A Poem for the Love of Women  
    Mark McMorris

A poem for the love of women
makes good copy for the bored and the ugly
which I confess to belong to, on both counts
ignorant of Venus, no child of Aphrodite,
foam-born and black for all the baths
I took with her, while the boats drew nearer.

The statue falls in love with the sculptor.
So the ship with the banker, and the glove
with the goddess of the silver screen who knows how to knit
the pimp in love with his ugliness
and the book with the binder,the word with system
of discourse and grammar with logic.

I loved the Indian in Uganda, the Kenyan
in Paris, the Turk in Boston, at the Fine Arts Museum.
I loved the Korean in Queens, the Scot
at the embassy in Bogota
the nun in Dar es Salaam, the bus driver in New York.

Many women in many guises came into my bed
the Spanish in Cuba, the Basque in Trinidad.
Many women followed the foam-trail to my door.
The Greek on 37th Street, the Chinese girl
to elementary school in Kingston, the Texan
to Accra where I took her sight-seeing.
Many women are part of the map
the hand traces the swirling rivers by their perfume.
I loved the Angolan woman in Hanover
the Bajan in Chicago. I loved the woman
from Italy in Benin, among the gorgeous sculpture.
Itís hard to explain, but many women loved me
in many disguises--many masks--many shadows.
I loved the Berlin woman in Peru, the Inca
in Bonn, the Dutch in Guyana. The Lebanese woman
and I were lovers in Dallas. I loved the woman from Tunis
in Carthage, the Aztec in Glasgow. Loved
the Gypsy in Egypt, in Thebes to be precise, on the Nile.
The Jerusalem woman found me in Nice
and I loved her on the route to Avignon.
The woman from Nice loved me in Toledo.

Many women in many cities and villages.
I loved many cities in many women
built many cities with their love, followed
many women to archaeological pits, loved
their statues in the gardens of Priapus
loved dying languages in many women, loved French
in the West Indies, and English in Zimbabwe.
Loved pottery that kept the imprint of their faces
poetry that clothed them, the sinewy quatrains.

But the Sibyl is long dead, who spoke the language.
Weep for the Sibyl in her disappearance.
Weep for her, who spoke the tongue of my mother.
Weep for the Sibyl, who saw pieces of the heart.

She is not with child, the woman who loved me.

The woman who taught me Philipino, did I
love her or the speech, the woman I bought
at the market in Port-au-Prince, did she
really cherish me for my ugliness, as she said?
And was it a negative face that I captured
in crossing the ocean to find her bivouac?

The seeds are strewn like constellations.
The hair of supernovas burns round my face.
The ocean rocks the crab into a stupor.

And the sibyl is long dead who spoke of her
crossing from water-fall to hedge-row, river mouth
African moon over the sand dune cornu-
copias the plentiful horn of her melody.

Did I love the Gold Coast trader for her strength
the ferocity of her thought, the tight skin
stomach above the pubis, her rock-steady walk?

I loved the sin in sinning, the gland in England.
Loved O in Ottawa for a month, loved
Sandy or smooth, red or brown, women
and molls and concubines, Virgins and Japanese
feminine word-smiths, divas and butterfly girls
many women in many guises, many arms
many faces in my long mirror, many crossed
to my bed from the river, sweet-smelling orchids.

I loved Beth in Elizabeth, New Jersey
I loved Holly at Christmas, Eve at night
Loved Mavis at Mavis Bank, St Andrew
Loved Clara in the morning, Denise
at dawn, and Dawn in the Odysssey, by Homer.
Loved Heather the Heathen Woman
Cassandra the Christian. Sojourner Truth.
Loved Mabel the engineer at Los Alamos.
I loved many women in many tyrannies
the Queen of Spain, and the Queen of Darkness
Persephone in her filmy colors of Dis.
Many women found me by navigation:
Dora and Djuana, Sylvia and Adrienne.
Josephine the emperorís woman
Josephine the dancer
Josephine the daughter of Joseph
Josephine the fishmonger at a bay at Savanna-La-Mar.
And Kurtzís woman with the savage breasts.
Yeatsís Maude and Tennysonís ďMaude,Ē in the poem.
Derekís Anna and Tolstoiís. Bís Mexican.

Many women taught me speech--tongued
me into Reason, brought me to the Logos.
Women of howls and etudes, I loved
Clio and Klytemnestria and Beverly.
I loved Margaret Bourke-White in Ghandi.
Loved in vain and in anger, loved by fiat.
Loved the name Susan for no good reason.
I loved the pronoun she, the accusative her,
the embrace of hers. Loved Monica in French
as Monique, Carol the Carolingian singer
Norma at a bar in Nornandie, loved Leona
because she was a lion, Patricia
the woman from aristocracy, and Jane
the double-headed keeper of the gate.

Many women, many Sibyls, many ladies
with intuition and eloquence, many loves
came from the water to my embrace
the women of Modigliani and Wyeth
the nudes in drawing rooms and the Venus
at Cnidos by Praxiteles, the sculpture
by Auguste Rodin--the everlasting kiss--loved
the marble and the bronze and the wood
women in repose or in passion, loved
the wife of Cezanne though I should not have seen
her intimate bath, however discretely
and the Wif of Bath on her horse, I loved
Tracy for her sinuous calf-lines, Daphne
the nymph, and Lolita the mixed-up girl.

I loved in bed and on the roof of Notre Dame
de Paris, by the book and in secret, I loved
mistresses and executive vice presidents
and editors and poets in long print skirts
many women in many garments drew my gaze.
Loved the violin player adorned in black.
Loved the scholar in Chanel, and the writer
in a Simone-de-Beauvoir sweater, loved
Simone for her name, Victoria for her voice
Violet and Rose and perfumes
of natural growth, loved Laila for her speed
Virginia for her prose. Loved Amber
the color of sunset, and the wife of Paul Eluard.

Many women shared me with their lovers.
Many women in many parts of the world.
And the tale of my love is only beginning.
Many women loved me in my sleep
at supper or on the frontier, at church.
I loved the Muses and many Violas, Veronique
in Verona and in many cities of Europe
Clodia in Rome beside her Catullus.
And the tale of my love is only just beginning.

Weep for the Sibyl, for she is dead, who spoke
my motherís tongue and other languages
I gathered up in bouquets, the dried flowers.
The Sibyl is long dead who broke into pieces
of the heart, the word in pieces, and phonemes
spilling from the fountain, with the yard
criss-crossed by flares from the infantry.
The basin cracked, and leaves blowing in it.
The Sibyl is long dead, the heart waning.

Mark McMorris is the author of several poetry collections, most recently, Black Reeds (University of Georgia Press) and his poems appear in many journals, magazines and anthologies. He is teaching poetry at Georgetown University


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