Older and older
I should be less surprised
But still a little shocked
At seeing a dark bush
On a blonde-haired
Older and older
I should be less surprised
But still a little shocked
At seeing a dark bush
On a blonde-haired
My tongue leapt out of my mouth
when I lied to her and hopped away
to the stream below the house.
Mute then, I started to write the truth.
My tongue turned wild in the stream,
for which I was glad and unashamed.
I listen now from my porch to the complex things
it says in the distance about my heart.
How hard it is to tell the truth inside my mouth.
How much it needs to sing in the dark.
Repartidor de carbón
Como encontrar una barra de aluminio atravesada en la mandíbula de un buey. Como descubrir una breve cabeza de obsidiana en un arcón. Como mirar por una cerradura y ver un amanecer no merecido. Tan imposible como todo esto, tan melancólico y solitario a la vez, era ver aquel camión verde que con la puntualidad de un sacramento repartía cada mes el carbón. En la cuesta su esforzado corazón se anunciaba vociferante, moribundo, y se detenía al frente de la casa como si entregara agónico la noticia de la caída de la ciudad de Troya. Después un hombre, envuelto en costales, arrojaba su carga resonante y angulosa en un baúl pintado de naranja.
Como abrir una biblia y encontrar tres hojas de laurel. Como levantar una piedra y recordar un nombre. Como reconocer al mismo caracol a cien kilómetros de distancia. Tan imposible como todo esto, tan melancólico y solitario a la vez, resulta encontrar quince años más tarde al mismo repartidor del carbón realizando su oficio, doblado por el esfuerzo, empeñado en demostrarle al cielo que un hombre ha hecho ese trabajo durante toda su vida, que escarbó entre las minas, que le robó el hilo a su mujer para coser sus costales, que soñó con excavaciones infinitas, con túneles, y que lo perdonen por no haber hecho nada más que eso.
Botella papel (1998)
Like finding a bar of aluminum wedged in a bull’s jaw. Like discovering in a sea chest a short obsidian head. Like looking through a padlock and seeing an undeserved dawn. As impossible as all these, as melancholy and lonely, was it to see the green truck that with the punctuality of a sacrament delivered the coal each month. On the slope its strained heart would announce itself vociferously, at the brink of death, and it would stop in front of the house as if to deliver the agonizing news of the fall of Troy. And then a man, wrapped in sacking, would pitch his cargo, resonant and angular, into an orange-painted crate.
Like opening a Bible and finding three leaves of laurel. Like lifting a stone and remembering someone’s name. Like finding the same snail again a hundred miles away. As impossible as all these, as melancholy and lonely, would it be to find, fifteen years later, the same coal deliveryman carrying on his trade, bent from the strain, determined to show the heavens that a man might do that job his entire life, that he scraped in the mines, that he stole thread from his wife to sew his sacking, that he dreamed of infinite excavations, of tunnels, and that they might forgive him for not having done more than that.
Translated from the Spanish by Craig Arnold
Poetry (April 2009)
Which reminds me of another knock-on-wood
memory. I was cycling with a male friend,
through a small midwestern town. We came to a 4-way
stop and stopped, chatting. As we started again,
a rusty old pick-up truck, ignoring the stop sign,
hurricaned past scant inches from our front wheels.
My partner called, “Hey, that was a 4-way stop!”
The truck driver, stringy blond hair a long fringe
under his brand-name beer cap, looked back and yelled,
“You fucking niggers!”
And sped off.
My friend and I looked at each other and shook our heads.
We remounted our bikes and headed out of town.
We were pedaling through a clear blue afternoon
between two fields of almost-ripened wheat
bordered by cornflowers and Queen Anne’s lace
when we heard an unmuffled motor, a honk-honking.
We stopped, closed ranks, made fists.
It was the same truck. It pulled over.
A tall, very much in shape young white guy slid out:
greasy jeans, homemade finger tattoos, probably
a Marine Corps boot-camp footlockerful
of martial arts techniques.
“What did you say back there!” he shouted.
