Trust that there is a tiger, muscular
Tasmanian, and sly, which has never been
seen and never will be seen by any human
eye. Trust that thirty thousand sword-
fish will never near a ship, that far
from cameras or cars elephant herds live
long elephant lives. Believe that bees
by the billions find unidentified flowers
on unmapped marshes and mountains. Safe
in caves of contentment, bears sleep.
Through vast canyons, horses run while slowly
snakes stretch beyond their skins in the sun.
I must trust all this to be true, though
the few birds at my feeder watch the window
with small flutters of fear, so like my own.
The large man in the Budweiser tee
with serpents twining on his arms
has leukemia. It doesn’t seem right
but they’ve told him he won’t die for years
if he sticks with the treatment.
He’s talking about his years in the foundry,
running a crane on an overhead track in the mill.
Eight hours a day moving ingots into rollers.
Sometimes without a break
because of the bother of getting down.
Never had an accident.
Never hurt anyone. He had that much control.
His problem is that electricity
arced through his body and accumulated.
When he got down at the end of a shift
he could squeeze a forty-watt light bulb
between thumb and finger and make it flare.
All the guys came around to see that.
for William Carlos Williams
I have just
asked you to
get out of my
The grasses in the field have toppled,
and in places it seems that a large, now
absent, animal must have passed the night.
The hay will right itself if the day
turns dry. I miss you steadily, painfully.
None of your blustering entrances
or exits, doors swinging wildly
on their hinges, or your huge unconscious
sighs when you read something sad,
like Henry Adam’s letters from Japan,
where he traveled after Clover died.
Everything blooming bows down in the rain:
white irises, red peonies; and the poppies
with their black and secret centers
lie shattered on the lawn.
Quick, before you die,
the exact shade
of this hotel carpet.
What is the meaning
of the irregular, yellow
gathered in patches
on this bedspread?
If you love me,
I have caused
to represent me
in my absence.
Over and over
of houses spill
down that hillside.
might be possible
to count occurrences.
One of the things I’ve repeated to writing
students is that they should write when they don’t
feel like writing, just sit down and start,
and when it doesn’t go very well, to press on then,
to get to that one thing you’d otherwise
never find. What I forgot to mention was
that this is just a writing technique, that
you could also be out mowing the lawn, where,
if you bring your mind to it, you’ll also eventually
come to something unexpected (“The robin he
hunts and pecks”), or watching the “Farm News”
on which a large man is referring to the “Greater
Massachusetts area.” It’s alright, students, not
to write. Do whatever you want. As long as you find
that unexpected something, or even if you don’t.
The wind orchestrates
its theme of loneliness
and the rain
has too much glitter in it, yes.
They are like words, the wrong ones,
insisting I listen to sense.
But I too am obstinate.
I have white walls,
white curtained windows.
What need have I
of the night’s jet-black,
What I am after
the way music plumbs
as straight words do
the air between them.
I begin to learn
the simple thing
to an impulse at once lovely
and given to love
that will not be refused.