Poems by Virginia R. Moreno

Batik Maker

Tissue of no seam and skin
Of no scale she weaves this:
Dream of a huntsman pale
That in his antlered
Mangrove waits

And I cannot touch him.

Lengths of the dumb and widths
Of the deaf are his hair
Where wild orchids thumb
Or his parted throat surprise
To elegiac screaming
Only birds of

And I cannot wake him.

Shades of the light and shapes
Of the rain on his palanquin
Stain what phantom panther
Sleeps in the cage of
His skin and immobile

And I cannot bury him.


Order for Masks

To this harlequinade
I wear black tight and fool’s cap
Billiken*, make me three bright masks
For the three tasks in my life.
Three faces to wear
One after the other
For the three men in my life.

When my Brother comes
make me one opposite
If he is a devil, a saint
With a staff to his fork
And for his horns, a crown.
I hope for my contrast
To make nil
Our old resemblance to each other
and my twin will walk me out
Without a frown
Pretending I am another.

When my Father comes
Make me one so like
His child once eating his white bread in trance
Philomela* before she was raped. I hope by likeness
To make him believe this is the same kind
The chaste face he made,
And my blind Lear* will walk me out
Without a word
Fearing to peer behind.

If my lover comes,
Yes, when Seducer comes
Make for me the face
That will in color race
The carnival stars
And change in shape
Under his grasping hands.
Make it bloody
When he needs it white
Make it wicked in the dark
Let him find no old mark
Make it stone to his suave touch
This magician will walk me out
Newly loved.
Not knowing why my tantalizing face
Is strangely like the mangled parts of a face
He once wiped out.

Make me three masks.


Love the Third

In your cool hut of earth
Lure me now, Death,
And I shall come
In the thickening heat
Under the rot-sweet tree
My lust I’ll hang to fan
Till the last passerby pass
Then we can come
On a hundred legs climb
Your hollow stairs and down
Your herb root beds down
I have come
Though you feel my violet past
Trickle in clotted whispers
From what was once my eyes:
(While concubine to Life
And to art still concubine
Was passionate only when flogged
Was fertile mostly when denied)
Now be my lover
The third and my only
Matrix keeper and my last
Death in a cool hut of earth.