– simple thoughts & writings &c. by Elizabeth Heimbaugh –

Edward Hopper, 11 A.M., 1926

Across the street the windows are open – it is going to be a warm day – and there is a man in a green cap leaning out to the fire escape, making to grab for the silvery scarf that is caught on the stair. His arms are short and he is still losing his holiday weight. He is glad the wind is not blowing, for he would not like to lose his favorite cap. His fingers almost catch hold of the scarf. The woman watches the affair with a humorless face. She spoke to the man, once, in an exchange on the street, and he had laughed nervously then. Many times since she has seen him through the open window – she knows he is a luckless man.

At this hour the sun is lazy still and outside the light the woman’s skin is blue. She sits on a blue chair auctioned off in the hotel lobby one afternoon last spring. She had thought it looked glamorous and therefore sad, and had asked her husband for it. Sitting on it, she is alone in her thoughts and there are buttons sewn into the plush, and the blueness of the room is striking. In fifteen minutes the piano instructor will tap on the door and will want some tea. He is so old, the woman supposes him blind, and if she does not dress for the occasion, it will not matter – she has on small brown acceptable shoes and these will be enough. It is only eleven o’clock and the instructor will want to hear Moonlight Sonata, over tea; the woman will let her fingers fall politely on the keys and think of Beethoven in his grave.

Meanwhile, she stares ahead into the space between the buildings, which is a box. There is a simple window garden across the way. In college when her hair was short, the woman studied literature and dreamed of traveling the world. Now in the room the days are long and the books are new with yellow covers. Tonight she will attend a party downstairs in a similar room, and she will mingle with the neighbors, who will remark on how delightfully things are coming along. She will nod in reply and sit down by the ladies, who will be chatting in groups and tossing their hair, picking the sequins off ravishing gowns.

In Memoriam G.H.

I see the sailboat at the dock,
Our floatable sanctuary
Of whitewashed walls
……..and a pillowy flag.

The shoremen are saying
Ours is a lovely vessel,
Strong and pristine:
They are speaking in voices
……..of salt.
The lace of my skirt
Catches the breath
Of the northerly wind.

In the distance you are wearing
A white cap.
The sound of your whistle
……..is lost to the sea
But I am singing the pretty song:
The tide rises the tide falls
The twilight darkens the curlew calls.

The flowers in my hair scatter to the wind
……..by the shudder in my bones.

Now the moon is being born,
A fat bauble in the sky.
The boat is roped at the dock.
Beneath the languid light, people gather round.

Old Poem: Hardly a Good Symphony

It is always now the tempering and the unknowing
since self-pleasing is the most unglorious fool in the fool’s parade
a charade of giving meaning and credence where there is none
or ought not to be.

Is always the governable queen in her right mind? Is her logic more impeccable
than the maths of the boy in my classroom who knows concision
as deeply as I know the reverse? Again the impulsion comes
and leaves but only stubbornly and as there comes an ache in my back.

Always the people here pour their minds into books
pore their minds into books
(the biology of it is complex but droppering into one page
one page of a cell and vitalism has gone extinct now).

The people do not know that I love
I love the eye as the apology as the bench-sitter
I gave a dollar bill but it was a quiet five minutes
pretending to be a justifiable soul.

People do what they can,
and what they can gapes imponderably wide,
as I am learning now, having resolved (though how steadfastly?)
that sleep can rest soundly in a universe of one, or in the company of other sleeps.

Do what is a collection of impulses,
neuronal at best, that tell me to act
on the side of caution, for what did I say
but that I love them all and tabulate for their good hearts?

What is the outcome but of course that
I flattered myself again
for no reason at all, no reason at all.

Old Poem: Homunculus

There is a small homunculus
a man inside my brain
the membrane of a membrane of a microscopic cell.
He’s grown to know me rather well
though hardly do I well know him,
a modicum of mass and whim,
sealed inside a pocket space.
I cannot say I know his face
for indeed it’s something hard to see,
a microscopic head,
when in the universe without
we speak of macrocosms,
singing of the stellar maps
that stopper half of all the gaps
parsing Shakespeare and the seas
or splitting genes and Homilies,
in the faintest hope to bring
fibers to a common joint –
the sacredly anointed point:
a vertex of disharmony
is black and blessèd antimatter
but does it even barely matter?
for, oh, the man inside my brain
has strayed awry in circuitry
the sovereign head is entropy,
since physics governs still.
My logic paddles most abstract
my tongue is emptied of all tact
my theories flourish absent fact,
which precisely is in keeping
with the thought – my cells are leaping –
that Homunculus is sleeping
deep inside my moony brain.

