Excerpt from I
Nailed to the sheet with the blue trim,
I held your skull with regard for the birds inside.
Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, blood of my blackest blood—
I have the urge to put chemicals here so you can see the bottles, the cc, the stain in the test tube with the precise fluid. How can we counter this? The girl swallowed the acid and charred her tongue. She sang to me the other night under the stone vases on the balcony—It was like France except for the blood hardening her throat. We drank water and stared at our hands.
I have dragged it out of you,
pulled it out by its knotty braid.
I gave you sand.
I gave you water.
I stuffed the horizon down your throat. You asked me questions twice.
You gave me sand.
You gave me water.
You held my hair as I shook the plane’s wings.
I asked you questions twice.
You are the hidden lover.
I still cannot say if you are human.
I’ve burned holes into you the size of pears. I’ve spread you wide as your tree.
I gave you rough fruit
to bite the air beneath my flesh.
You gave me the taste of blood and roots.
Honey, can we stop all this? The child is trying to sleep. Where is he?
What is my boy dreaming?
Excerpt from II
In Long Island, the phone rings and rings.
the bullfrogs vibrate in the swamp.
In the day, the sun skims
over the hypoglycemic pool.
This is where you first stabbed me
this is where you left that whorl of dirt
[and horizon . . .
This is where our fathers knelt and smelt the fear
in the bread of our body.
We rode bicycles through the night.
The trees closed over us like wombs,
and the shiver of the leaves made us
believe something was—
You said, “Gotta be home by midnight,”
and my bike light hit your ponytail
waving back and forth
as you stood and pedaled off.
I no longer beseech you.
As the barges tug down the East River,
we press our noses to the car window
and watch the trash carry away the gulls.
Excerpt from V
I wrote you letters
that year crisp into the millennium.
I held the anguish in my arms
heavy as a pig’s heart
it was beautiful and thick and refused to bleed.
You flared out,
and I saw your different yous,
a peacock’s tail against the rain.
In Washington Square Park,
the grass where we lay
ripping out the pages cut from our loss
ripping out the edges
that sliced off our arms,
ripping out the kiss the stain of your mouth kept, we walked under the stone arch
while the hot dog vendors talked in Spanish.
The white curtain folds
over those awkward figures, the nib punctures a wrist
it pools on a glass table
Excerpt from VI
Dreams of grass, dreams of glaciers with black spots
dreams of hawks
cutting, dipping and gliding.
I find a bitter pleasure
in finding you in the Grand Wagoneer.
Sensual figure, long and sleek,
in your black one piece,
the tan sip of your lips,
the sting of you
as the gulls and children explode in the surf.
The simmer of sun into ocean
into our throats
closing over ourselves, gardenias rotting, three empty beer bottles
clattering the back seat floor
as we stop and then go
then stop again.
A beautiful body erases intelligence,
the brains walked upstairs
socks in their mouths
as our loveliness drowned
a thousand pools, and the elegant ones
sipped Southsides and talked
of fucking and the weather.
Excerpt from IXI went to the fancy new restaurant yesterday in Tribeca They brought me parts of you, your wrist holding an African Daisy, your belly button in a dollop of caviar, your tongue smooth as a lemon slice, and your lovely blood in a snifter. I fell back off my chair laughing full with you and whispered hatred for God. Now I am taking you out of me, carving myself out and pulling you bone by bone so you may live even among this heaped wanting that is never cured, even among the billions of hearts pumping and the terror of all that movement. I’ve packed you a blue sweater with a hummingbird on it. I’ve packed you a pair of gloves, I wouldn’t want those hands to get cold.
Excerpt from XDo you remember the woman with the charred tongue? She sits beside me now like a ghost. I have watched her now for years, counted the tiny blonde hairs on her calf. I offer her sips of honey, she has the urge to sing.
Performance by Cristina Spinei
Desde las cenizas (From the ashes) is a song cycle for mezzo-soprano and piano based on the art and poetry of Steve Clark. I composed this work after seeing Steve's exhibit The Girl is Blue and Refuses to Sing, a collection of paintings that embeds fragments of his verse in each canvas. Equally as stunning as the paintings, Desde las cenizas was the perfect poetry to set for a song cycle.
Filled with dark, morose tones, I was drawn to Steve Clark's poetry for its inherent musicality."Cristina Spinei
(Click to read an English translation)