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Three Lyrical Poems by Christine Hemp



1923 -1997

The water felt good and the heat moved
down my hair, my shoulders, and thighs
in the shower yesterday morning.

Through a little window in the Mexican
tile I can see through the portal, all
the way to the snowy mesa and Tres Orejas.

The splashing is pleasing and suddenlyhttp://www.christinehemp.com/
I think -- I must call you,
find out why my letters have gone

unanswered. The absence of (oh the water
feels divine, where it streams down my hips)
small gifts, Tallis motets and corks

from Italy. Packets of poems and arguments
never addressed. The mail once brought your
curly script and hastily folded notes --

(lots of dashes --- ). Presents. Presence.
Oh, taste -- and see -- the snow
through the steamy window where I've rubbed

a circle with my fist to frame
the distant mountain. I must give you a call.
The water. The window. My eyes are closed.

The feeling of you there while I
wash my hair, suds disappearing
down the drain. I shut off the water.

In a towel, still dripping, I answer the phone.
No, it can't be true, I say
to the voice. She's here. I mean I was going

to call her before the soap had washed away,
before the puddles had shrunk to
nothing on the cool cool tiles.

December 23, 1997


How will she hear the word "avalanche"
without seeing a tremendous tide of snow,
a bright blue sky, her husband drowning
in the wake of the mountain?

How will she see the ocean without hearing
waves of breath, the last, of the man
she kissed that morning? Said goodbye,
be careful, see you at dinner.

He rode nature's shapely hack,
carving his caress down the fall line
one speck of living matter on a glittery sea
until the mountain shifted.

Will she wonder why
she didn't kiss him longer, breathe
into his mouth an extra lungful
for when the whiteness took him?

His beeper throbbed when they dug him out.
She called and called from the valley below
while his soul was leaving the close
quarters of his final room, his body.

As if he'd answer, as if the pulse of the
tracking device could start his heart,
as if the mountain would give him back.

5 February 1996


It was his idea, this flying thing.
We collected feathers at night, stuffing
our pockets with mourning dove down. By day,
we'd weave and glue them with the wax
I stole after we'd shooed the bees away.

Oh, how it felt, finally, to blow off Crete
leaving a labyrinth of dead-ends:
my clumsiness with figures, father's calm
impatience, cool logic, interminable devising.
The sea wind touched my face like balm.

He thought I'd tag along as usual,
in the wake of his careful scheme
bound by the string connecting father and son,
invisible thread I tried for years to untie.
I ached to be a good-for-something on my own.

I didn't know I'd get drunk with the heat,
flying high, too much a son to return.
Poor Daedelus, his mouth an O below,
his hands outstretched to catch the rain
of wax. He still doesn't know.

My wings fell, yes - I saw him hover
over the tiny splash - but by then I'd been 
swallowed into love's eye, the light I've come to see
as home, drowning in the yes, this swirling 
white-hot where night will never find me.

And now when my father wakes
each morning, his bones still sore
from his one-time flight, his confidence undone
because the master plan fell through,
he rises to a light he never knew, his son.

from Graven Images, A Journal of Law, Culture, and the Sacred; 
and in XY Files: Poems of the Male Experience Anthology by Sherman Asher Press
and ICARUS DIDN'T FALL (chapbook, North Beach Press)

Icarus recorded by Walter Eagles


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