Old Poem: Bird

A bird on the windowsill
stands on the border of lightness.
To gasp a breath, he swallows air:
ancient rocks outside this place.
The church is white on the farthest hill,
the bird will fly away.
A song is hummed,
a peal of bells,
the burst inside an empty space.

Old Poem: Februaries

The cat in the old woman’s bag
is eating at the leather, but
the old woman is crawling on
her stockinged knees to find her
glasses once again. She is
not one for pretense and
so she tells the cat
she is better off without them,
for what good are glasses
if there is nothing worth the seeing?
The cat in the bag coughs up
a hair and the old woman pats
him on the head. She yawns
and pulls a metal tin from
the pocket of her overcoat,
and eats the almonds she keeps
inside. It is February and
in Februaries she eats seventeen
almonds in the afternoons to keep
the cold away. The tin is clean and
worth collecting, and she adds it
to her bag, beside a plastic
comb with old and stubborn
teeth, a tallish pile of wrappers and a
smallish tangerine, and a box
of rusted paperclips. And the
wind is something fierce
today: the old woman tells the
cat, God must be whistling mighty
fine, and she hums the same song
she has hummed for eighty years
and the song her father hummed.
She thinks, It is February and
in Februaries the time is short,
and Cat, you are a lucky fool,
she says, and pats him on the head.
A car passes by and does not notice
the sound of her voice, but the car
is in a hurry and the old woman
does not mind.

Old Poem: Refrain

It is in the periods of in-between
……..when the numb finger pervades and prevails and presupposes stoppage,
……..a malingering fiend in a museum of untouchable parts,
……..the fattest of hollow souls you will ever have seen.
……..He is it is we are all in the wearisome in-between.
And this is when no more writing comes,
……..the interminable exhaustion of a ruptured stomach
……..and a hollow head. I’ve forgotten everything
……..except my memory was called spotless
……..once, at the blackboard (or was it green?) in the writing of entomology,
……..but in another tongue.
……..He has it has we have sung
Already of our woes and our remembrances
……..in hexametered prose.
……..But we wrongly pretended to balance,
……..the height, the consummate star
……..of a lovely symmetry
……..that would shatter in our H-shaped houses
……..of walls and lights and words and shush.
……..He will it will we will flush
Uncommonly at the specter of embarrassment
……..that encircles our beggared and holy thoughts,
……..the hauntress of a meeker temperament
……..that never meant to step an inch, or four,
……..out of line. The turpentine
……..corrupted us all at an early age,
……..solving or dissolving in nursery rhythms
……..while we knew nothing of them.
……..And still I know but little.
……..He shall it shall we shall whittle
Our introductions and our arguments
……..to the very essence until they are ossified
……..and water-white, the epitome of filtration
……..in an Erlenmeyer flask. And how I long
……..for the sureness now of physics and reactions and numbers,
……..even of planetary bodies in umbrella galaxies,
……..when faced – I, a fragile soul – with the inevitability
……..that your poems, these poems are not-a-thing.

Old Poem: Narcissus

In the night I fell from bed
and my stomach had grown
voracious in the hour since
the neighbor’s eye had gone too blind
to cast an appraising stare
this way. I made a waking prayer
and took a loaf of bread.
The bread in the icebox
was hard like a stone,
but there was bread enough for
one thousand hungry mouths
if mine were not the biggest
mouth of the lot.
I tossed the crustier ends by
the window to a quiet street,
a tin-can alley grown old
too young by virtue of its graying parts.
The wind was chilly so
I shut the window on the breeze.
In my room I shut the cupboard doors
and shut the cupboard mirror,
for I had no ribs to see or count.
I dirtied the floor with pieces of bread
and reasoned that I would not be immaculate
then and felt more tired than before.
I was tired so I took a book
of love poems from the shelf
and read until I did not forget
that I was awake in the night
after falling from bed
and my eye was too blind to see
even the most salient thing
and the bread sat like a rock
in the salt of my stomach
and I ungenerously slept on it all.

Old Poem: Hair

You were ascetic
in the cradle of your life,
yielding to the blood
when it explained to you
that yours was a weak fiber
still, and you kept a quiet life,
the keeper of the vigil underground,
with one hundred thousand consorts
equally unborn and equally destined
to a long and hanging fate, as yours.
Then, on the threshold of being forgotten,
you broke through the cavity in a burst of desire,
but you were small and green and did not realize
that you were one of many of the same.
Yet the ones who look up to you
look up because they see that, in fact,
in dying you are living and polished,
and they think it is strange, and they want to know,
how does one grow so popular in death?
And you, meanwhile, keep mouthless,
for you never knew such vanities,
and what is the occasion,
when there are so many of the same,
growing and falling everyday?
After all, your course was charted for you
by gravity and when the time for parting
has come, you drop to the torn fabric
of a subway chair and get caught on the thread
and no one gives you a passing look.