Bowls I Buy

(for several voices)

Jane Reichhold

Imagine that before you is a group of men and women. They are standing together on risers as we did when we sang in chorus in high school. Each person is dressed in a style of their own choosing -- either formally, for leisure, sport or other specific activity. However, from head to foot, all their clothes are of one color. So the one wearing a black suit is also wearing a black shirt, tie, socks and shoes and the one in the pink jogging suit also has pink socks, tennis shoes and a pink headband. You get the idea. You can see them up there in the spotlight. Each person speaks one or more of the voices in this poem. They speak without animation and rarely with emotion. To you it sounds as if they are talking to someone else -- someone up above your head who you cannot see. So it is, when people pray and we listen. Listen.


bowls I buy
for bowls we broke
bumping together
as if there was no desire
to be like bowls -- stacked


leaning earthward
the tall straight pine
aligns the trunk
with the pull of the dead
opens the angle of a door

the empty
who have joined another race
with a foreign language
they speak to us occasionally
with bumps, breezes and strange stones


dark angels
successful sip our fears
small sparks
we give them up like feasts
from our fragile willow-body baskets

white angels
stroke us to draw our joy
a spurt of spirit
honey enters their every opening
they wear us as bracelets


a missing button
contentment opens as a sound
the world falls
to the center so wide in wind
it turns our insides out

deeply cut
more steep the coastal cliff
I am diminished
by the space you have taken
away with your leaving


red mouth
the flower gives speech
to the bee's tongue
unrolling the sweetness
of genital touching

spring winds
the mystery body of earth
torque and tighter
splits a woman's lips apart
the ceiling mural marred by rain

ice breaking up
something in the creek
wants out
the snowman bows
loses his head


the soot-cold smell
of the chimney
laying a fire
on the eastern hills

the hillock
swells into the rain
a point
my pleasure expands
ripe, glossy vermilion earth


spring-flat seas
desire pressed down
by hazy days
would the neighbors notice
if I walked by your house?

folding the air
a fan on a flushed cheek
I'm a magician
coming to terms
with a bird wing

opening colors
the air that brings back
the swallows
wanting to touch metal skin
before boarding the plane


drawing old
the woman with years
now human
the clay vessel becomes
birthdays in her hands

art class
the male teacher objects --
tits on angels?
twitching wing-tired shoulders
I circle in the nipples

morning fog
the dream not buried
deep enough
others walk right through
disturbing it with their eyes


night so slow
to come from the coastal hills
the gravel road
falls apart with the haste
to sink into our turtle-selves

his shyness asked
I had never danced before
with a woman
his breasts slightly smaller
than mine touching mine

dusk ripples
as we move from mauve
shadows step
out of the way before
the sureness coming together

his biceps pressed me against
the lace of his gown
low-cut and revealing
a few dark chest hairs

the toes of our high heels
slid together
in the space between my legs
a swelling in two sizes

sweetened sweat slipped
between us
shapes rose and blue
in the hot jazz riffs

dizzy without breath
time rolled into one
past life
we have been together before
now male; now female


freely floating
the wide-sleeved wing
a bombyx
barely remembers the cocoon
or the weaving of the seam

cut flowers
disarray themselves into pollen
and bluish petals
when I am loved, as now
splendor outlines and holds

night fog
the stars burn rainbows
around our heads
the puzzles of our bones
colored in with light


badly filmed
the couple next door
with steamy windows
the gray bedclothes
the third person watching

night birds
flip room wide
flutter down
fluff themselves when an arm
reaches to turn out the light


at the door
no one
there -- there
they all are

without bodies
the form and shapes
belied by trees
pointed to by horses' rumps
the bruise groans and moans


friends' eyes roll
into the lash-laced corners
where we stand apart
the dog wags his tail
and understands our liason


grass still moving
flies in the sparrow's beak
when comes the change?
I stop being myself
when you enter me

to end the day
the last gesture of darkness
a woman's arm
bent toward the light
the thought stays 'til morning


skeleton of light
in uterine darkness
candles lit on festive tables
where whole families gather

storm born
with sea light from heavy clouds
space is fleshed out
by entities pale pink and peach
nameless we call them -- Ah!, Oh!


