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Sampe Poems by Leonard Orr

There floating slowly overhead, the Scarlet-Tinged Afflatus,
while to the west a squadron of high-flying Canadian clouds
nudging their way south to the coasts of Mexico to pass the winter,
returning when signaled by the more alert Monarch butterflies.
We lay on our backs on the padded blankets, our thick manual,
The Cloud Watchers’ Identification Guide: Pacific Northwest,
ready-to-hand, richly illustrated, the colors and shapes
make us long to spot them, with our binoculars, to record
those vast vaguenesses, the hard-shelled Blue-Gray Bulbous,
leaving its oily vapor-trail, the Snowy Chortler, invisible
but detectable by the gentle sound it makes as it passes (serious clouders
spend hours with cds learning the distinctive low murmurs).
Turning I am fascinated by the clouds in miniature,
sepia-toned, reflected in your sunglasses, I lean as close as I dare
gazing at the beautiful weightless flight, from right lens to left,
of a Narrow-Necked Northwestern Nimbus, we listen breathless
to its barely-audible soprano chugging, like an opera diva
running and singing, and you see the clouds in sepia I see
only in your lenses now reflected back in my pupils, my retinas,
my optic nerves, my brain; that’s how close we are.

My Way with Planets

The muscularity of the moon
is nothing to me, it is so many
refreshing cosmic showers
trickling down the spine. Now
Jupiter, say, is another story.
I take advantage of its turgidity,
its obesity, poor peripheral vision.
Come on, you fat planet,
you fubsy orb, with your fussy satellites,
you know, taunting, making it
forget everything wise it has learned
spinning around in the cold, black matter
all these yawning, gaping eons.
Love, your hands warmed my rhomboids,
my obliques, made my trapezius
hard and light as graphite, but
I rely on Jupiter’s angry charge
and use its own mass and momentum
against it, rolling the monster
over my shoulders, stepping away nimbly,
with a flick of these two fingers
sending it sailing unstoppably
far beyond Pluto. All this for you,
my love, my succulent pearl;
this is nothing for one of my devotion.

When you apprehend some momentary beauty
your eyes take on such a bright special cast,
I wish you could see them as I see them. By
reflection, refraction, osmosis, I feel your pleasure
in the line of quail rushing across the road (I feel
your worry for them, your hopes for their safety),
in every natural thing I do not notice on my own,
from my tunnel, through my trifocals, my bouncing
monkey mind, always distracted. From where you are,
from where I am, we both looked last night at
the brightest, fullest, closest moon of the year. Urgently
but languidly, oblivious to predators, seventeen-year
cicadas throb and throb and throb, hollow bodies
and tympanum and the seventeen-year wait, clinging
to tree roots and feeding on nothing but the clear fluids,
waiting to find just the perfect mate among the many millions.
They seem so alike to us, these brood-ten cicadas, but
they have their passionate dreams and so filled with hope,
a lesson to me. I sip sap and then emerge and thrum and throb
my hollow body and drum out my song for you so you
can apprehend me suddenly, take me in with those eyes,
let me enter your delicate open ears with my steady
pleading, flowing all over you with my singing.

My hands still sport their stigmata: I count
exactly fifty punctures from when I slipped
and fell forward into the nettles, into the
deep, thick, comical tumbleweed, a heap
of brown wigs bristling with hypodermics,
a twenty-foot stack of nested capellini
al dente, rousing, with a woman’s name,
Urtica, Urtica Dioica, just arrived at Ellis Island.
But I was so happy until my fall, like Adam,
and I clambered up through the brownery,
squashing through to my knees, in my black
office shoes and pants, not having planned
this expedition. I was so happy to have been
sharing the day with you, so dazzled by you,
the stings were some symbolic reminder
that no one can understand, that no two
people explain the same way, like the goblet
wrapped in a napkin and smashed by the groom’s
black shoes, like my shoes. I was as a groom then
when I returned to sit beside you and you
put on your glasses and tried to remove
all the barely visible darts, only discoverable
in silhouette projecting from my dotted palms.
So brave and self-sacrificing. You would
have sucked out the poison if you could,
I would have stretched out on a gurney
and let you perform any surgery, just as you were,
in your youthful pinks and beautiful hair, my skin
flared, and I was so happy, your hands
cooling mine, your smooth, brave cheeks,
your earlobes, your eyes, your lips.

Would we ever be so used to sharing a bed
we would spend the last half hour
reading our books and saying good night
without making love one more time?
Would we reach the point of watching a film
slouching side by side on a couch
without reaching under each other’s clothes,
without throwing everything off,
each ravisher and ravishee, rapturous?
How many thousands of undisturbed nights
would it take, clinging, roiling, roistering,
not to feel that heat, our slick skin,
our delicate organs, soft flowers, sweet
bouquets we keep presenting to each other?

 Thin Man in the Bathroom Mirror

Zipping open my fat-man suit and stepping forward,
I lift my feet and step free of it, kick away
that thick pink coating that insulated me,
watching as it sinks into a soft, pink mound.
My body looks so deeply lined now where once
it was bulbous and ballooned, it was a warm Kosher salami,
it was an inflated diving suit, an acorn squash,
now there are those bony ridges and sharp edges.
I wonder that you do not laugh: I laugh myself
(but now I do not jiggle and bobble in delayed waves),
naked I look especially hilarious, I see from the back,
reflected in the mirror, a Javanese demon mask in flesh.
In the bathroom, naked, I whirl like a dervish,
faster and faster to the left and I blush deep pink
as my blood rushes skinward from the centrifugal force,
and the towels blow down, soap falls, from my wind.
I wish you could see the lines of force around me
like a cartoon symbol of speed, like a tornado;
I go so fast the lines spin out from my wrinkles and creases
create dark savage glyphs on the walls and shower door.
I reverse direction and warmed up I go much faster.
I wish you could see me, I wish I could conjure you,
the lines of centripetal force extend across the city
and pull you inexorably back to my spinning heart.