[from Shirley Kaufman’s Rivers of Salt, 1993]
The Temples of Khajuraho (excerpt)
At the airport waiting for our plane,
we sat next to a Chinese man.
He took off his shoe and sock
and massaged his foot,
working his thumb and fingers
over the sole and delicate arch
of the instep. Then he held
his whole foot between his palms
and forgave it, rocking it
gently back and forth.
His hands seemed to know
what his foot wanted. . . .
After everything I’ve forgotten, now
on the other side of the world I hid in
as a child, it’s the same sun
running down my back, the same tick
of insects in the moist air.
When I stare into the tiny radiant pupil
of this blue-violet one and you say
eye of the madonna—the whole field
stares back in a golden nimbus,
leaves shine and the sweet quattrocento
faces I never prayed to.
There are daisies bunched in the grass,
red poppies, all the old flowers
I sang to, made chains from,
or sucked the milk out of,
shaggy and tender and on the verge.
And I’m down on my knees in the clover
where nothing has changed
or slipped through our fingers, still
looking for luck.
Three Songs of Love and Plenitude (excerpt)
2 To Know
Gönül says there is a special word
for know in Turkish which stands
for visual experience. To keep it
separate from the rest of knowing.
In Hebrew there are two words
with three meanings. Carnal,
as used in the Bible, and the others.
You have to be careful.
Now when you sit on the edge
of our bed, I know the smooth muscles
of your back in more than one language,
but I touch you just to be sure. . . .