When Francis said:
“I don’t have to be forgiven
it was like the moon said I love you”
(the words never left me.
they are engraved on my ribs.)
A Woman Driving A Stake Into the Ground At Midnight
God, I have not forgotten you
For sending all my children into your old ice boxes.
I remember that goat
You let them follow with a compass,
Those wooden wheels you let them roll
And break their first silence on.
I watched those beautiful kites you let them glide,
Their hearts all balls of string.
When they were young and unfucked
And old friends with the moon
Spreading its cream over their lips
As they slept, you came in
The window with the light
Like a cat on their necks.
When you want, the dark honey
Of their breath you store
In the catacombs of your lungs.
Alone and licked, their dreams
All rat-bitten and full of fever,
They remember your words,
Droppings on the white sheets.
Where are the dead?
In my arms, their panties pulled high,
Their eyes and teeth all small and even.
I remember your sadness, too.
A pan of wash water.
I threw it out in the chicken yard each evening.
I wanted my love to be an orchard,
Rows of thornless berries.
I wanted my love
To be death for the suffering.
Like you, I knew a woman once.
She was carrying a child.
One night she cut it
Out like a vine
With her husband’s razor.
I didn’t want you
To forget my love
Is a dark and rotten fruit on the ground,
A deathbed for your dreams,
And I don’t know you, now,
Your sadness or your mark
On everything we bury.
from “Blue Yodel of the Desperado”
I went to New York to leave you
Flowers of blood and light
In the Picture Shows I dreamed
Of your birthmark in the shape of a pistol
There you were alone and asleep
In your bed like a lake
And your Father watched over you
And his land
As always you slept naked
With the windows wide open
The down on the small of your back
Was like dust on the guitar
Holding up the pane
I believe you left strawberries
And a glass of water
Untouched on the desk
There were ashes hidden in your drawers
And your fingers smelled like backwater…
I wanted to ride down to where I come from
On an appaloosa
And take you away for good
I wanted to tie your hands with my belt
And watch you stare at the campfire
In the mountains not saying a word
So it was in this dream
I gave you things to eat
So you would speak to me
I watched you grow silent and hungry
Like the middle of the night…
The first time you wept like a wooden boat
Was just launched
The sounds of the night…
At dawn you said you were thirsty
Even the darkest night must give in
When you spoke
It was hard for me to say a word
I couldn’t open my mouth
It was like being underwater
A bird came from nowhere
And lighted on your wrist
In the dream it drank from your palm
You stroked its throat and I could have sworn
Your finger was on the trigger
The wind came up you looked away
You were always cold…
When luck and money ran out
I deserted you somewhere in South America…
And stowed away on the first rig I saw
A ship full of wild horses
bound for America
I hid below with the animals that were
To be broken at sea
More than once I put my teeth to the tapaderas
Hunting the musk of your white feet…
I had nightmares about the vessel
Going down with the horses…
My sleep was like a long swim…
I dreamed they brought you aboard
To commend you to the sea
I dreamed you rode off to your wedding sidesaddle
And the only thing you let between your legs
Was the melancholy blood of the cello
You with your instinct for music and danger
Always without escort…
There are no starfish in the sky tonight,
But there is one below your belly,
And there are cold evenings in your eyes.
If I could get to your house
I would look under the bed of your childhood,
The tongueless loafer without laces or eyes,
The cave of your young foot
With its odor of moon, its dampness
Coming from underground, your shoe
Which also bled and is now an island.
You have to remember these are the memories
Of a survivor, you have to remember.
You could be looking for clay to haul away,
Fill for the deep washouts of your love.
All your old loves, they bled to death, too.
Your hair is like a cemetery full of hands,
Fingers in the moonlight.
When you come down to the heart
Bring your post-hole diggers and crowbar.
Do not set a corner, a fence won’t last.
Do not bury our first child there,
Or set a post,
Although I have tasted blood on the lips of a stranger,
At night and in the rain.
-Frank Stanford, “Amaranth”
"because none of you know what you want follow me / because I’m not going anywhere / I’ll just bleed so the stars can have something dark to shine in”
-Frank Stanford, from “The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You"
"And nobody will know
How it feels to nail down a heart
Black as tarpaper.
Mother, when you beat out my quilt tomorrow,
Remember the down in the sunlight,
Because I did not sleep there.
Remember, come evening, the last hatch of mayflies,
Because I won’t.
They are evil, mother, and I am
Going to take it all out, in one motion,
The way you taught me to clean a fish,
Until all that is left is the memory of their voice,
And I will work that dark loose
From the backbone with my thumb.
Mother, the sad dance on fire.”
-Frank Stanford, from “Terrorism"
"I don’t believe in tame poetry… Poetry busts guts.”
-Frank Stanford, from “With the Approach of the Oak the Axeman Quakes"
For Frank Stanford by Franz Wright
The scheming and chattering
mind’s abrupt sense
in the night of its being
surrounded by mind,
dwarfed and encircled
by mind whose voice
is silence, utter
The first bird
talking to the last stars—
maybe it was you
who woke me today in the dark;
I know you’re still around here somewhere.
I love you, therefore you are here.
For the first time in days I got dressed;
and I walked outside this morning,
and I saw a new heaven and a new earth.
instead of photographs I carry library cards
-Frank Stanford, The Battlefield Where The Moon Says I Love you