Gloria Oden

Aztec Lily

“she wanted a love with no future.”
			Edmund White

Is it because
I’ve lived my future
this present is sweetest?
Unfettered; duties done;
now days can
be savored, not rushed
through as when tomorrow –
an ever present urgency –
drummed upon the door.
So, too, with love.
To its blood tide
I can loose myself;
dismiss the crude lineaments
of custom; yield to 
its appetite – carnivore extraordinaire.
Call it fictive adaptability,
daily problem-solving shapes
those many selves our mirrors
rely upon. Come,
see me now;
an Aztec Lily: singular,
shamelessly showing deepest
crimson in wind!


For two thousand years
at daybreak, in Tamil Nadu,
women have stepped over
the doorsills of homes,
out into front
yards to confront the deadly
mysteries of nature through
the ritual image of
their love.

		Sweeping the ground
clean of sand, of stone,
they moisten it just enough
to hold the patterned ecstasy
that follows from disciplined slippage
between index and middle
fingers of white rice
powder their laying down
of intricate geometries of
design – invitations to
good fortune; deflections
of their opposite.
women champion order;
seek to maintain
its grace, its beauty over
and against chaos; natural
disorder. So my heart.
But you, with a djinn’s
disruptive power, swept
across its threshold inciting
alarm in every corner.
What was the kolam –
in one, long, sinuous
line without gap –
should I have drawn
to bar you?


“Poetry, . . . , teaches us how to talk to ourselves, but not to others.”
						Harold Bloom

Plotinus was skeptical of language,
of its ability to define,
much as I
of rendering heart’s turmoil
and surprise.
		Words approximate,
imaginatively construct for,
as we know, chaos
is invisible order.
How, then, to reduce
disorder – wind and wave –
for a betrayed tongue?
How should I map
dynamic geometry, resolve
interplay of experience, sum
all things conspiring?
Language is wave piloting;
word selection our
attempt to fathom shape,
motion, vigor of oceanic
swells as we navigate
uncomprehended space. Heart’s
port of call lacks
clear demarcation. It riddles
the specific – fractal dimension
honoring – causing our sense
of order to seek out
patterns of regularity possibly
distorting truth.
heart, I am listening!
Reason bows before
your exuberance, forfeits its primacy
in the face of random
creativity, acknowledges these perilous
tides constituting the mathematics
of sacred assembly.