. . . .


Home, Sick

As the sun goes down
I open all the curtains,
let it flood fire in the rooms—
let the furniture blossom
into the scarlet and orange
of burning topiary
in an incandescent garden.

I open the windows,
let currents of warm air
eddy through the waning light,
swaying me gently like an undersea plant—
imagining the sun drawing out my sickness
as it sinks away in the distance.

Light gone, I am held in the belly
of the building: my sounds absorbed,
movements digested into silence.

I steal beneath the covers of the bed,
wait for its braking gravity to take hold.
When it does I feel around,
wondering how sleep will fill the room.

The sound of my breathing is sucked away,
my toes get warm and disappear.
My skin feels lighter and lighter:
I may be floating.
My body is taken away
and my head trails behind.
I never remember what happens next.

. . . .



The mottled blue-green ocean
is blown into chop by a cold sharp wind.
The opaque sky is low and gray
over the chipped jade surface.

Sitting above this, detached
by a line in my arm, I see you
standing by your ocean, a slate Atlantic
pulled through the yawn of the Chesapeake;
hands in your pockets, steaming breath,
checking on your koi in their frozen pond.

My eyes close and I disappear,
transformed into your ogon:
my platinum body dull with cold,
dormant and dreaming under the ice.

It's a summer dream
and you have come to us again,
naked, sitting with your legs in the water.
Swimming around your feet,
we investigate your toes, strange things.
Soon you will ease yourself in,
waiting for me and the others
to come close, and explore
your smooth curious body.

Fat and sleek— the gifts of your indulgence,
I brush my scales against your hard torso.
Eating from your hand,
you hold me in a way
that water does not know.

Taken from my reverie of the pond,
the heavy grip of medicine full on,
I leave to find what comfort can be found
in the atmosphere of air.

Slipped into a warm bed,
I sink quickly back, breathing
the warm still water once again,
waiting for you to come to the edge:
to nuzzle against your skin,
swim between your legs,
suckle on your fingertips.

The object of your attention:
such wealth for a common ogon.
Why think heaven to be so big?

. . . .


Persistence, Memory

At 8 years old it happened, the first time:
the ball in front of me, everyone behind:
nothing but kicking and running,
my body bouncing on, vision shaking,
the field tilting crazily, the ball a blur.
Then as now, the whole scene moves slowly,
dream-like, and the feeling of my little self
as a charging animal shapes into
a handful of convex memory,
like the curve of a horn
nosing cautiously out of the bush.

That curve returns from time to time,
as one early morning in the fall.
Mute rail tracks in the dark street
refused my tires, and the bike and I leaned
into a slide, like an 'S' lying back for a nap.
How long that laying down took;
how much time to think about protecting
the new helmet. Enough time
for the voice to say, "Let the helmet
do its job." The world tilted, curving gently
up to my left, and the side of my knee
slowly abraded against the denim jeans.

Once, the doctor said, "Yes, I'm afraid you are,"
and I turned liquid, held together, it felt, by
the surface tension of whatever I'd become.
The hot tropical world outside turned glass,
with sharp dangerous edges everywhere.
I moved cautiously, a fragile creature,
afraid that one little cut would reduce me
to a viscous, evaporating puddle,
my billowed edges slowly shrinking
under the merciless eye of the sun.
For months I wandered
through old familiar neighborhoods,
while time curved like a scimitar,
and made strange everything
I once knew. A number
appeared on my arm.
I came upon an empty house
that whispered my name:
its address matched my number.
I've lived there ever since, breathing
toward the dream of solidity again,
while time (I thought) was bending back.

But one day a reflection showed
that I was starting to curve,
like the horizon, like distant memory,
like a stone caught in the surf.

. . . .


Nominal Aphasia

The man in the back of the bus
stands up, addresses no one/all of us:
"Next time just take a gun and shoot me."
We are instantly alert, unmoving.
I glimpse the man from the corner of my eye;
clean, well-dressed and groomed,
long dark hair pulled into a ponytail.
A black beard and olive skin over
handsome Mediterranean features:
I am surprised by my attraction to him.

"You know they are watching this,
they won't stand for it."
His voice gets edgy,
"I'm praying to them now,
the Holy Trinity will come,

I start to think: paranoia, preoccupation,
searching my head … what term refers
to the names he runs together…
Automatism? Echopraxia?

"Is there a problem back there?"
yells the bus driver.

Silence for a moment.

"Judgement is coming," he says loudly,
"No one will escape. No one -"
"No, no, no," interrupts the woman at the wheel
shaking her head, braids swaying back and forth.
"I let you on this bus just to ride:
you can't act like that now."

The bus starts pulling for the next stop
as the man picks up his backpack
and walks down the aisle toward the back door.
Without looking, we all know where he is.
The light comes on, he hesitates,
turning his head toward the driver.
In a flattened voice he states,
"There is going to be retribution.
Mothersfatherssistersbrothers: all are
going to suffer- "
The rest is garbled as he pushes out the hissing door,
takes his message off the bus.

We breathe again.

Alexithymia? Stereotypy?

The rest of the ride back home,
I think of the handsome man,
his supple acrobatic mind eroding.
I think sadly that it won't take him
like a heart attack or lightning,
but in another way it already has.

Thought-blocked, nominally aphasic (!):
these I know about myself,
what will come back to me,
what won't come back for him.

All Poems © Mark Moody 2000


lives in San Francisco, where he is recovering from treatment for HIV-related Hodgkin's lymphoma. He has been a student at the Napa Valley Writer's Conference and the poetry series of the Harvey Milk Institute.