Mark Scott

"the best damned poet in the business"

Old Love for New

(Denver, summer of 1983)

Pretty soon it all mixes together
and you can’t tell which noise
goes with cicadas, which crickets.
What is it, this stupid juice?
At least the drink is clear.
Suck it down and smash out:
the futile suburban dogs bark,
dumb moths splatter wing-dust on the water:
crazy thinking of you, my balm and my other.

Men they take a thing you say and can’t repeat it,
can’t say at first they love your heart,
lilacing woman, I even start to lick at the end
my lips like you, and that’s where mouth comes from.
Mouths kiss us. He said you traduce every man
you meet, and all day I wanted to be.

Men they all of a sudden see you’re gone,
they try and ask for you through others
without their knowing, it’s so amazing
that you’d love them, give them offstage
an actress’s day. I heard of going to bed,
so I put me to sleep there on how long
your eyes are, hazel less gray, kept saying
I’d jump the decor to what was your perfect
pride of body. Then you said my name—
that kiss already pulling away, drying,
and even before that, “I’m married.”

My first love moved her tongue
around her lips like you and got that red there.
We played in long weeds by the Highline Canal.
We could go out until we couldn’t, couldn’t we,
I told you out of my reserve. I have to come here
by the words you say and by affections undisclosed,
the palm of your face touch down out of
hair cascading, ramparting, to kiss even you
if you’re not there, these long days the middle of June.

I’m dressed for you, and then I don’t know
what we’re talking about, but it’s the other ways
of making love, the bringing of tea that you said—
yes, it’s the other ways of making. Ours will be
delayed and made still of little things like
turning my neck and getting the tie straight
and smelling your face: but future’s always delayed.

It makes me sad this long river that can’t
go backwards stopping up and give us back
a dying salmon. So why do you like us anyway,
who have an intellection of love? You pick it up
from so few men it’s sick us saying any different.
You know that, and so you trade off dividing up
yourselves between us, two smokes rising in one sway.

The first of our love may have been bad vodka,
grainbase and kossak. It all shivered too much.
I laugh in the car with the off music not
coming out the radio, and slump down. Venus
and the frowning moon out, lizard
clouds crawl the mountains.

A short night thing of lookings for you sweet
they said these days you’ve been down
but I don’t know the reason. No, I seek
excuses and August for us; I know
when to go far and pretend you don’t tell me
promises without subtexts. Which means
I wish you well but not too. This would be
the rigging of air, the followable music
only we could hear.

So dont kiss me as an act over a word,
just kiss me. All you have to do
is look that way you do and I’m practical.
Tonight we’re tight on nothing but
who we are, and there’s strong liquor.
For the first time I’m asking if
you would end by hurting me
when you wouldn’t have to do it.
But you would, and I would too.

At first I thought your eyes were hazel.
I was blind on your vodka, mumbling
what is it men in women, what is it women . . .

We could have had more time, more night together
in the warehouse no one but the slam–dance
punks knew us in, who sneered in their leather
at us and told us to watch out for the rain
when we went to crush some vodka down and kiss.
We revised our feeling of how free we felt there.

We left each other every time we left
with more unsaid, untouched, unsayable
than said, touched, and to say—and thought
we didn’t move unless we were moved to.

Sometimes I have to stop at a bar and get
a superfluous drink. To drink you, have hold
the shape of your glass, your bottle, built,
your grandmother said, like a brick shit–house.
For I have seen you get old and even older.

So what if we’re ringed and separate,
an impasse, O you my act and you my rest.
Make on my lips the sound you do,
when the willows sweep the grass.


All That’s Worth Saving

These things I said offhand in passion,
you think I should give them back?
The day’s a scarf on a woman’s neck,
the moon a cloud of insect spray.
There’s an apparent order—
the shine on a midshipman’s shoe,
the rain on a manhole’s cover.

The pond used to spill
what were words almost and mine,
crisp as gin, warm as wine.
But when that sudden zephyr
solves me at the open window,
your ocean falls toward Texas
and I go back nine summers
to your vodka and my actress.

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