Sunday, April 1, 2007

Geoffrey Philp

(In memory of the New York firefighters
For Lisa Berman-Shaw)

Wherever there are sentient
beings in need of compassion, sick
in need of comfort, hungry
in need of food, they arise
summoned by the cries of the innocents--
a love so strong, they count
their own lives as nothing
to awaken the bounty of our sleeping
lives, lost in the labyrinth of the city,
and they cannot rest until the stones
themselves find solace.
So when we were strapped
securely in our SUVs in Key West,
Van Buren, Providence, Nome
burning money like Saudi oil,
thinking we were safe in our towers
of steel and glass, cages
of mortality that turned to smoke,
ash, soot--they did what they have always
done through time and space, dropped
their lives and rescued us
in the midst of the fire.

poltergeist or the duende's gift

if only sleep or a good night's rest could absolve
my many betrayals: retreating when i should have
forward, retiring when i should have charged ahead;
for the ghosts keep tumbling into bed with me, they
arms and legs, and poke and kick and jab all through
the night,
and i'm left standing naked in the bathroom mirror,
and bruised in the sunlight, wondering, how did it come
to this?
why have i allowed this to go on for so long? and when
i leave,
they pluck the springs in the mattress, rip the
with their teeth, scatter strands of hair on the night
bump photographs of happier times until they hang
on the walls, their edges bent or broken, the glass
with soot; then they rearrange the furniture, so the
i come home to look different, but are the same
tussled sheets and torn comforters. i never sleep
in the same bed twice.

bob marley in the day care center

when i first glimpsed him, the smile,
as he played peek-a-boo in the communal playpen,
inside the young president's club, mt. sinai,
after circle time with the toddlers, reading
real-life stories of heroes whose only weapons
were words aimed at the dragon's heart,
they stared, transfixed, at the sound
uncoiling from his mouth like smoke;
he placed them gently on their blue cots
while the older kids built castles with blocks,
unsteady as jericho's wall to the rastaman's song,
then retreated to the infants' area to sponge bathe
the early risers--he'd burned through life so fast,
he'd never really grown accustomed to this
human softness--no longer the hard, bitter seed
filled with a desperation that couldn't wait to shatter
its shell, like the eucalyptus pods that fell
on the playground where he'd decided
almost a lifetime ago, this time, he'd take it slow.

easy skanking

all saturday evenings
should be like this, caressing
your thigh while reading neruda
with his odes to matilde's arms,
breasts, hair--everything about her
that made him
a part of this bountiful earth--
lilies, onions, avocadoes--that fed
his poetry the way
rain washes the dumb cane with desire
or banyans break through asphalt--
this is the nirvana that the buddha
with his bald monks and tiresome sutras
never knew or else he'd never have left
his palace and longing bride--
the supple feel of your leg in my hands
for which i'd spin the wheel of karma
a thousand lifetimes, more

tiger, tiger

when the tigers entered her body, they started
with her stomach that had flared ever since
she decided to keep the first child and drowned
the fire with the bush that grew behind her kitchen;
under the shade of eucalyptus, the tigers toyed
with her spleen, the spongy fluff on their whiskers,
her gall bladder, already shredded from years
of waiting for headlights to swing around the driveway,
for him to tumble into bed, between her breasts, smelling
of rapture or some other perfume he said they could never
afford, and as the doctors clicked their pens, nudged
interns into the hallway, (her body hidden behind charts
and daily reports) the tigers savored her liver, licked
their paws clean of the veins swollen with bile,
and while the nurses checked i.v. drips, changed
bed pans, she could hear them romping
through her body, tearing the last wisps of hair
from her scalp, feel their breath against her cheeks,
and facing the orange brightness that barred her door,
their yellow eyes, as they clawed her lungs, her voice
becoming hoarse as their snarls, her tongue as bloody,
answered with her own terrible roar.


Rethabile said...

Geoffrey is fast becoming one of my favourite poets. I'm happy to see him here, featured with poems I hadn't yet savoured. This is good. Makes my day. said...

Wow! Rethabile, thanks!


Stephen Bess said...

Beautiful poetry! Geoffrey Philp is an amazing poet and all around great person. He has the most humble spirit for someone of his ability. Thanks for leading me here Rethabile. Khotso~ said...

Man, Stephen, you sure are getting around!