Songs About Louise
It’s something near to nakedness
to hear each other sing.
You know now how my weak vibrato
tenor trembles like a virgin
and your pure tone’s a dress
that slips from shoulders far too
sleek to see your fingers trilling
down the zip; Baez and Dylan
found a way of harmonising
side by side in Rolling Thunder.
You and me, babe, keep in key
but if we start to slide asunder
I can set your teeth on edge, the rising
hum from sharp to flat through every
nerve from neck to knee, the jangle
in the beating blood that’s tangled
up in you and blending red
with blue, ascending from your chest
to head and fending off serrated notes
that catch it by its messy hair
and scratch the air above the bed
that’s empty, to the open throat
a breath away from pure whistle –
cactus flower, fruiting thistle,
wild and thin as mercury,
and every freckle spiking grace
from G to F to middle C,
and into bass. Your face
is spreading like a semibreve.
It’s over now, Queen Jane, Johanna,
Sara, Lily, Rosemary.
Sad-eyed lady. Lonesome sparrow.
Absolutely, sweet Marie.
Not what you expected when you gave your definitions – how
the crossword ink rubbed off onto your skin, your white cells patterned
and you joked: you were the solution now to all our problems.
Peeling down your dress you found your stomach shaded, fuzzy; print
had left its lattice, charcoal lipstick, the imprint of a slap.
Double meanings; a hunch you didn’t tell me this for nothing.
Between the bars your body flowers and I read the surface,
south-south-west from your collarbone, across and down. Unchecked, I
whisper Esme, apse, nave, chi, ro, phi, lip-parting puzzle tongue,
then turn one-eighty. Baby, I’m an unch, lonely on a limb.
I need to climb your ladders where the hair is cryptic and dark.
There are so many things we think of, love, before the answer.
Now you’re smudged all over, clues rubbed off, the pattern broken. My
hands are yesterday’s news, your skin Sunday-supplement glossy.
Our bodies were an anagram. We gave as good as we got.