My friend said, “I said it was a 4-way stop.
You went through it.”
“And what did I say?” the white guy asked.
“You said: ‘You fucking niggers.’”
The afternoon froze.
“Well,” said the white guy,
shoving his hands into his pockets
and pushing dirt around with the pointed toe of his boot,
“I just want to say I’m sorry.”
He climbed back into his truck
and drove away.
Egg-white house, old
ache in the rafters,
small as a button but
yearning for zero:
a sparrow parts the chimney
and veers for my face.
I wanted my nevers
again, my immaculate
touch-down to the durable
granite of love too
heavy to move: this
reared from the original
fairy tale’s page—
I don’t like it. I offered
no signature, my nature
altered, and I’m over
my hurricane. Rocking
room to room, this bird
threatens my gravity,
threaded through like a pearl
from the evening’s stem.
Didn’t I break all
of my compass, my wingspan
spun from my awkwardness?
This bird returns
to the shell with monstrous
wings, wings clumsy as shovels
in a fist of dirt. It’s covered
with ashes, sloughing off
in my hair, brown
tumor bulged upside
down on the floor
to meet the applause:
this blessing’s too
unwieldy. But open
one door, one terrible
goodbye, hello—the sparrow
flings like a shout for the trees.
Essentially, for some time, in an effort
to determine whether I loved you or not,
I’ve been praying to you, even though
the inside of the tabernacle, as I thought,
is empty: oxygen, carbon dioxide,
brass, nickel, and a sheet, a sheet
of gilded plywood. (And in the rectory,
the housekeeper is cooking pasta, stamped
in the shape of shells, all of a uniform size
and color.) In an effort to determine,
in an effort to determine whether I loved you,
whether I loved you or not,
I learned old lovers are christs or bodhisattvas.
Slowly at first, and then with greater skill,
in an effort to determine whether I loved you,
I loved you or not,
I’ve been praying without knowing it,
in the daylight, in the white afternoon,
and singing, and singing with records,
my head tilted up into the black walnut,
the windows alive with listening ravens
to whom I sing about your boxy feet
with rind of callus at the heel,
(as elsewhere noted), your smiting eyes,
your nose pugged slightly, like Socrates,
your dark skin, your dark.
Your voice like a woodwind, a basset clarinet;
the wind you went out on, the wind you came in on,
your hair the color of a violin,
the unambiguous quality of many of your pronouncements,
i.e., the time you said I was tortured by life,
your eyes boring through me, right
for the wrong reasons, again.
The time in New Orleans you were so angry,
I was so drunk, lurching in the curio shops full of shells.
A shell grows around itself, folding over
the first pattern, calcified into a whorled shape, not dissimilar
to the whorl on the top of our two heads,
the pattern of gorgeous irreplaceable error,
and for a while the only assurance we belonged,
we belonged to the same species.
And the joy was piercing, this piercing joy
came up in me, a whirring train, night,
on the way home, somewhere before Memphis.
The singing in my ears. A hurricane,
a hurricane outside to my right was photographed from a satellite
even as a criminal was being printed,
his thumb whorl down, twisted clockwise,
and the trees out in the dark strained,
growing, forming knots, their flesh burled in the timedrift.
I’ve wondered: does the twisting hurt them,
and did all your turnings and hidings wound you
as they did me, and did you notice my imprint,
my concealment in that fold of air beside you,
when into your boxy feet and brown hands
nails, nails were driven,
when you got into that car and went west,
when you sat under that tree almost forever?
I want to write a love poem for the girls I kissed in seventh grade,
a song for what we did on the floor in the basement
of somebody’s parents’ house, a hymn for what we didn’t say but thought:
That feels good or I like that, when we learned how to open each other’s mouths
how to move our tongues to make somebody moan. We called it practicing, and
one was the boy, and we paired off—maybe six or eight girls—and turned out
the lights and kissed and kissed until we were stoned on kisses, and lifted our
nightgowns or let the straps drop, and, Now you be the boy:
concrete floor, sleeping bag or couch, playroom, game room, train room, laundry.
