Elise Wolff

Elise Wolff

October 30, 2000...

It is because I love to say these words to myself
That I am able to share them with you
After these past 3 years of being unable to write
My sweet poetry...

God Exists.  God exists.  I know this, now.
Listen to this: He has led me to his day, this week
Of  Halloween, this time of harvest
While the farmers of my hometown
Take away their cotton and peanuts and cows and sheep
And celebrate with their own festival.

Today marks the start of my festival.
My pain and sadness are leaving me.  I have suspended doubt.
I have chosen faith.  I will watch again today
while God takes my dreams and makes them my reality.

I think of what he has already done...
I sleep on new sheets of green leaves scattered
across a white field.
I painted the walls of my bedroom in a beach theme
And although the water is still,
It is still calming
And also quite soothing
to my soul.

I have cancer, now.
I've lost roughly 30 lbs.  I feel great, pain and all.
It feels right to live this way.  You see,
Before I was so very alone
and so hurt
and so afraid.  Now, I can see God in every face I meet.
I smile.  I've hugged myself in happiness
during these past few weeks.
I can do something besides pray to God
to save my life.  I can see God, now, in every face,
And let his angels, my angels grace my life
And smile at them, and speak jokingly,
And watch God smiling
Back at me, and laughing
At my jokes.

In every form He takes He is beautiful. I am so lucky.
He makes angels of everyone in my life.
Even those who choose to despise me still
Send money to save my house, to give me a safe place
In which to escape when my humanness overtakes me
And I am crying self-pity, and in need of a break.
He gives me regular trips to the beach.
I get to see it and imagine myself
In a big house by that water
Living large with lots of visitors
And their children outside
Building sandcastles,
Playing in that water. Oh, how the teen-agers
Will come visit me, soon. I am poor at the moment,
But this is going to change. Watch and see
What God does with my dreams. It's amazing.
He thinks it's right for me.
He's my father. He gives me riches
Simply because...
Don't ask.

I have faith. I can't explain logically or scientifically
How this is. I just believe and I feel great
When I believe God answers me quite directly
And spoils me almost embarrassingly.

This is so strange, but my fear seems suspended
More and more these days. Me, afraid of elevators, planes
And other enclosed places, I lie in a little space
With 6-foot thick walls and a bank-vault door
And it's okay. It's really okay. The irradiation beams
Sound like the whine of old electric razors.
It's over quickly. The infusions are but an hour or so every 3 weeks.
My mind is so filled
With other things...

Gods is such a comfort. He gave me this frame of mind
And takes my weak little sea legs,
Me, the lover of T.S. Eliot's poetry (he imagined himself
A crab, scuttling across a sea floor),
And God at first kept me afloat, but

Now he is teaching me how to swim,
And the sharks are becoming little guppies.

Look at my life, now. Go ahead and read my old poetry.
It only shows that I am intelligent by man's standards
And that I was a miserable woman, and so lonely.
It shows the person I am, Elise,
Desirous of love, but look at me, now.
I was being hurt, treated wrongly.  I need say no more.
I am so loved by so many and those who have hurt me
And still try
Are losing their grip on me.  I am leaving, leaving
With Sebastian Wet in my hair to keep my long, red curls
In place.  The large salt air will blow in my face
As I stand and look out while the waves roll in.
I will measure my life not with coffee spoons,
But simply drink from my ever-present cup
And write
About love.

It was there all along.  God was there.
I see him, now.  Look, he is everywhere.
Don't forget to thank him.  He made us be like him.
He is hurting to be so inundated  with sad, begging prayers
And so little thanks.  Just think what a beautiful day
It is today.  Smile and your body will follow,
And this world seeming foreign and mean...
Don't forget how nice it is, too.
So very nice, the birds, the music, the faces to meet.

It may seem like a chess game that we all lose
In the end,
But as a poet I can tell you
There are worlds within worlds...
I thought to myself long ago,
And wrote to you the best of our existence
Lies in what we don't really understand.

God gave us these clouds.
I look at them.  So what if it is not the Champs-Elysees,
There are even better places than that
Inside each of us.

We are all writers of the stories of of our lives.
God merely outlines the chapters.  Choose well
While you live.

