Bay of Angels by Diane Wakoski


[The 1963 film starrng Jeanne Moreau] La Baie des Anges is in beautiful black and white that won't make you regret the lack of color. It is an existentialist film, but one that doesn't seem dated. The romance is not gaudy, it's believable -- both about gambling and about love. Since gambling and love are two reasons for excitement, two activities that teach us about ourselves, and two misunderstood human diversions, it seems that this film offers so much. The Bay of Angels, of course, is a place, but to me it's where I'd like to drown, with angels all around me, holding cards and offering me poker chips, should I ever have to die that way. -- Diane Wakoski (from the Introduction toBay of Angels)

This wonderful book is about so much. Beauty, youth, aging, love, art, passion, loss, and style are only a part of what makes the whole, and the poems are intimate, as though you might be sitting at the table with her eating a triple crème cheese and sipping a perfect wine as she sates all of your senses. -- review by Maryfrances Wagner, at We Wanted to Be Writers



Szymborska's Cigarette

When silver bangles clashed on
my young arm, as my
sturdy harpsichord-playing fingers were
shooting that one winning craps game,

I was for a moment the woman
on film.

What a pale girl I had been,
smoking Russian cigarettes,
playing solitaire, always
watching the high school Jimmy Deans, whose eyes
were silver bullets. Once I was caught 
in the black and silver of a motorcycle jacket, and once,
I was caught grinning in an artists' café,
in smoke,
against discovery. Yet,

so few moments of extraordinary beauty
remembered from a long life: the bracelets singing thinly
in Las Vegas as I threw and threw the dice, making everyone
at the table rich; sitting alone in the Berkeley café creating
a moonlit bookery out of espresso 
and celluloid longings; walking among spring plums blossoming 
in San Antonio and realizing the flowering trees
smelled like tortillas; being photographed 
in New York by a camera
that saw me as Polish amber, soft resin of trees, wings 
of dragonflies. Lacy memories
cling to my hair, embedded
like cigarette smoke from the invisible man,
King of Spain, who has,
this lifetime 
loved me. I invented him
that one night, 
out of dice and emerald 
green baize,
out of the slinky, winning touch,
gliding up my arm 
and down almost over my wrist:
a lifetime's arc of silver bangles.


Cleaning Up Petal Drop

Gathering the, 
large as goldfinches, 
fallen yellow tulip 
and their eyebrow-thick 
black stamen,
I sweep them 
into the plastic-lined
trash bin and think, "The Silk Road,"

for the petals form a ribbon, lustrous
and flowing, too ancient with the sound
of cartwheels rolling thru
what might as well be The Steppes,
down into the world of roots
where my brother, David, lies.

Even the act of brushing them into the wastebasket evokes
bolts of silk and tins of Russian Caravan tea,
all the wealth that once was 
                      coffee beans of Arabica
                      tulip bulbs of Amsterdam
                      woven skeins of mulberry China.

They lie there, a river of canary and black,
discarded from
their Fulper Pottery vase,

and, along the luxurious edge of our own 
spring Silk Road called Division Street,
I will snip more buds
from Steelman's cool April garden.

                                                      for Robert aka Steelman who makes the garden




Yellow wings flash by the feeder,
               and make me realize I am not
alone. standing at the glass door / watching,
               taking a risk, a glance
behind me -- sense the shadow boy holding
               a piece of malachite.

It drips, a waterfall of green
               confusion. Yesterday there was
gravel under my foot
               on the kitchen floor and
for the first time I saw figures
               flying into the backyard,
black chevrons on their wings, which were like
               yellow sails.

Once I was a woman. Once I too was huge,
perhaps a meteor. Now
having looked behind me,
stunned by brightness and 
immensity I rattle, a piece of 
gravel, infinite, infinitesimal,
to the kitchen floor. Never am I
alone when I see those yellow vaulting

wings, always with the shadow boy who 
tracks in feathers and is surrounded by an 
absinthe-green waterfall 
rushing into a pool, 
lit up with sunlight cast 
by the immense wings 
captioning and thudding at my door,
                          a yellow furnace on the verge of swooping into
the rain forest of my kitchen.

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