“The page can hardly contain her spirited, sprightly voice.”

–Billy Collins

Read excerpts from Cornucopia: New and Selected Poems 1975-2002:

WHY I AM NOT A BUDDHIST

I love desire, the state of want and thought
of how to get; building a kingdom in a soul
requires desire. I love the things I’ve sought-
you in your beltless bathrobe, tongues of cash that loll
from my billfold- and love what I want: clothes,
houses, redemption. Can a new mauve suit
equal God? Oh no, desire is ranked. To lose
a loved pen is not like losing faith. Acute
desire for nut gateau is driven out by death,
but the cake on its plate has meaning,
even when love is endangered and nothing matters.
For my mother, health; for my sister, bereft,
wholeness. But why is desire suffering?
Because want leaves a world in tatters?
How else but in tatters should a world be?
A columned porch set high above a lake.
Here, take my money. A loved face in agony,
the spirit gone. Here, use my rags of love
.


 

COUPLE SHARING A PEACH

It’s not the first time
we’ve bitten into a peach.
But now at the same time
it splits — half for each.
Our “then” is inside its “now,”
its halved pit unfleshed —

what was refreshed.
Two happinesses unfold
from one joy, folioed.
In a hotel room
our moment lies
with its ode inside,
a red tinge,
with a hinge.


 

A FAVOR OF LOVE

“Thank you for making this sacrifice,”
I say to my husband as I run to Kim’s market.
Never mind what the sacrifice is.
Sacrifices between husbands and wives are private,
and fill a person with simple, healing water.
Kim’s buzzes with Sunday night customers
as into the plastic basket go
watercress, asparagus, garlic, pecans
when a girl throws herself through the plastic door flaps
tears streaming down her face while her boyfriend
catapults past the troughs of oranges screaming,
Water!  Water!
And Mr. Kim peers down his quizzical nose
and Mrs. Kim stands in mountain pose

openly hating the girl for dying of an overdose
among the lemons, mangoes, papayas, and limes
of the country of her family’s origins
plunging among the plums and dying there
the color of a plum beneath her dark hair
for the girl is turning purple.
From the back of the store by the water the boyfriend
shouts that she’s swallowed a lollipop head.
Now she is almost the color of an eggplant,
and young Mr. Kim by the register is asking her,
“Should I call 911?” in a pleasant, insistent whisper,
“Should I call 911?”
Big sounds should boom from her, but only a bubble
squeaks at her lips. “Call 911!”  I say,

raising my woollen arm, aiming for her
shoulder blades where I whack, whack her again,
and no lollipop pops out. But sound bellows out!
Like idiots everywhere, her boyfriend shouts
Calm down, Calm down, forcing water into her throat,
which must help dissolve the candy my backslap dislodged.
“Where’s that Choking Victims poster you’re supposed to hang?”
I demand of young Mr. Kim.
“I’ll cancel 911,” he says.
“Where is that lady?” the sobbing girl is asking.
Right here, I say, I am right here behind you.
I am putting endive in my basket.
As she grabs me in a bear hug,
her face has a human color

and it is a hard face, long and horsey.
“Oh Mommy!” she shouts.
As my sister was dying she called me Mommy.
I stand in a mountain pose,
and she smiles up from a pile of plastic baskets.
“My name is Marisol!” she spouts.
My name is Molly!
(I’m afraid she might hear those l’s as m’s.)
“Thank you for saving my life!”
Now don’t eat any more lollipops, I say mommily,
closing the cosmic circle begun at breakfast
when my husband made the promise I won’t reveal.
Grown human beings making sacrifices
return to the universe a favor of love.


Molly Peacock © 2002
Used with permission of W.W. Norton and Company