Crossing an Ocean

Close to the marble fountain, a single bowl
of fresh green fruit holds the repose, the slowed afternoons
strolled along the vineyard of his coast,
and along his fingers,
the first taste...
of summer's grapes, the yellow-painted crystal glass,
a back-lit toast to pastoral sunsets beside the ruins. He sees
one table set outside against that ashened olive trunk,
but the bowl, the light,
the slate dripped from her hands... He sees

within the arrangement of odd lime-colored fruits,
within the phallic near-mature bananas and the female-shapes
of pears, among diminutive green apples sliced clear through
to their meats, inside the folds of gathered grapes, the buttons
of limes. He sees still life
and he thinks he understands, this time,
that tete-a-tete set like a monument in granite, and themselves
in glazes, somehow foolish around the plates, gazing down
the opened European mouths of cups too wide to imitate---how
she appears almost too deep in candlelight
too intimately placed, how she frames
those green acanthus leaves unfolding skin, how that
snow white leopard print intoxicates. She draws him in
relief. So strange...

the extension, the longish table of wrought iron
leaves felled with permanence
underneath a beveled glass where, from boughs,
a delicacy
of tree curves down
those gentle legs. And, above his head, a single fragrance
from a hardened concrete fluted vase
laid along the simple middle of this space.

And then, beneath those two white bistro chairs
kept to shadows slightly bleeding,
the evening
found in other spaces

where greens like grasses meet
and slip together and away. And still, he watches,
and even while he watches, these small breezes
come and come again, and then go
down his need of raised hill-side, flowing
down, just down along a dry rock bed, this moment

a last barely captured scene, he finds her, her, her

dreams of other paintings made under twinkling yellow skies. Now
and then, a large salt air blows through this cloud-red night...
It is the ocean, also green, he dares, exposed as well
but gone unpainted.


(Mon frere, you've struck a deadly blow deep within) and
today starts the coldest of the year
so I don't wonder how, now that you've found me, you want to hear
about the clouds again... Isn't there a place inside you reserved
for something more? If so, you will get this much
more of me. You see, I've heard something else
speaks for your broken silence, my friend, and I would guess
it has always been (and will always be) when you, yes, you alone
offer these questions answered easily (and then, you leave me
speechless and wondering...). This is why
I recognize such things you do... and how I know it's you,
even when you ring and still say nothing. I hear your complaint:
"I am him. You have made me
the old saint
in a dry month, you bitch," and I just watch the rain
I'd create while I brood too fervantly to think
how young you'd look beside me
when we sleep. Sure, I'd find a way
to make it rain, and I'd make it soothe you if I could,
and you are still right to say we think too much
alike. Your mind is mine,
it's obvious. There will be no rest for us.

What about these clouds? You have made me
Philomela, so ask me now while I would go with them, and now,
when I am down to wings so falsely made; when I can only dream
to go away. Don't you know I am in this shape? But it could come,
it could come, you'd say,
to dry leaves, this rain, the rain...
to everything.

I watch what I pretend. I watch my small part
of world rise, watch sighs broken to brittle laughs like bits of glass
I keep outside, the chimes, the voices
inside winds, the choice of words you speak again from far away
like distant cries before we met when it really was too dry
for us. And, though the sameness of each
day goes on, I wish you could look
even at this, the simple sun slipped down along the pines,
and down, along my own plain length.

And, I think
how much less
light we got in that night when you were here,
and again no rain to speak of, as if we could speak of something else,
of anything else, outside these eyes which speak for us
in silence, for themselves, for... what? What else? Simply, you
want me, and you want me
and you want me...

to tell you about the weather, now? Okay,
"Last night," I'll say, "last night
I sat throughout my first coldest night,"
and this was how
that picture was drawn of me
from behind: You might have liked the Cabernet, the tabletop,
a white cloth draped on a waiter's arm, the flattering light, the jazz band
playing and the potted plant. There was a couple, too,
off to one side, and the line of the bar was almost caught
as well as the fact that I am too damn much in this red dress
alone (I imagined one shadow by the door).

