It seems so—
I don’t know. It seems
as if the end of the world
has never happened in here.
No smoke, no
dizzy flaring except
those candles you can light
in the chapel for a quarter.
They last maybe an hour
before burning out.
And in this room
where we wait, I see
them pass, the surgical folk—
nurses, doctors, the guy who hangs up
the blood drop—ready for lunch,
their scrubs still starched into wrinkles,
a cheerful green or pale blue,
and the end of a joke, something
about a man who thought he could be—
what? I lose it
in their brief laughter.
I once hit clothespins
for the Chicago Cubs.
I’d go out after supper
when the wash was in
and collect clothespins
from under four stories
was a strike-out;
the garage roof, Willie Mays,
pounding his mitt
under a pop fly.
Bushes, a double,
off the fence, triple,
and over, home run.
The bleachers roared.
I was all they ever needed for the flag.
New records every game—
once, 10 homers in a row!
But sometimes I’d tag them
so hard they’d explode,
legs flying apart in midair,
pieces spinning crazily
in all directions.
Foul Ball! What else
could I call it?
The bat was real.
It was an ordinary morning: November, thin light,
and we paused over our pancakes to watch
something red move outside. Our house is on
an untamed patch of land and, across the lagoon,
another house surrounded by trees. On the banks
of their shore, facing us: a fox. We thought
he might be a dog at first for he trotted and sniffed
like a dog but when he turned to us
we knew he was nobody’s pet. His face was arranged
like a child’s face — playful, dainty — and his eyes
were liquid and wild. He stood for awhile, looking out,
as if he could see us in our pajamas, then found
a patch of sand beneath a tree and turned himself
into a circle of fur: his head tucked into his tail.
It was awful to watch him sleep: exposed,
tiny, his eyes closed. How can any animal
be safe enough to rest? But while I washed
our dishes he woke again, yawned, and ran
away to the places only foxes know. My God
I was tired of being a person. Even now his tail
gestures to me across the disapproving lagoon.
Endlessly to no end looking through
memory (O conscience that accentuates
a history full of ways to know the
heart) at what not long ago did happen,
you turn back to when your offended
little world was unresolved. Each
thought is longing to become another,
longing to sing, once again and always,
deep into a song of what memory still
might know. You draw air, press these
thoughts to paper and release your daily
self from the lost fragments of the past.
Now: in the conquered vigil of your
days, all distance weeps for you as you
drift out from the journey through
the slow weight of time, and you claim
that you are safe forever in the
very words you have chosen to become.
You wanted to be so hungry, you would break into branches,
and have to choose between the starving month’s
nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-third evenings.
The liturgy begins to echo itself and why does it matter?
If the ground-water is too scarce one can stretch nets
into the air and harvest the fog.
Hunger opens you to illiteracy,
thirst makes clear the starving pattern,
the thick night is so quiet, the spinning spider pauses,
the angel stops whispering for a moment—
The secret night could already be over,
you will have to listen very carefully—
You are never going to know which night’s mouth is sacredly reciting
and which night’s recitation is secretly mere wind—
is so thin—
a skin of ice
over a pond
only birds might
upon. A bird’s
worth of weight
or one bird-weight
Your voice, with clear location of June days,
Called me outside the window. You were there,
Light yet composed, as in the just soft stare
Of uncontested summer all things raise
Plainly their seeming into seamless air.
Then your love looked as simple and entire
As that picked pear you tossed me, and your face
As legible as pearskin’s fleck and trace,
Which promise always wine, by mottled fire
More fatal fleshed than ever human grace.
And your gay gift—Oh when I saw it fall
Into my hands, through all that naïve light,
It seemed as blessed with truth and new delight
As must have been the first great gift of all.