Authors: J.D. McClatchy
THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK
PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF
Copyright © 2014 by J. D. McClatchy
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC, New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto, Penguin Random House companies.
Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
McClatchy, J. D., 1945–
Plundered Hearts : New and Selected Poems / By J. D. McClatchy.
“Distributed by Random House, Inc., New York.”
ISBN 978-0-385-35151-5 (Hardcover)—ISBN 978-0-385-35152-2 (eBook)
by Vincent Desiderio, 2008. Image courtesy of Marlborough Gallery.
Jacket design by Chip Kidd
Arranged around the lamp’s mercury glass globe,
They reach out for or defend against
The attention that wood or bronze or resin
Shakily command at this late stage
Of reproduction. After all, none is like
My own one of a kind, its rigging
Of creases, its scuffed half-moons and bitten nails,
Its quivering index and moiré
Pattern of skin loosely draped over the bones—
Liver spots carelessly spilled on it,
Along with whatever dings or oily stains
The insincere handshake and backslap,
The dog’s tongue or jock’s package have left behind.
Those on this table are innocent.
The pair unscrewed from a side chapel’s martyr
Still holding crazed flakes of their own thumbs,
The pharaoh’s fist implacably denying
The idea there are more gods than one,
A factory glove mold, the madam’s ring holder,
A mannequin’s milk-white come-hither,
The miniature ecstatic’s stigmata,
Someone’s smartly cuffed, celluloid brooch,
A Buddha’s gilded fingertips joined and poised,
Like a conductor’s, at last to re-
lease the final, tremulous, resolving chord—
Each frozen in a single gesture,
Pleading, threatening, clinging, shielding, the sorry
Travelling company called Fierce Desire,
These here on the left knowing only too well
What those on the right have been up to.
Patiently assembled on their glass senate
Floor, forever in session, the
Have it over and over again (despite
Gloria Vanderbilt’s birthday gift,
A rough-cut back-country tobaccoed pine paw
That flatly refuses to take sides).
And of living hands, how many have I held,
As it were, for keeps—say, wordlessly,
After the promise that bodies can make, held
While staring at his sweetly shut eyes.
What, time and again, was I holding onto,
As if it had been for dear life’s sake?
Looking back, I guess I am glad they let go.
Theirs are not the hands that haunt me now.
The one that does belonged to a blustery,
Timid soul at home in dull routines,
Forfeiting glamour and curiosity,
A life sustained by its denials.
I reached for it, only because B-movies
Demand one pick it up off the sheet,
A shrivelled, damp, and fetid wedge still clutching
Nothing but a bed railing of air,
Its slackened tendons stiff and crusted with scabs
And knots of scar tissue abutting
Deep-sunk hematomas, from which the knucklebones
Jutted like cairns, nails cracked and yellow.
Though dead for hours, it was not yet cold.
I didn’t know what to do with it.
So I held onto it without wanting to,
Fearful of letting it go too soon.
It was what—now for the last time—I
It was a hand. It was my mother’s.
How swift you rushed along,
Your torrent so wild, so bright.
How quiet you have become.
No farewell words tonight.
A hard, unyielding crust
Hides you where you stand.
Cold and motionless you lie
There, on your bed of sand.
On your surface I scratch
With a sharp stone’s edge
The name of my beloved,
The day, the hour, the pledge:
The day when first we met,
The day I left in spring,
Name and numbers inside
The shape of a broken ring.
And in this brook, my heart,
Do you see yourself portrayed?
See beneath its frozen crust
The turbulent cascade?
The frost had left a white
Covering on my head.
I thought I had grown old.
At last! I joyfully said.
It melted soon enough.
Again my hair was black.
I am left here with my youth.
The grave I seek draws back.
Between the dusk and dawnlight
Many heads turned gray.
Imagine! Mine has not,
Having come now all this way.