So... they walk into that room, and take me
in and never ask
anything else from me, and then, your voice
becomes the next thought
I make of it, despite all of this, and despite the next
dry month I'll face
for it,
for all of it.

Forget the rain, the lightening, the evening; that violet time
in clouds and silent speech. Forget how looking at the thing
will change it when you reach in a moment
the simple point of it. Forget
forward and past thinking, and the vanities
of giving. Leave this
fear, too, of experience
seperated from meaning. Haven't you cried anyway
to find this meaning
stayed, and the experience
never made? Yes, we have held many
lives in this one, and yes, our agony goes on

for seasons, seasons...and these important steps
of death with too good reason
for that escape, as well. You are so afraid of this, and so am I,
and so I am...

but we can't make sense of everything
or anything at all reaching its place in us;
not allowing us
to make
sense, and perhaps this is the best
of our existance, my dear Sweeney, those brief insanities

that could live like stolen nights.
And, these days spent above our heads like clouds
we would wish to be in, should we think now, this moment,
of such things as this, or ask...

It is just unreal. It is...
and we both must feel it,
and never coldly, but at the greatest
of life's lowest
where we remain

seperated; dryly speaking
omnipotent things.


Outdoors in this darkness,
we notice the tightly frozen fingers
gripping our beers...
and there, slipping down, the constant dripping part of it,
the ice condensed on the bottoms of our bottles. And still, we fall
into our own determinable distances
between the pulses
of those green Grolsch droplets hopped off like drunk parachutists
falling upside down, spilled
with gravity one rounded bubble at a time.
With a final, displaced wave for the next fellow to begin,
each goes under. They are never seen again.

And... while these two puddles collect
and form at our feet, we sit across from each other
taking our own polite turns,
making the best of retorts about cold watermarks
of once-warm stars drowned
in spiralled streams
of universe
until, seeming startled at our strained voices stretching across
this empty space, we stop
the talk.

Nothing more is observed. Nothing more is said.

Still, in the darkest parts of this
dark sky, the stars are there: stars
that seemed to die, squeezed inside the millions of others,
inside those loudly scattered pieces
that come lightly to life, inside the millions of nights
entering and leaving these hours; even these parts of ourselves go on

for winter hours to come...
to fabricated shrouds like the small-striped white slipcovers
of a simpler design quickly tossed on to hide the now loud sight
of the painted porch chairs where we sit. And there are parts
of ourselves left for other nights that will come to winter
when we'll whisper from habit and nearly wonder out loud why
night comes too soon but always comes

and always, always, outside
this metallic wall of screened porch windows,
a pale night light
reclines in a tantric pool
while some seminal amount of fluid slides inside
the pool fountain and moves. It moves the small light
inside a watery grasp
until the light, too, explodes,
drop by drop,
and flows...

and flows again, in the reflection above. It writhes
inside a clench of bent, shadowed branches
laid bare of the color of leaves. It writhes in a dry October bed
close enough to the ejaculation to nearly lie beneath it, to feel it again
and again rising up into this sky
and coming down to this
one night, while we make love
with our two minds, without movement;
not politely.

Against this backdrop of matted walls
are the small hard paintings of imaginations
on clock-faces, hands spinning blankly around,
numbers missing, timeless..., and words ripped out
of nameless books or shreds of hand-written letters
never sent, and some other kinds of pictures
one might take away in black and white or color.
These mirrors shine with one thousand and one nights
of clearly candles lit to take the eyes, the thousand eyes,
kalaidoscopes of dragonflies kept under glass
while windows catch and bend divided shapes like roman shades
of white, or blinds.

 From this place comes virtually,
comes to life, the fingers pressed, the late-night ecstacy
inside white baths of graphic foam and drifts
of strange magnolias blown
on nets surrounding dark outlines of softest beds
and beds brought out in tantric lights---we will melt down
those blanketed distances enveloping us---
great, refined palates are steaming the envelopes and pushing us in-
to backgrounds up and vibrating with quiet hums, machined mantras
of opened sites...oh, sweet,
sweet home

desired scripts by terry robes and scuffs,
the very best on cotton fields
so sketched
at 2 a.m. where playful romps are made
of mice and men. In and out, the faithful skip
around, next to miles and miles of painted lines
and enter and exit new kinds of addresses, the skinny poles
of brighter streetlamps and houses

 Where the boots of cold computers run on through the snow
-filled nights, and through such minds as we have never seen,
and through such hands...