Linda’s basement was like a boat with booths and portholes
instead of windows. Gloria’s father had a bar downstairs with stools that spun,
plush carpeting. We kissed each other’s throats.
We sucked each other’s breasts, and we left marks, and never spoke of it upstairs
outdoors, in daylight, not once. We did it, and it was
practicing, and slept, sprawled so our legs still locked or crossed, a hand still lost
in someone’s hair . . . and we grew up and hardly mentioned who
the first kiss really was—a girl like us, still sticky with moisturizer we’d
shared in the bathroom. I want to write a song
for that thick silence in the dark, and the first pure thrill of unreluctant desire,
just before we’d made ourselves stop.
Classically stagy, goose-neck
elegant, river’s third eye.
Pencil thin head. S
for a throat. Skeleton of a saint.
Plodder, preening posturer.
Up from the dank weeds.
The Phoenicians guarded a recipe that required
ten thousand murex shells to make
an ounce of Tyrian purple.
Scan the surface of Aldebaran with a radio wave;
grind lapis lazuli
Search the summer sky for an Anasazi turkey constellation;
see algae under an electron microscope
resemble a Magellanic Cloud.
A chemist tried to convert benzene into quinine,
but blundered into a violet
aniline dye instead.
Have you ever seen maggots feed on a dead rat?
Listen to a red-tailed hawk glide
over the hushed spruce and
pines in a canyon. Feel a drop of water roll
down a pine needle, and glisten,
hanging, at the tip.
How did I get so old,
my 67th birthday.
I’m 76 in fact.
There are places
where at 60 they start
they start again
But the numbers
It’s the physics
of acceleration I mind,
the way time speeds up
as if it hasn’t guessed
I see my mother
and father bearing a cake,
waiting for me
at the starting line.
Now you hear what the house has to say.
Pipes clanking, water running in the dark,
the mortgaged walls shifting in discomfort,
and voices mounting in an endless drone
of small complaints like the sounds of a family
that year by year you’ve learned how to ignore.
But now you must listen to the things you own,
all that you’ve worked for these past years,
the murmur of property, of things in disrepair,
the moving parts about to come undone,
and twisting in the sheets remember all
the faces you could not bring yourself to love.
How many voices have escaped you until now,
the venting furnace, the floorboards underfoot,
the steady accusations of the clock
numbering the minutes no one will mark.
The terrible clarity this moment brings,
the useless insight, the unbroken dark.
When people say they miss me,
I think how much I miss me too,
Me, the old me, the great me,
Lover of three women in one day,
Modest me, the best me, friend
To waiters and bartenders, hearty
Laugher and name rememberer,
Proud me, handsome and hirsute
In soccer shoes and shorts
On the ball fields behind MIT,
Strong me in a weightbelt at the gym,
Mutual sweat dripper in and out
Of the sauna, furtive observer
Of the coeducated and scantily clad,
Speedy me, cyclist of rivers,
Goose and peregrine falcon
Counter, all season venturer,
Chatterer-up of corner cops,
Groundskeepers, mothers with strollers,
Outwitter of panhandlers and bill
Collectors, avoider of levies, excises,
Me in a taxi in the rain,
Pressing my luck all the way home.
That’s me at the dice table, baby,
Betting come, little Joe, and yo,
Blowing the coals, laying thunder,
My foot on top a fifty dollar chip
Some drunk spilled on the floor,
Dishonest me, evener of scores,
Eager accepter of the extra change,
Hotel towel pilferer, coffee spoon
Lifter, fervent retailer of others’
Humor, blackhearted gossiper,
Poisoner at the well, dweller
In unsavory detail, delighted sayer
Of the vulgar, off course belier
Of the true me, empiric builder
Newly haircutted, stickerer-up
For pals, jam unpriser, medic
To the self-inflicted, attorney
To the self-indicted, petty accountant
And keeper of the double books,
Great divider of the universe
And all its forms of existence
Into its relationship to me,
Fellow trembler to the future,
Thin air gawker, apprehender
Of the frameless door.