hands folded
she models for the artist
in clay
her smile shapes within
a son who looks like him

the barbed hook
in water
that floats in her belly
a nine-week fetus

condensed starlight
drawn to a horizontal line
bursts forth
smashing into the spaces
transparent holes ringing things


a wave leaps
and the wind gathers it
into a shape
so my arms without muscles
embrace a raging sea


mail box
has no letter expected
yet her apron
filled with wild roses
bulges in front of her

long summer hours
the palm of earth holds
against the sky
a woman erect and swollen
a calendar without red days

the depths of the lake
show the mountain
breathing up and down
the steep sides of our four ways


wind cries
in the throats of gulls
their giant home
they never leave
it never leaves them

only renting
this house on a hill
covered with flowers
if the owner should find me
thinking they are all mine


brushes of grass
the holy words invisible
wheat writes on wind
cut down and crushed
for our daily bread

quiet autumn
when all the green and growing
is no longer pressed
into the celestial half --
released from the mold perfect


autumn gifts
around them stands
my life
saying yes - no and thank you
dented, bent and shaped anew

my garden path
overgrown with weeds
distinctly marked
by chirping crickets
my desire to be done


benign violence
as spring comes again
with such a will
a woman pushes a baby
into torn stretched flesh

water-caves birthing the sea
with each tide
black lava loins green and purple
the smell . . .

now when night waves
are overtaken by stars
shiver and dim
the seaside cabin rocks
the spacious wooden cradle

first light
the picture by the window
lifts from the darkness
the crown of the hill
in the shape of a brow

grief and joy
the two sides
of a child's hand
going in circles until
blurred out of heart


the bright spot
on the butterfly's wing
my rapture goes riding
as far as this eye
wide and wondering

praises be
tickets to the greatest show
on earth
all those souls waiting to enter
the rag and bone boxes


I wanted her physically
with a word she turned
to tracks in light snow
high heeled shoes making the sign
of hidden feminine parts


if it were spring
this desire would be ordinary
the howling wind
and I have come across town
to see if your lights still burn

your mind
describing me in small words
a worthless person
yet under the eaves of my house
more than 12 swallows nest

passing clouds
in my thoughts of you
splash against the window
without will; without anger

a touch of ink
the blind bird sees
we call the muses
those souls with stories
pulling a muscle in a finger

dark blue shapes
wind comes to a calm sea
I send this note to you
change changes even water


booming night surf
still when the light turns on
furniture rises
out of the sea day things
reassemble a watery existance

old carved mask
inside fitting a human face
outward a spirit
crosses the borders of a veil
the pass-me-not ring broken


back in darkness
the all-eyes come close
lean and wiggle
the skin of my arms flies up
when I wear their feathers

as in a net
a flock of pigeons draw
sky shapes
a coming down to my size
with their fear of falling

walking along the sky
people drop out of sight
beckoned by a beach
welcome tested by a stony path
the lost and found religion


the smell of folds
the body makes invisible
temples -- incense
the sense of being earth
guardian of small goddesses

the great stag
his ancient knowing
and power
in the evening's muted color
silhouetted before the sea


as ancestors of the apple
enter the gene pool
one can go forth forever


why skies turn slate
as Sunday roofs the week
weakened by wind
my body hardens as a flower
whose petals are cast down

tourists come
and find the ocean too cold
as one who hides here
the wind is welcomed
on my burning cheeks

alone on this island
it's the chill of winter's coming
that surprises me
and now I know for sure
here are no visitors

face pulled tight
against the rein
from striving
my body forces on me
the life of a saint

pure spirit matter
I wander in a wooded lot
a breeze to find
I am formed by the eyes
of the watching leaves


staring at unclimable steps
the animal scream
and the dream flung me
back into this life


a token of our love
broken as you take
the moon
the bright half you leave me
as something to cling to


hands off
I am nervous and you
cannot touch
cold shapes stand at the blanket's edge
and the nightmare leaves by closed doors


as I grow old
apple trees on my parent's place
in a great wind
feebled, splintered and fell
someone else carried them away


wet at high tide
ancient rivers in sandstone
mark the cliff
I've given up mourning
where I am all the dead


the departed ones watch us
how we give up ourselves
to the minutes
the flimsy veil that ties us
to this blue-green ball


from the well
of the moment I draw dark lines
strings heavy
with not-caring anymore
the puppet show is over

a web connects
a thread holding a bucket
welds my emptiness
I give in to not-caring
and it tips me out

muffled in milk
the foghorn sound
the absence of landscape
releases the desire to go

giving my body
back to the stars
and beyond
expands this story weighed
replayed with script changes


I love you
Yes! now and always
but with what?
all that is left when skies
clear of crematory smoke

alive again
the river flooded
with driftwood
the hour is already entered
which no thought claims

sea wind
searching for the lost thing
someone I once was
in and then out of the damp
cave under my mother's heart


thin membrane
such as would red
be poppies
a bowl of several stones
to the south seven doors

Copyright © Jane Reichhold 1997.