A few floors up, inside a plain brown-wrapped window, sits a small boat like
a short story from a dirty book; as carelessly left out is the also plain
view from this nondescript condo on the bayside of a beach city where
curtains seem to wave as twilight begins, but the sight isn't real even
though it is true

 that a single man in a suntan and a slight need of hats does something a
little sad beside the window. He is responsible for the boat and himself.
The window is covered. The man isn't. "Hard. It's so... hard,"
he thinks. So... this boat was made to fit just one bottle. Something
lifts in his hand while a bottle somewhere stands as the city slips in

soft sand spread like wide-open porch doors when the sun goes down on wood
floors. He keeps his doors closed and locked.

 He likes a "private place," he says, and he wants to keep things dark, but a
single light sweeps across his floor like a buoyant wake on a carpeted
bay, a deep blue water color rising under a captain's chair.
It's the look of the wooden leg that he likes, as if only this would fit
the space: the cold stabs the chair makes.

 He turns the light straight out the street window and then, he drifts away
and away like a shadowed painting of someone stranded on a splintered
boat in ocean waves---too late to be---or like yet another distant man
who keeps a vigilant watch, who attends to working parts. He drops
his grip at the thought that one day his ship might come rip this
sad lighthouse apart while slow jazz blows out of a horn downtown, so he
continues to watch

 himself, but he breathes too much that cheap unstopped split of champagne
taken out for no good reason, anyway, and when so few of those grains
rise that just a splash escapes a glass shattered and spilling upside
down, he pauses just to licks the drops from his fingers, and goes

and further down the broken streets, it's 2 a.m. when someone looks

 through early fog (as if it might be different) while a brass yard hoists a
sail on his window-ledge, and still reflects the same man's head jerked
up and down, up and down and then, something small escapes (again), but
it's only a slight slip: he isn't crying...

 "I can't... " he sighs.

 Please come outside. It's not the Champs Elysees; however, there's a
container of flowers and a morning dew like rain. There's a stroll on a
new boardwalk to the dock where I stand, too---but first, I have an empty
bottle to send. You see, there's something lost inside

a man with his mind. Remember. Remember him. Remember him coming with
photographs like postcards. I wish you were here. I wish you were here. I
wish you were... I wish...

I could forget
I could.


(If I thought that you could tell others this secret,
I'd die of embarrassment even though I'm already
In hell, and so dead---
But since you're here listening,
You must be in your own hell, too;
I guess the same as mine, and since I can't escape this,
I'm sure you won't either, so here goes nothing... )

 Well, you wanted me to come, no questions asked,
When your hard instrument lay neatly, in your hand
And I, your patient, heart opened, upon that table.
I smoked, instead, outside the restaurant on a half-deserted street
And muttered retreats
At the thought of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And waited for you to pick up our bill,
Knowing the lacivious intent
That would only overwhelm me with your reply, anyway...
You speak so damned romantically to be so sexually fixed.
You must be religious.
This will be some visit.

 In the room men come and go
Talking up Jaco Pastorius.

 I am in a fog, and I look back through the window-panes,
I rub my little nose on the window-panes
As I sit out on the balcony. You move like frightened smoke
Into the corners of the evening, lingering
On me and the bay that stands silent below
Until you fall like the ash from my frozen cigarette.
Seated out on the balcony, I sense your sudden leap,
And seeing that the smoke is gone, I put my cigarette out and
I curl up in a rigid chaise, and dream.

 I believe there will be time
For the man who lies in the adjoining room
And rubs my back even as he sleeps.
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare myself for tomorrow when you wake;
And through the night I kill and procreate
With the time that worked this one week into my hands,
And I prepare to drop my question on your plate
With a lilting voice. So the night goes on
With a hundred obsessions
And a hundred sessions and recessions
Before our breakfast conversation (Don't ask if I slept well...).

 In the room men come and go
Talking up Jaco Pastorius.