Parc Georges-Brassens, Paris
Most afternoons, I’d run laps through Parc Brassens
where grows the second smallest vineyard
I have ever seen, and where those silver,
pruned-back stalks looked blunt,
strung-out on wires, and mostly dead
all winter. That was how I saw them.
That’s all I expected. Even in the cold,
I’d see a guy my age there, once a week,
playing his guitar. He’d sit next to the bench
where I’d be stretching. He rarely spoke—
just to ask if I’d like a song—
until the week before I left for good.
I was sitting at the top of a hill
about a hundred feet away from where
if you stand tiptoe you can see the Eiffel Tower.
He sat too close to me. We spoke of many things.
Then he suggested we go at it right there,
on the ground, under the sun. This is how
one lives who knows that she will die:
rolling in the arms of anyone when she can—
rolling in the arms of a musician—aware
that no one cares much what we do
in little knolls behind reedy forsythia,
in the middle of a Tuesday, in the middle
of living. And I would know now
how he felt, and the ground against me,
and whether he was rough or sweet.
And what is possible would widen every hour.
Oh, but me, I thought I was immortal.
Poetry (March 2009)
After she died
there was talk of war
the stock market crashed
the cat didn’t eat for three days
her youngest came home from school in tears
her husband grew a beard.
I do not lie when I tell you these things
nor do I tell the whole story.
I do not say that her funeral day dawned bright
or that all the sunflowers in the city
were gathered at her wake.
I do not mention the ruffled bride
also in white, waiting discreetly outside
the door of the chapel.
I do not tell how, at the gravesite
smiling children blew
soap bubbles over her casket
and how they were not buried with her
but were borne up and away,
carried gently on a light wind.
for my daughter
Here, I leave you. There are tins of water
enough to keep you for a little while,
dried meat and biscuits by the pantry door.
Usually, the mice stay pretty quiet.
The view’s not bad. Those are my favorite hills,
covered with pines. On a clear April day
you can see small paths among the boulders,
maybe an eagle if you’re looking hard.
Try to remember that the telephone
is only for emergencies—may they be few.
Keep the doorsill swept. You can never tell
who will come riding up from the valley.
These are my books, a motley varied lot,
some too much read, some not much read at all.
If you want, replace them with your own,
or use the shelves for toys and flower vases.
You’re going to be on your own—sometimes
for months on end. I’ve found it helps
to whistle frequently or make out lists
of foods you love and states you’ve traveled in.
The pump is just outside. The clothesline holds
two weeks of laundry if you’re planning things.
Fasten garbage lids on tight. Little devils
come from the woods to forage every night.
I hope you like the sound of mountain streams,
by my count three. But I suspect a fourth
is somewhere out there. Every spring
I think I hear it flowing through the dark.
You might listen for it, too. But now
I’ve said enough, it’s yours. And don’t forget
I’ve left you butter in the blue and silver dish
and stubs and stalks of candles you may light.
On the beach at night alone,
As the old mother sways her to and fro, singing her husky song,
As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef of the universes, and of the future.
A vast similitude interlocks all,
All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets
All distances of place however wide,
All distances of time, all inanimate forms,
All souls, all living bodies, though they be ever so different, or in different worlds,
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes,
All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,
All identities that have existed, or may exist, on this globe, or any globe,
All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann’d,
And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them.
A green light that comes
when you never saw it coming, never
heard it, felt it, but you knew it
like the woman in the sandlot
behind Abram’s Grill
who’s just lost her lenses,
on her hands and knees, her
hair cut short but seems as if
it’s flowing, and the rush
on her throat like a rise
from birth, the music in the car
as the engine goes silent
while you fold down a seat
for the stashed beam lantern
with it’s yellow plastic grip, six
movement in the trees
beyond lake Michigan. It’s
a wave like that
when the wind gets lost
and the mail-boat from Racine, three
hours late, cracks into a tanker,
where the crew, like you, has
waited on the decks, in the hold
for two months out, to send
a message home–or to get a
certain scent, for just one instant,
of weeds, in the dirt, the both
of you groping.
