Rules of Thumb
There is no such thing as an idle rumor:
it festoons itself with ribbons, spurs,
then buckles its belt and gets to work.
Or it travels the air, an invisible rope,
tying knots in people’s throats.
It lassos the proud in mid-run,
knocking them down to the ground.
It can lay low the mighty in a day,
raise the obscure to brief infamy.
The only feat it can’t complete is,
as yet, unheard of.
Nobody loves moralists,
least of all their mothers,
who, at birth, noticed how
often their babes turned away
from their proffered nipples
which were taut as buttons
on elevator doors.
Nobody loves moralists
despite the fact that they
shook their fingers at their fathers
when their fathers went off to wars.
Nobody loves moralists, least of all
the moralists themselves, who,
for all their stern objections,
know that moralists are bores.
Stones cannot be tamed,
but men can be broken like mules,
and emptied of their souls.
How can we stop ourselves
from growing into headless nails?
We must be blind again, be deaf,
be dumb, be reborn ad infinitum.
God, put a pox on every money box
that isn’t mine. At the end
of the month the bills rush in
like a flock of paper pigeons
with sharp talons and stools
that burn holes in all my linen.
The bills are building a monument
of shit, and daily I must climb it.
God, put a pox on every money box
that isn’t mine, or else
reinvent the clock.
The rules of thumb are double-jointed,
but the rules of fingers are single-minded.
The index finger points away from the I,
as the middle finger flips off the Other.
Ring finger, caught as it is around its waist,
doesn’t bother with distinctions, being
wed to the finger of its doppelgänger.
Only the pinkie knows what it’s for:
tiny oar pinpointing the stars.
A Hive Mind
Somewhere safe is the honeyed center
of the maze, where yellow echoes vibrate
their wings and a family of atoms
clusters itself into a sanctuary.
Some days the mind buzzes with joy,
as if hearing something good
is enough, even if it’s just the hymn
of willows breathing,
or a neighbor speaking in Pashto,
or the clamor of hail.
Maybe it’s only in prayer that we
tune in to God’s isolate mind,
feeling our bones straining towards
its waggle dance. Maybe by calibrating
our collective spirit to the key of
green, we’ll sync our planet love.
Friday the Thirteenth
First, the pre-dawn hailstones
bigger than our mobile home,
then a tarantula in the toilet,
and a call from the IRS.
The roof fell in again,
destroying the Sparkletts man.
At noon, another hurricane,
followed by some acid rain.
The dog had cardiac arrest
while trying to mount the vet,
then two flat tires on our Toyota—
the mechanic wore a swastika.
Just before we sat for supper,
your scrotum strangled by a zipper,
and bleary-eyed from cutting onions,
I accidentally sliced off my thumb.
Dinner over with great relief,
I only lost two more teeth.
Awakened in the dark of night
by an angry neighborhood riot.
Finally, machine gun fire
turned our bed into a pyre:
so, in a hospital bed I stay,
because it was a hellish day.
How slippery is the pained road to Wednesday,
when Tuesday hasn’t yet grinded to a halt,
and Monday only took its last breath seconds ago—
snapping it out like a piece of stale gum.
Sunday seems as distant as an icicle shimmering
in hell, and Saturday must have taken the elevator
to the basement of grief, where cobwebs grow.
I know Friday was so carnivorous it swallowed
itself whole, and Thursday—yes, Thursday—
magenta, torn, halted, crazed, untranscendent,
too much, never enough, forever-ever bleating
like a slaughtered sheep—oh, Thursday
was the day you vanished, my belovèd,
and time fell apart.
My love, these days are a current towing
us through a sea of longing, every gaze
untethering whitely from the blue blaze
of mirrors, our desire gathering a going
forward, then an uprising, then a falling
down onto emptied shores: can we unlace
us from the lunar pull of each other’s face,
and daily keep our selves from shattering?
Let’s become islands, instead of breakers,
part of a curved archipelago’s arm
flung by a molten, geologic bellows—
so that our days of yearning cross wide acres,
instead of leagues, so that there’s no harm
in drowning together briefly in the shallows.
Maurya Simon’s tenth volume, The Wilderness: New & Selected Poems, received the 2019 Gold Medal in Poetry from the Independent Booksellers Association. She’s been awarded an NEA Fellowship and residencies at the American Academy in Rome and the MacDowell Colony. Her poetry’s been translated into Hebrew, French, Spanish, Greek, and Farsi. Simon’s a Professor of the Graduate Division and a Professor Emerita at the University of California, Riverside. She divides her time between the Angeles National Forest and San Clemente, California.