 And indeed I take the time
To wonder, "Do I dare?" and wonder again,
To fear that I will take the stairs in threes
With the gravity of all my years---
(They will say: "How her rear is growing large!")
My cardigan, my turtleneck grasping nearly too firmly,
My knit leggings hardly modest, but ankle bracelet shimmering---
(They will say: "But how her arms and legs are thin!")
Do I dare
Disturb your world?
In a minute there is time
To make up your mind and change your mind in the next minute.
I know this is how you think.

 And I know you've known them all already, God I know---
You've known evenings, mornings, afternoons---
And I know coffee and cigarettes, poetry and waiting.
I listen as your voice falters in the music
From the other room, and I am dying, too.
So how should I presume?

 I know my eyes are not special to you, you've seen them;
You won't dare to hold my gaze when I fix you,
When I try to hold you under my feminine thumb,
When I have you pinned and wriggling on the balcony,
Your back against the wall, eyes pinned on the bay below,
Then how will I begin
To say I'd give up smoking, maybe, and all my other impediments?
And why should I presume you'd care?

 And I imagine the arms already, you've had them in your bed---
Arms that are muscular and tanned and reclined in magazines
(But in this twilight, I am something to really see!).
Will the perfume between my thighs
Cause you to sigh?
I prop my legs on the balcony wall, my toes painted red
And small. Should I now presume?
How will I begin?

 . . . . . . . . Should I tell you that I've walked the narrow streets at night
And watched the smoke rising from neighborhood chimneys
And imagined lonely men, in short and long-sleeves,
Ready to jump from their windows, first and second floors?...

 I should have been a sexy, spoiled mermaid,
But my nails are run ragged scuttling across floors
I silently clean into oceans I can see myself in.

 . . . . . . . .

 And the morning passes into evening dreams so woefully!
I watch your long fingers, I change into my peignoir
And malinger, stretched out on the floor here beside you.
Will I, after a rich dinner and too many beers,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though you slip forward, slip and whisper your intent,
Though I know the songs and my eyes and the beers swim
In your head, I can not answer this---
I am frightened. I am nearly drunk and rather tired
And I watch the moment of my greatness flicker,
And this seems so close to death, but I laugh anyway
At your pass, because, in short,
I am terrified.

 And would it have been worth my final day,
After the coffee and the cigarettes that you despise
Among the wilted plants on the balcony, and the too-small
Ashtray, and the music that you and I oddly like,
Would it have been worth having my say
After our small talk,
To couch my approach in a smile,
To tell you: "I feel like I've been in a sort of hell;
I might have died last night after dessert..."
(And still very weak, should not be hurt more)---
When you, making yourself comfortable in your chair,
Will say: "That is not how I think at all,
At all. Nope, not at all."

 And would it have been worth another second,
Should I have so wasted my life,
After you showed me the sunset by your front door
And I left for the antiques store where I found
An old edition of the Tales From the Decameron;
After my reading, and cigarettes and much more coffee, and
I've changed back into my peignoir---
And here I am again, tongue-tied and speechless---
As if you had seen my gown ripped off and become nauseated:
Would it have been worth it
When you, bent against that wall with a mean laugh,
Watching the moon teasing the bay, should say:
"That is not it at all,
Not what I want. Not one bit."

No, you're no Prince Charming, and won't ever be.
You're close enough to satisfy me; I guess you'd add
To a crowd, maybe even liven it up,
Impress your boss, probably get a raise,
Probably make yourself useful.
You're a man's man, a suck-up, yet
Full of yourself, a bit stuck up;
At times, you come across as ignorant---
Almost, at times, rather foolish.

 I feel old... I feel old...
I will change my long hair into honey-gold.

 Should I pull it back in a Topsy-Tail? Do I dare a bite to eat?
I will work out and wear a bikini and walk along the beach.
I have heard the music of the conch shell, and seen crabs mate.

 I don't understand what I've heard and seen.

 I have seen the red passion of the simple crabs as they surfaced,
Big to little claw, from earth's white castles; they only floated
Away under a purple sky; never knowing the woman faded into sand.

 We have stood over the castles and peered into their windows,
And listened for the waltzes of the lovers we would see
Till we are lulled into sleep, and wake only gasping.

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