And then, at the green inn, there
it was, the magic chamber—in goes
one thing, out comes another—where what we
make is made into fertilizer,
the hopper an enamel tank where the liquids
are separated from the solids, where the enzymes
and vinegar, in the forest-green
interior, do their unpaid
labor, and what can be used again
sinks down to where it can be harvested,
near-odorless. We do not think
our shit smells good, but we do not think
the earth should be turned into a great cesspool
to accommodate our desire to part from our
offal as fast as possible.
In this drying cabinet, shit happens,
and then, over time, it alters its nature,
its little busy toxins die,
it turns to arable waste—waste
no longer, waste not want not. As in
a blood bank, but dirtier,
soilier, the effluvium of the offspring
of the earth mingles: fertilizer of
New Hampshire, Kenya, New York, Boston—
Yankees shit, Red Sox shit,
in excremental harmony;
vegan shit, kosher shit,
slow food, fast, vegetarian,
fruititarian, even the sorrowful
wisps of anorexic shit,
and Calvinist shit, and Kabbala shit,
Halliburton employee shit,
Orthodox shit, Puritan shit,
lesbian shit, nympho virgin
poet chick shit. Seas and rivers
love the composting toilet, lakes and
streams sparkle its praises, and the small
creatures of the pond and creek
keen for it—dark green machine
like a porcelain throne, though its royal flush
is inside it. Come sit on it, come be
its queen or king.
hear the audio
Where are you going I said
and she said I’m going
to look for a book
and I said what kind
of book? A book on
she said and I said
make sure you get
the right one—
which brought forth
such perfect laughter
from her perfect heart.
translated by clare cavanagh
I watched the arctic landscape from above
and thought of nothing, lovely nothing.
I observed white canopies of clouds, vast
expanses where no wolf tracks could be found.
I thought about you and about the emptiness
that can promise one thing only: plenitude—
and that a certain sort of snowy wasteland
bursts from a surfeit of happiness.
As we drew closer to our landing,
the vulnerable earth emerged among the clouds,
comic gardens forgotten by their owners,
pale grass plagued by winter and the wind.
I put my book down and for an instant felt
a perfect balance between waking and dreams.
But when the plane touched concrete, then
assiduously circled the airport’s labryinth,
I once again knew nothing. The darkness
of daily wanderings resumed, the day’s sweet darkness,
the darkness of the voice that counts and measures,
remembers and forgets.
Look at you, sitting there being good.
After two years you’re still dying for a cigarette.
And not drinking on weekdays, who thought that one up?
Don’t you want to run to the corner right now
for a fifth of vodka and have it with cranberry juice
and a nice lemon slice, wouldn’t the backyard
that you’re so sick of staring out into
look better then, the tidy yard your landlord tends
day and night — the fence with its fresh coat of paint,
the ash-free barbeque, the patio swept clean of small twigs—
don’t you want to mess it all up, to roll around
like a dog in his flowerbeds? Aren’t you a dog anyway,
always groveling for love and begging to be petted?
You ought to get into the garbage and lick the insides
of the can, the greasy wrappers, the picked-over bones,
you ought to drive your snout into the coffee grounds.
Ah, coffee! Why not gulp some down with four cigarettes
and then blast naked into the streets, and leap on the first
beautiful man you find? The words ruin me, haven’t they
been jailed in your throat for forty years, isn’t it time
you set them loose in slutty dresses and torn fishnets
to totter around in five-inch heels and slutty mascara?
Sure it’s time. You’ve rolled over long enough.
Forty, forty-one. At the end of all this
there’s one lousy biscuit, and it tastes like dirt.
