I like the story of the circus waif
bought by the man-of-weights to be his mistress,
Profit the demon dragging her to market
and Lust the soul who paid in lire for her.
I like the peculiarities of her faith,
the startling quality of that innocence,
kissing the hand that dealt her cruelty
believing, poor and dumb, that this was love.
I relish a destitution stripped to sing
pure in a voice all passion and denial:
such are the driven burning by their breath
more than mere air allows and cold permits.
I savor my own involvement and concern
lest all the transformations seem unreal,
lest love be painted water-sweet and classic
rather than salt and anguish to the end.
I like her squatting in the village road
combing the dust for something of her own,
coming away belonging and committed,
roots to be cherished, stones she could befriend.
And what I like the subtlest and profoundest
is that the circus traveled grief to grief
educating the waif into a woman
loving and beautiful and fiercely proud.
I think of the sense of fury in that road,
stooping to scratch the earth out for a life
somewhere awaiting finding in one’s name.
I like that, and I like the word Expense.
I think of the years together which they had,
the strong-man working her into the act,
that hint, despite himself, of some devotion.
I like that, and I like the ring of Cost.
Not in a root, or stone, but in a man
she found a thing to hold her tenderness.
I like her dedication after that,
her saying, if she spoke, I live by this.
And what I like pervasive and forever
is that my eyes have wept the tale before,
wanting the telling not so much as story
but for the way the waif befits my life.
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