Phoenix, Arizona

31 August 2008

Three Poems

Sound Bow, Lip, Mouth
Phobic Darling
After Valentine's Day

About Sally Ball



Sound bow, lip, mouth

There is no ghost of you; I know
because you are a man driving
his sporty white car to and fro
in Arizona. A thousand miles

from here. So what trick of mind
retells itself as hearing,
as in, “I hear your voice”—
when I hear nothing,

passing traffic, chafe of a sleeve
against the chair. Still
that single syllable, your version
of my name—I marrow-heard it.

I can’t conjure such a voice.
When it sounded,
the slender glass bell
beneath my sternum

broke again, shattering through me
like light. For years this little
trinket in the chest recurs,
simulacrum of your love’s disquiet

—if only you could see
the breaking sound.


phobic darling

What receptivity
swims up in her,

seeing things,
seeing those enlarged
insects, blue bottles
and blue dragonflies,
lacewing, cicada, mantis—
predatory jointed arms
or swoop and buzz
real enough she clubbed
me as she dove beneath
the bedcovers, quaking,
eyes so wide her face grew small
and mottled...

So far her visions are all
of yucky things, i.e.
less frightening to me than her,
though this disturbance,
this conviction—

She is an afterlife herself,
vessel like a good girl,
of mine, of generations.

When she’s suffering
she wants and doesn’t want
relief. She comes to me, pushes me away—
In my presence she can hide herself
from what’s within her.



day after valentine's

There were mornings you rolled toward me
and placed your hand on my belly,
warmth and fusion, the way
you meant not just you loved me,
but we love each other.
I’ve left for an overnight, little trip
out to the mountains
and I’m at your friend’s house,
where his widow lives. Our friends,
their house, and she’s away herself, the rooms
awaiting me with her presence
gently everywhere: begonia
effusive on the windowsill,
a note about the cats and making
coffee in the tiny copper pot, and her work
hanging on the walls like nascent windows,
not out to Prescott’s trees,
but into mind, or minds—
a contract rises up between a looker
and a maker:
                     Here I am, Diane.

Those helices you’ve woven in the purple
middle distance—path by which I
meet you, so I might miss you less.
This can’t be solitude, this staying
in your house, this quiet. You’ve painted
your bedroom, made a room with only the piano
and one tapestry, one vigorous plant.
So spare.

I love the shifting distance
in the workings of your loom, keep falling
into colors as they turn and fuse.
The names of colors: periwinkle,
lilac, scarlet—I’m circling in here,
I’m swallowing the air, I’m full of love—

Just by the door, there is a piece
made of guitar strings, unstrung,
bronzed and nickel-plated, loosely
woven in two layers, slight convexities
as if to form the body
of an instrument. Suspended
in the center are small swatches
of sheer fabric, flesh-colored,
drifting lightly with any motion in the air.

Denny would have known
(because you’d tell him?—;
because he’d just know?—)

what to see when he was looking
at those mute little flutterers.
Even my breath draws them nearer,
draws on you, or draws you in….

When you left us, when you died,
our partners were prepared
as much as anyone can be.
They had attended you, and sometimes
tended to each other.
(I was far away from everything,
busy with the kids.)

I remember my son’s last time
seeing you, his face a registration
of your pain, your physical
diminishment—then fine, then
wanting to play chase.

Here in your house I walk in circles.
We were four friends, we worked
in all the permutations—so rare
in couples, that success. We all
had something different we could give
each other, and we were alike
enough to be at ease.
So much I didn’t know—

You taught my husband tablature,
your handwriting is now an electric charge
inside our house, notes and letters,
familiar treble clef and then your elegant
transliteration just below.
You two stayed up late;
you played together.

Now he doesn’t touch even the case. He used to play
for hours, but he has no one to please. No one who hears.

True love, I’m thinking of you here,
I made the Turkish coffee and I’m wishing for you
here. I’m in and out of being all of us,
until that passes.

The house is changed, yet it’s
the same: Diane maintaining Dennis here,
also returning to herself,
the rest of her life.
You can see both movements
in the housekeeping.

Our house endured a year, no years
of losing, surely many more
will come. We ride things out
together, when we want to,
and when we also don’t.
See what we’ve made?

How every strand of everything of ours
enlaces all the others, the blanket will not tear,
it covers us, it's warm—



Sally Ball is the author of Annus Mirabilis (NY: Barrow Street, 2005) and the associate director of Four Way Books. She has new work appearing in American Poetry Review, Pleiades, Slate, Yale Review, and elsewhere. She teaches at Arizona State University in Tempe.