Marjorie Becker
    Marjorie Becker’s poems are extended montages filled with a harem of mysterious men, torrid acrobatics and the omnipresent strains of Bach played incessantly in the background as well as inside the bodies of her people.  She may often be as ungraspable as a cloud or the poetry of Mallarmé: the afternoon of a faun is right here among us, and that is not said lightly in this city brimming with Bukowski and his imitators. Marjorie—our Mallarmé—does not care for the full stop but embraces the comma, the going forward and the backing up, the slight left, the slight right, a zigzagging style that is not meant to be popular or make millions or be sung in church. What she does do is offer us a tour of a most remarkable mind, one suffused with (among other things) memories of growing up Jewish in the Deep South and the Latin American realities she discusses at her day job. It’s a weird heady brew she’s prepared for us, and it is surrounded by dripping candles and gothic shadows and an aura of telenovelas raised to art. It is poetry that weaves its web around the reader shrewdly, uniquely, always uncompromisingly.

A Glass Piano, Piano Glass

I woke as I did on days of treasure and favor,
close, curled through and around, around and through Peter
I woke, his deeper pain colored my flesh,
the wild blues of stream, misshapen indigo,
I thought and felt at first he wanted me
to unleash my whoredom, my own Winter Nightingale,
that he felt and believed a change had come,
that he thought I no longer fucked for money
just for some sort of sullen symphony
he never heard, a symphony of aquas, turquoise,
rivals to his own inner and broken sky.
But the change was different, and because Shechinah
my personal angel so inner, outer, lush,
the most significant haze of lust,
had said in a whisper so piercing
it felt like goldenrod pain in one
of my deeper beholden compartments,
she had reminded me, over, over,
the toll of again and again, the mounting longing
and purest recognitions, even,
especially kisses leave the most inescapable memory, tattoo,
she’d said Peter, she’d said destiny.
Yet I rose in a rampage, something now
as new as swanlike and invisible as inner silk,
I turned back pages and pages,
first to Pablo and our world of stolen Bach,
and of course to his first and only cousin Arnulfo,
their eyes as green as my own but not always
as theirs drifted and plunged darker,
toward and back from hazel,
toward and back from a pain so intense it became clear
at the first Pablo concert,
me naked in the front row,
the sort of inner work at least Pablo,
though later Arnulfo too would, did claim
but the 7th Sunday in a wild extended April,
a June of an April to be clear
open as sea, open as what in fact did happen,
I wandered away from Peter, Wayne,
my own jazz Nightingale
though springtime Saturdays feasted hard
on my inner tongues of music, touch, secrecy,
I mean hell, what do whores do
other than mend, bend, keep a morass
and often sodden world
the once pain of men so deep, dense,
though in my hands, not to brag,
conjured out and freed toward
quite shocking worlds of tenderness and harvest,
but Peter never knew I quit taking money,
never needed much,
I kissed and kissed
in dense green meadows, forests, mists
forgot whatever men asked me to,
knowing as well as any acre of God
or cruelty that every, even the slightest kiss,
was recorded and tightly and also loosely in my body,
but there, on that front row, Pablo played instruments as every night,
beginning that very afternoon, he played me,
a lush precision so close, as loose
as my own twirl of Bach and dense percussion,
but if I never ever would be able to stop
those Sunday explorations,
and Pablo had the grace to hold me tightly
he also knew Arnulfo needed to make me,
to make me a world,
and I met him the next day,
just a world without question or pause,
he found me moist and breathing
the particular pulse Pablo and I had found,
and Arnulfo lifted me up and led me
into a new territory for as I tongued
I found what fire had done, but I waited,
depending as I do on my body to open men
to whatever confession and plunge,
whatever necessity, depending
on an element few consciously choose,
but popularity after all is not a problem for whores,
an element as essential and forgotten as swamp air,
silence itself,
and with Arnulfo it began as a shy but intense tangle,
but then he lifted me again,
said I made you something,
and he took me into a room
adjoining, part of my own Nightingale,
a room open in the hopeful and parceled light of that morning day,
air throughout tumbling and changing colors
because in the center
a glass piano, piano glass
iridescent and young and needy.
a world from his throat on fire,
and I felt his kisses on my breasts,
my naked neck, but he unleashed, then wandered out
and I approached the piano,
remembering Peter,
remembering the 3 days without his body,
it could have been considering the way pain multiplies,
a truly exponential feast or would be
except I was so early trained to attend the pain of others,
to keep my own other streets and secrets hidden
beneath a cascade of concern, custody,
but as I approached the glass piano,
glass, glass, a shatter and clatter of glass,
it was as though it became a sudden partner,
and I fingered the keys with a strange precision,
playing the world beneath,
so buried in and beneath old longings,
my fury about Carlton’s specific cruelties,
my still and persistent need to resuscitate him, again, again
from the hot fig murder, the heat, and the piano,
the glass piano pushed me on,
toward a world of blue, this was the Peter section,
my ultimate whore destiny,
they whispered to me that kindness is boring,
oughta be beneath me,
I whispered back, uh huh, tell me how come
you need it, me, so suddenly, so badly,
or we could try cruelty if you want,
and even I, those days without Peter,
I somehow seized the most companionable key,
the middle C, and it became
a sudden glass dagger.
Beside myself, I forced it,
I wondered about Arnulfo’s throat on fire,
wondered against pity, a sense reserved for others,
but strangely available as I remembered Peter had said
I am only a whore who gives way
and not even for money,
thinking not about my 16 favorite men
who take me to the naked Caribbean,
and the others who brings worlds of black opals,
toe tourmaline, ropes of sapphires and longing,
thinking of Peter’s only jab in all our years,
I placed the glass key in my upper mouth,
forgetting how the middle D, the middle B would feel,
so alone and lost,
when the piano itself grasped, just grabbed my hand,
and as though the piano itself now bereft
willed me deeper and down to the older and lower places,
the walled-in sounds,
my open and early feasts when Amanda lived,
when Peter and I were new and alert,
especially and unusually when he,
was it yesterday or three days ago or 70,
when without trying he found my inner need, dreams,
bought me the silver moto
and the piano played that back
and toward my own particular flights of Bach, of Handel,
my black men taught me,
a range and rage of hymn and tune and forgotten hope
when Arnulfo came, came toward me,
the blood by now lingering past its spill,
a mess of red on the keys, on my body
and he began lapping, lapping, not to clean me,
it wasn’t possible,
just as I suddenly felt, just as I somehow was able to know,
just to find me, to find me,
to keep me company.

This poem has appeared in Piano Glass/Glass Piano (Tebot Bach, 2010).

© 2011 Marjorie Becker
Marjorie Becker was a Featured Poet who read her poetry at the March 2011 Second Sunday Poetry Series