18 December 2009

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

[from Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon's Open Interval,University of Pittsburgh, 2009]

The Buffet Dream

In the buffet dream this is what I want—;
Everything I can swallow:
What is hot—: What is cooked—: What is sweet—:
What will fit on my plate—: What will drive me—from sleep
with longing—: This is hunger:—
before the first bite crosses my tongue, waking.

The colors of the dream are there at seventeen, each day waking
to promise of silk and open sky—: the gift of truancy: who doesn't
flutter and slap of wind and parachute, foreign men, falling from
    Icarus' heights? A girl's hunger
for their sweat and the vowels they swallow:
Their neon canopies, their endless drifting, the pull of sleep:—
I could taste everything: the whole of this world: the idea—sweet

as leaving home, as being where I am not supposed to be, sweet
as desserts in the dream—: silver bowls of fresh berries and
    zabaglione:— as waking,
just once, to bright lemon tarts with single sprigs of mint someplace
    where sleep
has wrought miracles. Seventeen—: coarse salt of want
on my tongue, I set out for the territories, hope to swallow
all, at least—: every drop zone I can find—: a black girl on the river

—as free as that. I cannot leave this river—: Hunger
snakes along its slumbery route, slow as sweet
syrup, seeks low ground, overflows, swallows
a field, seeps into its green and makes it swampy, waking
the sticky, spongy air, summer's silty edge, wanton,
dripping:— a humid decade's night sweat, a constant of sleep,

until I am in Africa. In Cameroon, une voluntaire, sleep-
deprived, listening to the dogs scratch hunger
out on Bafoussam's abundant trash piles, I want
the nineteen-year-old boy I snatched like a muddy reed from some
yielding bank, four years back, dreaming satiety, waking,
twenty-eight, purple-mouthed from boxed wine and desire. Swallow

the St. Johns, the Susquehanna, swallow the Maury, the Lom and
    Djerem, swallow
the Atlantic you crossed chasing bright-dyed dandelion seeds to find
a glass display case of napoleons and air-pies, an ├ęclair filled with
Empty-handed on its ever-rocking water bed, hunger
waits you out, weights you. It's possible you've tasted every sweet
nothing your mind can offer, that delicious list you wanted

licked down to nothing, swallowed. Freedom—: the fancy-cakes
designed, decked out in fondant ribbons. Sleep: a night's mouth filled
    with something sweet:—
what each morning, waking, you know you will still want.

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