So get going. Listen: they’re howling for you now:
up and down the block your neighbors’ dogs
burst into frenzied barking and won’t shut up.
courtesy writer’s almanac
Something in the field is
working away. Root-noise.
of weak chlorophyll, no
name for it. Something
in the field has mastered
distance by living too close
to fences. Yellow fruit, has it
pit or seeds? Stalk of wither. Grass-
noise fighting weed-noise. Dirt
and chant. Something in the
field. Coreopsis. I did not mean
to say that. Yellow petal, has it
wither-gift? Has it gorgeous
rash? Leaf-loss and worried
sprout, its bursting art. Some-
thing in the. Field fallowed and
cicada. I did not mean to
say. Has it roar and bloom?
Has it road and follow? A thistle
prick, fraught burrs, such
easy attachment. Stem-
and stamen-noise. Can I lime-
flower? Can I chamomile?
Something in the field cannot.
With the seal of science
on your forehead,
like the old Good Housekeeping
Seal of Approval,
I believe what you tell me
about cells and molecules,
though I can’t see them.
And though the language you speak
is full of numbers and symbols
I’ll never understand;
though your tie is askew
and your hair unruly, still I believe
what you say about the size of the universe,
which is either expanding or contracting,
I’ve forgotten which already.
So if tomorrow you tell me
you made a small miscalculation,
that God indeed created the world
in 6 short days, then rested on the 7th,
that it was Eve who landed us
in all this trouble, I would believe you.
I would believe you
as I’ve always done before.
For a long time the Spanish from Spain
Who came here became slightly insane
In a special way and just a little.
You can try this yourself.
Walk farther than you can into the forest in New York
So it’s a toss-up whether or not you know the way back.
For you there’s going to be a smidge of confusion, a glow of fear
That smells like burning rye toast,
And the illusion that you are the only person alive
On the earth. You will probably have the second illusion
That no one likes you, which doesn’t jibe with the first illusion
Of no other people. This was about the extent of it, for the Spanish,
They felt all that just a few hours a week, but every week at home,
Living in, say, small San Francisco,
Which made thinking slow and hard at these times,
But if you try this yourself in the deep woods
You’ll see you can still think enough
And you’ll remember your way back to the loving arms
Of your wife, husband, or mother, in Rochester. (Yes,
You could try it as a child, but please don’t.)
The Spanish had a purpose to walk east inland to the Sierras, the gold.
The Indians said there were five hills and two mountains
Entirely of gold and you had to wear ferns dangling before your eyes
Like sunglasses when you got near the mountains.
The hills, they said, were not so bright.
The Spanish thought this was bullshit
But were having trouble with the coast (where
They truly believed the gold was) which was that boats
Could not travel north and south even as fast as people walking
Because the Pacific coast was opposing currents (you made
Half a mile an hour in the water with biggest sail).
An expedition of thirty Spaniards from Spain (living
In small San Francisco) walked east inland toward what’s now Mariposa.
It means butterfly. In that place, the shivering feathery
Insects rose from the ground and blacked out the sun.
The sky had no room for more butterflies so the leftovers attached to the trees,
Making the trees appear like ragged trees.
Look up the other way, the explorers said to each other, but
That way, when they did, was no blue sky but darkness of orange insects
That did not fly in clouds but were the sky,
So any forward motion by the thirty men seemed, not seemed
Did make the sky covered each inch
With the thin trembling insects, brown or green or orange,
But as a whole a black ceiling with little light between them and the men,
Who thought slow and hard but did think, and so returned
To small San Francisco where no one believed them but understood
The illusion because when they asked the thirty men
What such an encounter with butterflies felt like, the men described
Feeling the way all the colonists and explorers and priests and women
Felt a few hours each week at home—
Fear making the olfactory illusion of burning rye toast hand
In hand with the illusion of being the only one
And the simultaneous but contradictory illusion
That no one likes you. How could everybody hate you
If there was no everybody? Or even anybody.
Well there was a way to fix this
And we use it now around here (I
Mean in New York and California and Nevada and Hawaii,
Not just in my house) which is to wrap our loving arms
Around each other. It works very well
And I know you’ve tried it.
