests, castles

and Francophone hearts,
full with tea and risotto,

seated high on window ledges—
damp with the blood of tattoos,
asleep in yogic peace
in blue attics—



and returning home to your sanctuary

where a letter awaited you from Italy:

a man we both knew was all wrong,

but his letters were so pretty.

I understood this, and loved you for it.



So it is you I seek now—
relisher of my secrets,

gourmet of intrigue,

weaver of intricate tales.

It is you who will understand

and just listen

to all my heart holds inside.
It’s you who will let my story breathe,

give it a name, 

honor it

for the mystery it is. 



I love you for for knowing

that passion is complex

and not about obtaining;
it is a story to be told,

tasted over and over—

a gift to be unwrapped
in breathless suspense—

whether or not
its color was what you asked for.

©Sarah Noack 2007

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excalibur

I accept everything:

even this blow
that knocked the blade
from the bedrock of my heart.

It was kindness
and blindness
ensconcing it in its prison
of stone,

where it slept
unused
for a thousand years,
scrolled Toledo steel
impressed with luminous glyphs
marking secrets of survival,

which, contrary to popular belief,

are beautiful.

I accept everything,
even this act of betrayal
which some would call
unthinkable

because I believe
in a grail
so beautiful,

it transcends
all ugliness of the world.

And it is worth defending. 

Softness is my frailty.
Sometimes it is better to be metal
than petal,

to call a spade a spade
and dig your grave ungrievingly
by the side of the road.

All wrongs are made right;
the day of Brahma has its night.
All dirt is washed by water,
which falls from the sky
and is recycled 
in never-ending cycles of
disgrace and purity
that make up the human race.

I close my eyes
and blow out the candle.
An era has ended,
a sacred trust abandoned.
There’s nothing more I can say or do.
Those who say God only gives us
as much as we can handle
clearly have never spoken
to the ones who are finally broken.

I know my Grail is holy,
so all I can do is move on.
This wound in me
is really just the faultline
from which I draw my power.
If my heart must turn to stone
to harden all the soft places
you still play inside me,
then at least let me learn
to fight
because I still believe
in beauty 
and know it’s worth
dying for,
even if you can’t face me.

What can I say?
Every book has its ending.
Anyone can fall from grace.
I watch my step,
hands on the hilt, 
wary of the jackals of spite
that hunt me even in dreams.
Anyone can turn
from friend to ghost
in this moment between heartbeats
that traps and sieves light
through the scum-seeking cheesecloth of fear.
And who am I to question this?
The heart, though sincere, is hardly a match
for the lifetimes of hurt
that define us.
I cannot blame you for being human
any more than the sky for darkening. 
In another lost heartbeat,
I could mirror your malice.
And if you asked for forgiveness,
I could grant it. 
But in drawing my blade,
I reclaim my soul
and choose the path of innocence.

I know the line
between love and betrayal
is as subtle and shifting
as twilight.
And sometimes it’s noblest
to carry a sword
when walking alone in the night. 

– Sarah Noack 2009

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for A

The day we watched lizards
behind glass,
we lost track of time
and incited the ire
of an angry husband
who suspected
ulterior motives;
it was then I knew
how little he knew you.

Collapsed in a heap,
they sought the warmth
of a glass bulb
on their collective mass,
unblinking, unflinching,
quietly growing tails;
eating without appetite
when the occasion arose

fascinated, we pressed
against the pane,
you and I,
like children, we talked
to each and every one
and discussed the physics
of reptilian union,
entranced
by their discernment —
which came so naturally
to you

but sometimes
we’d feed our senses
with flavors of light:
simple and noble,
turnip cakes and parchas
tastes of jungles and rivers
where maybe we’d once
been sisters
and we’d close our eyes
and shamelessly delight

We came so far
from the day we first met
when you frightened me
with your style and grace,
and your child’s face
but I didn’t mistake you,
not for a moment,
when your voice crackled
like someone burned;
when your black eyes betrayed
the secrets of lizards
living under pyramids,
the mysteries of scarabs,
the bending of music
under benthic depths

You were pink and lavender
and smaller than snowflakes,
drawing cheers
from teenage boys
but I loved you for your mind:
wingbeats of angels
flitting amid the graves
and darkest orchid imaginings,
stories of primordial hibiscus
pregnant with grandchildren,
their crimson wells
attracting workers
to serve the Queen,

and wasplike secrets
of what you enjoyed
and how you’d been stolen
so many times,
used until you broke inside
yet you never fell down:
a tail regrown,
a soul reborn
in the same life,
bright salamander
entering the fire
and emerging whole —
dignity radiant in your gait,
metal glinting behind your laugh.

If he just looked in your eyes
for a moment
he would see what I saw,
and know why
you lingered so long that day,
why the lizards pleased us so
and he would cherish
and honor you
like the paradoxical moon

but all I could do was take the bus
on a cold morning
after sleeping in the world
by your side,
and know that you will be hurt again
as he sharpens his edge
on the grindstone he made your heart,
thinking you belonged to him:
but I always knew
you belong only to music,
to the angels of shadow and light.

One day you were gone,
and I never forgot you—
not until you turned over the rocks
and found me again,
telling me everything
how you escaped
without even a cup,
living in borrowed places
like you’d once lent to me,
so what could I do?

I gathered everything I had
and offered you more.
And I will offer again, anytime you ask:
familiar,
sister,
playmate,
queen.

I know you are well
and in your own sphere.
I have learned your rhythms
and you remain in mine,
crossing and uncrossing paths
even in the face of silence.
I don’t need confirmation
of your affections,
or a phone call
to know my location
in your heart.

Yet I admit,
I’m missing you:
I await a day
we’ll watch lizards again—
enjoying mysteries of forked tongues
and the stone stillness of their repose;
I miss your turnip cakes
and the call and response
of your daily narrative—
the pride of being needed.
I miss the backstage pass
into the sanctum of your senses
where we met and connected,
relieved,
washing our souls
in the colors of our company.

©Sarah Noack 2007

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