Courting Failure

I can trace our falling out
To the day she failed to hear me
When I said, “I am afraid of failure
But the prize is worth the risk,”
And, said she, wholeheartedly,
“I agree, that nothing’s worse
than failure.”

I failed to hear her first, of course,
As she had not heard me,
And so I blundered on and said
I needed her beside me
To push me on, despite the chance
That I might stumble and collapse
Into the mire of failure.

She took my hand and smiled at me
And said, “Of course, I’ll do anything
To keep you from the airy paths,
To pull you back when you come, free,
To the precipice of failure.”

And so our road divided when
We faced a choice of cliff or fen:
I said, “Well, push me on,” and she
Cried out, “no, wait, come back to me!”
We curse each other still, and wince
At failures that have followed since
From follies that could not be seen
For fear of courting failure.

Delilah

What were you thinking, when you ran
your fingers through the tangles on my head?
“You don’t really love me,” is what you said,
When you asked me for the seventh time
The secret to my magic strength.

Could it be that for a moment
You actually thought you loved me?
Not the man of titanium, so light and strong,
But me, stubborn and corruptible, the one who
Could not decide if he was meant
To marry Philistines or murder them?

You were my second almost-wife,
My second chance to lay to rest
The hostility between our peoples,
My second chance to prove
There’s not much difference
Between a Gentile and a Jew.

We were so beautiful and so different
Lying next to one another
Fascination and xenophobia
Making love to one another

Did you think that I was beautiful
As I lay there, almost in your lap?
Did you smile at my innocence
As I swept loose bits of hair
That fell on my nose and mouth?

What were you thinking when you woke
Me up and delivered me to death?
“Up and face your enemies!” is what you said.
When they took me, tied me, blinded me,
And laughed at my lacking strength.

Did your insides leap for just a moment
That last time I glanced at you?
Your face was the last thing that I saw.
When you smiled and waved at me,
Did you whisper to yourself,
“At last I know he loves me”?

The Feeling of Love

The feeling of love is something passing
And mine is so impure
And yet
Like a rock that keeps on floating
Somehow my heart
Keeps on reaching for the air

I am not afraid
Of some mindless trepidation, but
A genuine concern:
I’ve given up so many times
So many times, my metal’s bent
My blade’s gone dull
Am I rusting?
What will purify my soul?
I want so much
But can I give?

What if my mind begins to wander?
What if feelings fade?
What if night supercedes the day?
Can I count on mere commitment
To keep me in the way?

Haze of Love

They brought me honey,
but I would not eat it.
Food from the honeycomb,
but I would have none.

How can I eat when my love is gone?
How can I taste pleasure when my heart is so low?

They found me at Ramallah
Wandering in Tesh Gibbeon
Looking for the one I love
Even as I searched, I grew far from you
In my distress, I abandoned you

Come with us, and drown your sorrows
Take pleasure, for love has gone

How can I forget you
Who gave my life to me
How can I turn away
From the one who will come for me

It was not you who abandoned me
But I who lost myself from you
Do not forget the one you love
Rescue me from the haze of love

Sleeping

I cannot sleep during the day. I find
It difficult and pointless, dimming that
Intense fire that is my awareness to
Some peaceful lull that is half way between
A slumber and awake, where you both dream
Your dreams and think about them; then to lay
Away my book, which I had long since left
Off reading, drifting into some decayed,
Warm slumber in the middle of the day.

I once had thought of people who took naps
Like Walden’s railroad sleepers: vainly laid
In mud to let the ruckus of the world
Run over them, but Constance sleeps like love,
And nothing in the world can run her by.

She rises early in the morning, light—
Her brightest hour, and in that moment rests,
At peace, and yet still burning. It’s in that
Moment of quiet intensity that
She sets the tempo for her day. With spade
In hand she weeds the garden of her mind,
And sets the world to dancing.

I have failed
To ever see her in the morning, fast
Asleep in bed, to know if she awakes
With starts, or calm and quiet ease, but I
Have seen her sleeping in the day. She lies
Behind me while I work, her curve of hip
Exaggerated by the straightness of
The bed. I steal a moment’s peace and sit
Beside her, wrap my arm around her own,
And in the partial knowledge of her sleep,
She pulls my hand close to her heart.

Somehow
She manages to sparkle even while
She sleeps—to burn and yet still slumber. She’s
So different from me, and yet she’s the same.

She turns to sleep so she may wake again

She Gave Me Love

It was two weeks from when she gave me love
In a little porcelain puppy figurine
To the time she called him back again

I never cared for dogs.
I had one once, who when he died
I rejoiced that he was finally free
Of the mindless neglect that I had given him

Not so this ceramic token
He had the highest honor in my house
I dusted him and cleaned his feet
I watched him, as he watched me
Waiting for the phone to ring
So I could see her face
And make her laugh again

I meant to marry her—she had said yes
But never felt like going out to buy a ring
Waited a week to tell her parents
Another week till she told me
And demanded back everything she had given
Whether word or deed

I argued, but she said no
I couldn’t keep a single memory
It was three months before I gave up the habit
Of gnawing through my cheek
And three years now, when I have finally forgot
Nearly everything

But sometimes I still wonder
If she was offended or even cared
That I unglued the paper base
From that porcelain figurine
And if she kept, or threw away
Her little love for me

I Believe in You

My love leads me to dissipation: I
Lie listless, moping, thinking how I would
Surround you with my arms and lay my head
Upon your breast and watch the clouds obscure
The sun, which then obscures the stars. My day’s
Work lies beside me, rotting, left untouched,
Untended, as I tend to you and balk
At all the things I thought I loved when I
Imagined you, but would not trust in God.

I could not make myself believe in you.

Your love outshines me: I cannot compete
With everything you’ve given me—yet I
Refuse to be so easily undone.
Your love is pearl, and mine is steel—a love
That’s common, though refined, but does not seem
To match the ornament that I would like
To grasp. But I will beat this iron till I
Can call it something rare, which may be said
Competes with silver. Call the alchemists!
If what was once called gold is lead, it can
Be changed again. So I will prove my love’s
As good as yours.
It’s not impossible.
New elements have been unearthed before,
And compounds thought incredible have been
Found preexisting in a natural state.
Then cannot this new element that is
Between us be compounded naturally?

I will not say it is impossible,
For I believed in God and found in you
What I imagined.

I believe in you