Lisa Huffaker

OCEAN,  I AM WARNING YOU

I could do it, I could swallow you
whole.
                           (How preposterous, my saying this.
                           But standing
                           on this particular shore, shouting
                           into this particular wind, this
                           is what I’m shouting.)             Ocean, be warned.

I am here to open the wordless white book.
I am here to turn the pages, wave upon wave.
I am here to read

                           what never was language
                           what never was image
                           what is only space and endless
                           rippling: white foam, jagged,
                           long-stitched in blue.

I am here for your voice.

For roaring salt, and light.

For your tilting prisms. And to attend
my own drowning.
                           (Let us begin.)

I am here for your confession.                        Yes,

and I could drink you down,
if it comes to that.


WORDS FOR A RESONANT SPACE

O Beauty, be sad with me!
I know for all your flowers you cannot
unbreak the broken world, not for all
the prisms you align so skillfully
with your graceful hands, like birds
to sing along the lit window, no:

what is dismal will be dismal still.
What is shabby will be shabby still,
and what is more, it will be inside us,
canker and cancer and inescapable,
because in opening we are left open,
because in ringing we are left ringing.
Once we merge with the universe
where is there to run?

O Beauty, was it when you walked by my side
under the arching trees, or later
in my quiet kitchen, you said the word
despair, laid it before me, together with joy?
And all I could do was receive those gifts,
marvel at them as I marvel
at anything you give me. Yes, and

side by side on a balcony, once,
O Beauty, I sat with you, and you wept
in my presence. O nothing could shine
as your tears shone. O the space around you
was a cathedral, and your face was all
its candles, and O Beauty your face
was its shimmering alcoves, and its shrine
and all its stained glass, and you let me
kneel there with my heart lit, praying.

But I cannot by praising you
undo the great undoing
which must and shall undo us and nothing,
nothing shall not be undone.

And so I beg you: give me your hand.
Be near me.
And let us mourn, let us mourn.


VOICE LESSONS

“The voice is organ of speech.”
Say it a thousand times, with a Russian accent:
“Voice is organ of speech.”
Maestro, I got so sick of hearing it.

And body, I grew weary of your truthfulness,
body, you polygraph, you seismograph!
Any regret, any fear, all my shames
you broadcast into space: my whole aching
life, the stumbling wreck of it.
I stood naked, inside out.

Organ of speech! At least my liver
keeps its poisons to itself.

Maestro, you shook my ribcage
into 24 separate bones, you hung my skull
like an apple from the stem of my spine,
you wrenched open the fused hinge
of my jaw, and unclamped my hands
so I could not protect my throat.

You commanded: open.
You commanded: speak.

Whenever my tissues could not dilate
you found the adhesions
and pressed on those scars.
Sometimes you went in with a scalpel.

Maestro, you were merciless. And Rossini was merciless.
And deathless Mozart and all the pantheon
of composers – so merciless!

And music itself was merciless.

Yes, but music:
when it moved through that broken space,
sometimes I could cry with light.


Lisa Huffaker is a poet, musician, and visual artist. Her poems appear in Southwest Review, Poet Lore, Measure, Able Muse, Southern Humanities Review, and elsewhere. Her project, White Rock Zine Machine, offers tiny books by Dallas-area writers and artists, sold through whimsical vending machines. She is a classical singer by training, and sings with the Dallas Opera. She served as a Visiting Artist at the Dallas Museum of Art last summer, where her installation, Sound/re:Vision, invited visitors to interact with a music box Zine Machine, compose chance music, and create zines inspired by a playlist ranging from opera to gamelan.