themes from the Tzu Yeh and the Book of Songs
I have carried my pillow to the windowsill
And try to sleep, with my damp arms crossed upon it,
But no breeze stirs the tepid morning.
Only I stir ... Come, tease me a little!
With such cold passion, so little teasing play,
How long can we endure our life together?
No use. I put on your long dressing-gown;
The untied sash trails over the dusty floor.
I kneel by the window, prop up your shaving mirror
And pluck my eyebrows.
I don’t care if the robe slides open
Revealing a crescent of belly, a tan thigh.
I can accuse that nonexistent breeze ...
I am as monogamous as the North Star,
But I don’t want you to know it. You’d only take advantage.
While you are as fickle as spring sunlight.
All right, sleep! The cat means more to you than I.
I can rouse you, but then you swagger out.
I glimpse you from the window, striding toward the river.
When you return, reeking of fish and beer,
There is salt dew in your hair. Where have you been?
Your clothes weren’t that wrinkled hours ago, when you left.
You couldn’t have loved someone else, after loving me!
I sulk and sigh, dawdling by the window.
Later, when you hold me in your arms
It seems, for a moment, the river ceases flowing.
* * * * *
Carolyn Kizer's poetry often considers feminist and political themes. She has published nine books of poetry, including Yin (1984), which won the Pulitzer Prize, and the collection Cool, Calm and Collected, in which the above poem appears. She has taught and served as poet-in-residence at universities across the country. Kizer was born in Spokane, Washington, and currently lives in Sonoma, California, and Paris.