The Spanish from Spain brought virtuous women
Over for that purpose only (you don’t think the virtuous babes looked
For gold, did you?) and it worked very well
Except the women were worse, I mean much worse,
Not just specially a little insane and needed
The loving arms much more than the men.
They needed longer sessions and more sessions.
What’s more, if the expedition of thirty butterfly
Illusionists had gone six miles further,
They would have seen silver sticking out of the ground
Like glass after a four-car accident on a street in Rochester.
But for many decades the promise of the waiting loving arms,
Versus the unacceptable illusion of the butterflies
Forming the entire black sky, kept them near the coasts.
When you put down this book, you could decide
For yourself if it is true that wrapping loving arms around
Somebody is as temporarily powerful as I’ve made it
Out to be or is possibly permanently powerful or is an illusion
Like the massed feathery insects which were absolute.
Poetry (February 2009)
I wrote a good omelet…and ate
a hot poem… after loving you
Buttoned my car…and drove my
coat home…in the rain…
after loving you
I goed on red…and stopped on
green…floating somewhere in between…
being here and being there…
after loving you
I rolled my bed…turned down
confused but…I don’t care…
Laid out my teeth…and gargled my
gown…then I stood
…and laid me down…
after loving you
No one witnesses
the history of light.
The sky litters itself
with dust and I’m unsettled
by the steadfast burn
The night sky reaches
I am sleepless
waiting for each star
into its corner, flower
I do not believe
to flower, then dim.
I’m practicing my
No one will know I’m coming.
No one will know when I’m gone.
Tonight, nothing is long enough—
Were there a fire,
it would burn now.
Were there a heaven,
I would have gone long ago.
I think that light
is the final image.
But time reoccurs,
love—and an echo.
A time passes
love in the dark.
hear the audio
One day the bees start wandering off, no one knows why.
First one doesn’t come back, and then another and another,
until those who are supposed to stay and guard the hive, those
who are making the royal jelly and feeding it to the queen,
those who form different parts of the great brain, must
put down what it is they are doing and go off in search—
having no choice, not if the hive is going to survive,
and where do they go, each one vanishing, never to be seen
again, off wandering in the wilderness, having forgotten
how, forgotten what it was they were after, what it was
that gave meaning, having known it at one time, now
a veil drawn. Is it that each one is a cell, a brain cell,
and now they’re failing one by one, plaque to Alzheimer’s,
or the way the cells in the esophagus will begin to mimic
the stomach if the acid is too intense, if you’re sleeping
and the valve won’t close, a lifetime of eating and drinking
the wrong things, those cells compensating, trying
their best, but opening the door to those other cells,
the wild ones, the ones that call those bees, out there,
somewhere, lost, having nowhere to return at night,
their search for nectar fruitful, their small saddlebags full,
but no one to go home to, no home, no memory of home,
it’s as if they’d stumbled into some alternate world,
one looking like ours but just a glass width different,
just a fraction of sunlight different, the patient waking up,
finding herself wandering, someone leading her back
to bed, but there is no bed. Confusion of the hive,
they call it, and the hive dies, each bee goes down,
each light goes out, one by one, blinking out all over town,
seen from a great height as the night ages, darkens,
as you’re parked in your car with your own true love,
until it’s just you two and the stars, until it’s just you.
Poetry (February 2009)
I climbed up the door and
I opened the stairs.
I said my pajamas
and buttoned my prayers.
I turned off the covers
and pulled up the light.
I’m all scrambled up since
she kissed me last night.
of what happened is not in language—
of this much I am certain.
Six degrees south, six east—
and you have it: the bird
with the blue feathers, the brown bird—
same white breasts, same scaly
ankles. The waves between us—
house light and transform motion
into the harboring of sounds in language.—
Where there is newsprint
the fact of desire is turned from again—
and again. Just the sense
that what remains might well be held up—
later, as an ending.
Twice I have walked through this life—
once for nothing, once
for facts: fairy-shrimp in the vernal pool—
on the failing vines. Count me—
among the animals, their small
Count me among
the living. My greatest desire—
to exist in a physical world.