You’re the shadow shadow lurking in me
and the lunatic light waiting in that shadow.
Ghostwriter of my half-life, intention’s ambush
I can’t prepare for, ruthless whammy
you have me ogling a blinding sun,
my right eye naked even with both lids closed—
glowering sun, unerring navigator
around this darkened room, you’re my laser probe,
I’m your unwilling wavelength,
I can never transcend your modus operandi,
I’ve given up trying to outsmart you,
and the new thinking says I didn’t invent you—
whatever you were to me I’ve outgrown,
I don’t need you, but you’re tenacity embodied,
tightening my skull, my temple, like plastic wrap.
Many times, I’ve traveled to a dry climate
that wouldn’t pander to you, as if the great map
of America’s deserts held the key to a pain-free future,
but you were an encroaching line in the sand,
then you were the sand. We’ve spent the best years
of my life intertwined: wherever I land
you entrap me in the unraveled faces
of panhandlers, their features my features—
you, little death I won’t stop for, little death
luring me across your footbridge to the other side,
oblivion’s anodyne. Soon—I can’t know where or when—
we’ll dance ache to ache again on my life’s fragments,
one part abandoned, the other abundance—
To The Makers
You were like famous cities with rivers and traffic,
with architecture from ingenious eras,
with protest marches and festivals, museums and pharmacies
and criminal pleasures—
all the essentials needed to endure. Reading you,
I re-visit your structures of grids and avenues, your alleys,
I follow overgrown paths,
I re-visit the terror and joy of being lost,
the ways to court discomfort, to dare chaos,
the knowledge of drowning in a pitch-dark harbor.
Tyranny and wars advanced in your histories,
also infirmities of soul and body
were your portion, yet you were not yearning only,
not heartbreak only,
you were not the loneliest people alive.
There was your work, and then, you had one another,
you spoke with gods and heroes,
you cherished your conversations in many languages.
It is true, you were secretive, observers—spies—
but that was as it has to be,
it was only your work you were given to serve.
You weren’t mere investigators of useless things,
the pragmatic seemed no more or less
suggestive to you than articles of turbulence
or rapture—strands of hair in a basin,
light in a dusty stairwell
a pitcher of sangria, woe and laughter,
the feel in the hand of a broken thing.
Day by day, your lives were a tumult of beginnings.
When you began, you couldn’t know—
this you keep showing me—
where your constructions would lead,
what you made you made from the inchoate,
muscled and shaped not toward the monumental
but toward a form of truth that would matter,
the inaccessible become necessary.
Though I am speaking to you, I’m not alone
nurtured by your art,
even today you animate the minutiae
of the vast, unsigned cosmos,
and though the twentieth century ended without you,
now, decades after your precipitate departures,
your pages are still touched by many,
still touch many,
and the lit screens you never used sing your lines.
“Dear Migraine” and “To The Makers” from Figures in a Landscape by Gail Mazur, published by the University of Chicago Press. © 2010 by the University of Chicago. All rights reserved.
Gail Mazur is distinguished writer in residence at Emerson College and the founding director of the Blacksmith House Poetry Series (Cambridge, MA). She is the author of five books of poems, most recently They Can’t Take That Away from Me (2001), a finalist for the National Book Award, and Zeppo’s First Wife: New and Selected Poems (2005), a finalist for the Paterson and Los Angeles Times poetry prizes, and winner of the Massachusetts Book Award.