Junk Food

She pours the cream and sugar in her cup.
"When I was married, we ate super-healthy,"
she says with scorn. "No margarine, no white
flour or sugar. Why? Because I lived
with the Food Dictator. When I came home
he would inspect the grocery receipts.
Then he would check my pockets, to make sure
I hadn't snuck in anything forbidden."
She tastes her coffee. "After the divorce,
literally my first thought wasn't for
the house, or even for my kids. It was
I can eat absolutely any thing
I want. I can have any thing I want,
right now.
I made a pan of brownies, cut
the whole thing into two gigantic pieces
and ate them both. First one, and then the other."
Triumphantly she smiles. She holds the cup
with both hands wrapped around it, like a chalice.
There's latent fire in the carbohydrate,
a secret alchemy best known to women
with world-starved souls. This is the way we eat
our freedom — ravenously, with both hands.

May 18, 1998


nothing but this communion of the body
everything pure and maddeningly right
the energy of fusion bending time
so twilight and midnight seem to coincide
infinity contracted to this moment
filling us as the waters fill the sea
and still we thirst -- as wanting and having,
yin and yang, merge like figure and ground
your lips meet mine as proton calls electron
as if to melt the boundaries of skin
until the air in my lungs is your own breath
dissolve flesh into flesh, bone into bone
soul into light, you into me into you.

January 7, 2000


If the ocean
were warm as breath
it would feel like this

bearing me up
on the tide
between moon
and shore
I am engulfed
in the waves
rocking my body
tang of salt
on my lips
wet hair streaming
the rhythm
washes over
and through me

until I break
through the surface
and joy
rushes into me
in deep,
shuddering breaths

April 25, 1999


One love like water
clear and cool
silver plash of fountain
or icy needles of sea-spray
She pervades and sustains
every cell in your body
Her stillness gives you back
your reflection
But her depths contain the power
to drown you

One love like fire
bright flame that dances
and illuminates
You gaze into her crackling heart
and know not what you read there
She gives you her warmth
to soothe or purify
But left untended
she will consume you

And you the wind
that moves between us
your breath stirs into life
the water's surface and
the fire's embers
One you soak up and
return to her the rain
like a gift
One feeds on your touch
that sets her near to blazing
But sweep over her too powerfully
and she will be

April 25, 1999


I've had fourteen hours of sleep
in the past four days, in three
different beds, with two different
lovers. Sleep? I laugh at sleep.
I have better things to do; I am
jazzed on caffeine, endorphins,
amino acids, a mystical sea of DNA.

September 1998

Green Street Blues

The morning air is cold; I ride the train
Home to Cambridge from Jamaica Plain
In the same clothes I had on
the night before.
This may not be as simple as we planned;
The body's too wise to understand
This line we draw between what's nothing
and what's more.
I feel your presence tattooed on my skin,
My throat still burning from drinking you in,
And a hole in my heart where you're not
supposed to be.
We thought this was trivial — maybe it's not;
I'm not in love with you, but I forgot
How illusion can create its own reality,
Clothed in our treacherous physiology.

October 1998

To a Kohen

Your blood runs high
with the blood of the sacrifices.
The ancient priesthood survives
encoded in your dark body,
a physical reality bridging
unutterable time.

You, son of a more enlightened age,
don't feel it, the holy incense
clouding the marrow of your bones.
You are not enthralled by
the vestigial duties of your birthright:
the call to take up the first place
at the chanting of the Torah;
the austere ceremony of delivering
the benediction, feet unshod, face veiled.
Your tribesmen let the water flow
over their hands, poured by their
lawful attendants; they ascend
the platform; they draw down
the presence of the Almighty
through their outstretched hands,
scalps tingling the way mine did
the first time I laid the tefillin over it,
crackling with an unknown energy.
You, on Shabbat morning, sleep
alone; you work, alone with
the fruit of your reasoning, quiet
sunlight streaming in over bare floors.

My marrow, too, bears traces
of the smoke from burnt-offerings,
my bones pulse with the rhythm of
primeval incantations, but they are
formed mostly of foreign soil. I had to be
readopted, brought to new birth amid
the living waters, to quicken it.
You, then, are forbidden to take me
to wife — to mingle your blood-memory
with the discordant flesh of alien races.

Beneath your surface, mystic shadow runs
parallel, helical, with cold daylight.
Lingering in the ancestral path, I am
divided from your consecrated lineage
by an inexorable curtain. Yet setting my feet
defiantly onto the hard, starkly lumined
concrete would wind me ever higher
into the deepest recesses of the concealed.
For if I chose, I could take your sacred flesh
into my bed, into my body. I could
draw that essence relentlessly forth
from your mouth, your pores, your
loins. I could force you gasping
to the brink of the eternal secret
as you spill the mystery of your seed.
I could contain it then, whole within
this strange vessel my body, unmediated,
inchoate spark of Divine revelation.

September 2, 1997
Rosh Chodesh Elul 5757


Every night you were here,
after we made love, we'd go
out barefoot onto the back steps;
I stood behind you, twining
my fingers in your hair,
as you smoked your cigarette
silently in the moonlight.

For torturous months afterward,
random drifts of tobacco would
call back the startling fragility
of those moments: how lightly
I rested my hands on your body,
while I pulled my bathrobe tighter
as if the chill I felt were from
the August night, the cold cement.

You were just as far away
when I pressed you against me then
as you are now — a distance
not measurable in phone cable.
I have a dozen photographs
from that week — all blurred,
taken half-surreptitiously in the
harbor or the airport; I was
desperate to capture some
essential piece of you, and afraid
of awakening your resistance.
Every frame shows you impatient,
uncomfortable being held
so intimately in the lens of the camera:

The same expression you gave me
not too many weeks later,
the last time I moved to kiss you
good night in the front seat
of your car. You backed away,
and I got out, clumsily — tangled
in longing and resignation. As to
what you felt, I've known
nothing since then but
rare flashes, each a riddle
for deciphering late into the night.

Whatever hunger is in you,
I tapped it only once:
that first time under the streetlights,
the night we clung together
until the sky began to pale,
mad with discovery and
impending loss. It was a revelation
you did not want; and after,
you — whether in fear or bitterness,
I could not know — locked it
away from my sight, leaving me
haunted still by the visceral memory.

July 26, 1997


Gravity weighs on
my swollen body
heavy with blood and
The iron ebbs from my spine.
Lunar forces squeeze
my solar plexus
with mysterious hands.
I am the Earth Mother,
the water-bearer,
the rich and wild and burgeoning
cradle of life —
in my travail
I lie with knees
drawn up to aching breasts
and let blood and tears,

November 8, 1995

All works copyright ©1999, 2000 by Erica Schultz Yakovetz.
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