Saturday, August 29, 2015


The Empty Bottle

The moment just before it's empty is dangerous.
It's not just the matter of who gets the last
Drink, though knives have come out for less.
By the end of the bottle, the balance
Is off. One or the other wonders whether
One, or the other, has had too much. New lovers
Vie to press more upon the other. Old allies
Eye the butt and tilt it up until
Sediment swirls around and slops up in the mouth.
You don't want to know all what's in there. Dirt,
Metal slivers, bugs to clean you out for good, bugs
That live in you for years before they make you crawl.
But here is the part most dangerous of all:
And you'd better think before you drink the last
Drops, for here's a time you'll wish you'd
Planned ahead. When all you had is gone,
What will fill that space, now, tell me,
What will you find to fill it up? What will come
Your way and rush into your emptiness, like blood
Leaps up in a wound, a wolf bounds through
An opened door? How will you guard
That emptiness until you choose?

Image: Aubrey. I think he's all up in the public domain.


Slothrop said...

You are really honing your "questioning" style; the interrogations are more & more pithy & urgent. Metaphysical prosecutor! And your ambiguity here is haunting. Think about the knife's edge of choices; because when the most important ones come up you never seem to. Maybe it's your choice of imagery that makes this one especially powerful to me. I have a memory I haven't thought about since it happened: sharing a bottle of wine in college w/ a girl I thought liked me by mistake. When I awoke in the morning I saw the empty bottle standing there & felt a brutal wave of sadness.

I've been thinking a lot about the dream I had about your poems - the one where they swarmed in through the cracks in my house, etc. It bothers me. In my experience dreams that make such huge impression are trying to tell me something. Why did the business-suited guy call it "burglary"? The poems were giving to me, not taking. Art is a crime? Stealing time away from commerce? Or did I feel bad for getting the poems for free?

Lately, watching news I can't avoid, I've been worrying about the way the dream started w/ my hitchhiking trip in Syria. All of those fantastic storybook things (castles, ruins, ancient covered souks) felt like private discoveries because there was no tourist infrastructure exploiting them. No tickets, tours, etc. All free, if you could find your way to them. Like your poems. Already, when I had the dream, they were being blown to pieces. So much precious art and history, unrecoverable.

Maybe I was just wishing you could find a sustainable way to write, and preserve your work in a more permanent form. And maybe me, too - a friend told me that everyone in a dream is actually the dreamer. I'll have to think about it; I don't feel the closure of a mystery solved. But, I'm so glad to be reading you again.

Slothrop said...

"What will come your way and rush into your emptiness...." God, you have definitely been around the block a few times. The last lines, w/ their relentless rhythm, are terrifying. You've lived this, haven't you?

When I left Calcutta I had no idea what hit me. Working there gave me the greatest sense of self I'd ever felt (well, second greatest - Art had once been the first), and when that was gone it was like being sucked into the void. Beware needing a cause so badly that the cause chooses you. Guard that emptiness. The Middle East, specifically the West Bank, is the last place to go if you crave meaning.

A wine bottle seems the perfect embodiment of this, and I don't even know why.

Maria Padhila said...

well, you know it's sad when that kind of love goes away, when you stop pouring for each other and start keeping a tally. then there's that lighter issue, especially as a woman, if you look idle or stop to breathe for a minute, someone will come fill your time up. it's hard to stay empty. everything is telling me "leave space in your life" and it keeps getting filled up like sand falling into it.

you gave me a flash vision of syria. i think of that and so many other fantastic places my daughter likely won't experience except through CGI. soylent green ;)

as far as a more permanent form, i will if you will ;) but you know, i'm a burner (burning man), and gifting and impermanence is a big part of that. you make it to burn. stay true to that, or start hustling my Personal Brand, clutching a copy of poets&writers in one hand and a set of brass balls in the other (Always Be Closing)? maybe there's a middle ground.

"burglary"--well, it might depend on whether you feel your regard is a limited commodity -- my profession is that the zero-sum game is something sold to us to keep us battling, that love is unlimited (but time is such a bastard poking holes in that one), that even attention grows when you use it. i say to my daughter: "scarcity is an illusion created by those who profit" but that doesn't get us anywhere when they're all fighting over the last two sodas at the picnic.

once again, can't thank you enough for the comments.

Slothrop said...

Can't thank you enough for the poems! "Keeping a tally" nails it. On my very last Valentine's Day w/ a former girlfriend she complained that I was pouring the Moet & Chandon unfairly. And she was absolutely right.

(Classically, I got in this spot - relationship - by having too many gin & tonics while on the rebound!)

The many cups of tea in my dream were straight from Syria. Everywhere you went, people would come rushing out of their houses or the homes they'd scratchbuilt from Roman temples to offer you little cups of tea. And chat forever. One bedouin in the basalt desert near Bosra was thrilled to actually meet an American: "How are American cities?"

"They're great, but you have to be careful."
"Why is this?"
"You know. Lots of shooting."
"Ah, yes," nodding gravely. "The cowboys."

Just the friendliest, most giving people I've ever met. They must be shocked,now, to discover that the rest of us are not like that at all.

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