Diane Wakoski





An Ode To Chaos: This Old Woman
Quelling Her Bitter Voice

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
    the falcon cannot see the falconer.
    Things fall apart. The center cannot hold.
               — William Butler Yeats, from “The Second Coming”

                                                   I
I used to feel I could order the world each time I cooked a meal
for guests, especially
from a never-before-tried and lengthy
recipe,
spending all day preparing a meal, say,
             First course: Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Soup,
                           from Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Cookbook,
             Entrée: Oxtails Bourguignon over noodles,
             followed by a light salad of Arugala and Sliced Beets
             with a red-wine garlic vinaigrette,
             A small cheese course — one triple crème, a bañon,
                             a stilton — served with cracker-bread,
             Dessert of chocolate pots au crème in demitasse,
             each accompanied by a side demitasse of whipped cream.
             Espresso. Or Assam tea.
This had me centered so that I could accept
not winning Pulitzers or being
elected to the Academy.

Now food, even its elaborate preparation,
only makes me feel obscure,
without balance. Out of order.
Old/without repute.
There is no poise
when you realize your gyre has been hurled — out, away
from the center, that in fact you can’t even be centered in yourself,
like a good pot on a ceramicist’s wheel.
You are tumbling, not even turning, or being turned.

I, who once thought of falcons and falconers, now
see only the sink-full of dirty dishes,
the crusted stove,
or perhaps an asteroid flung out of its belt as
unassembled particles.
Even cleaning the kitchen,
restoring
the cupboards,
is no longer an act of ordering.

Sometimes, for a moment
             I sense those old possibilities —
             when I find fresh figs in the Midwestern supermarket of
             my small town,
             or passing an Italian bakery in Greenwich Village, I smell
             the newly rising loaves,
             when a goddess friend brings me a jar of her homemade
             peach butter,
             or I see white eggplant in the farmer’s market and whisper
             “aubergine.”

Order, for only a moment. Then gone.

Why did I ever think it lasted longer?

                                                           II
What great beast slouches towards Bethlehem now?
               — William Butler Yeats, from “The Second Coming”

             A childhood Dream of Beasts
has returned to me: my Diamond Dog who leaped
out of the ashes and left coal-bright paw prints leading me away
from my little girl sadness.

Even though once
I envied Yeats, now I know he genuinely felt terror,
whereas I, who have never loved animals,
can surprisingly find companionship
in slouching beasts and monsters — a memory perhaps of the black
Doberman who
kissed me with her teeth.

The Diamond Dog was following my Jason-father,
the sailor/beguiler. I thought all men who left me were trailed
by this dog I dreamed. But now I am
grateful at last to discover
no such easy ordering
is possible,
that Chaos surrounds the Diamond Dog,
a “slouching beast,”
and I know, whether he is leading or following,
             this Diamond Dog I dreamed when I was six
                           is my own twinkling beast:
the coyotes from my Southern California childhood,
the Blue Ice Wolf, a ghost drifting with me,
the Cerberus who guards the Underworld,
Odysseus’ dog Argos, who welcomes the old man back from his
wanderings.