Don’t feel small. We all have
been demoted. Go on being
moon or rock or orb, buoyant
and distant, smallest craft ball
at Vanevenhoven’s Hardware
spray-painted purple or day-glow
orange for a child’s elliptical vision
of fish line, cardboard and foam.
No spacecraft has touched you,
no flesh met the luster of your
heavenly body. Little cold one, blow
your horn. No matter what you are
planet, and something other than
planet, ancient but not “classical,”
the controversy over what to call you
light-hours from your ears. On Earth
we tend to nurture the diminutive,
root for the diminished. None
of your neighbors knows your name.
Nothing has changed. If Charon’s
not your moon, who cares? She
remains unmoved, your companion.
Oh, but it is dirty!
—this little filling station,
to a disturbing, over-all
Be careful with that match!
Father wears a dirty,
oil-soaked monkey suit
that cuts him under the arms,
and several quick and saucy
and greasy sons assist him
(it’s a family filling station),
all quite thoroughly dirty.
Do they live in the station?
It has a cement porch
behind the pumps, and on it
a set of crushed and grease-
on the wicker sofa
a dirty dog, quite comfy.
Some comic books provide
the only note of color—
of certain color. They lie
upon a big dim doily
draping a taboret
(part of the set), beside
a big hirsute begonia.
Why the extraneous plant?
Why the taboret?
Why, oh why, the doily?
(Embroidered in daisy stitch
with marguerites, I think,
and heavy with gray crochet.)
Somebody embroidered the doily.
Somebody waters the plant,
or oils it, maybe. Somebody
arranges the rows of cans
so that they softly say:
to high-strung automobiles.
Somebody loves us all.
We are a sad people, without hats.
The history of our nation is tragically benign.
We like to watch the rabbits screwing in the graveyard.
We are fond of the little bunny with the bent ear
who stands alone in the moonlight
reading what little text there is on the graves.
He looks quite desirable like that.
He looks like the center of the universe.
Look how his mouth moves mouthing the words
while the others are busy making more of him.
Soon the more will ask of him to write their love
letters and he will oblige, using the language
of our ancestors, those poor clouds in the ground,
beloved by us who have been standing here for hours,
a proud people after all.
Deer do not tremble, I know this.
My bone and sinew twisted into fallow
slenderness and the tibia twig thin.
Four rods finished with a cloven
hoof planted on rotting leaf mould:
gloomy weight of the gold altar.
The poet’s words are wind-blown apples.
Plucked lute strings vibrate to silence
as I watch Caesar with my velvet eyes,
long ears poised to absorb
the rush of animal clamour that is hushed
in the shells of human skulls.
Despite the blood threat of power
my doe body would not spring away —
no flick of spotted fur into shadow.
I sing this morning: Hello, hello.
I proclaim the bright day of the soul.
The sun is a good fellow,
the devil is a good guy, no deaths today I know.
I live because I live. I do not die because I cannot die.
In Tuscan sunlight Masaccio
painted his belief that St. Peter’s shadow
cured a cripple, gave him back his sight.
I’ve come through eighty-five summers. I walk in sunlight.
In my garden, death questions every root, flowers reply.
I know the dark night of the soul
does not need God’s eye,
as a beggar does not need a hand or a bowl.
Whenever my mother got dressed, or undressed,
she would turn her back to me,
arms fumbling behind her to catch the hook,
the loud spank of her nylon straps,
midriff bulge branded in by the ghost of spandex.
When they first removed her breast,
she tried to fill the empty cup with cotton the way
my junior high school friends stuffed falsies
to appear more stacked,
but it didn’t work–she felt–unnatural–
and so they did the reconstruction
by sawing off her other breast.
I never saw them, new or old,
or planted with the silicone jellyfish.
For thirty years, she kept them covered,
even when the nurses lifted her up onto the potty,
or bathed her shingled skin,
but in the darkness of her bedroom,
lit by a nightlight,
I saw her shimmy into
her blue, daffodil nightgown,
quiet as an egg shell,
and then she spun, frank, reborn,
in her wrinkling, baby flesh to meet me
directly with her eyes,
no less than a vision of heaven or hell
taking its secret fire from the stars
too awful, or too beautiful, to be seen.
She could tell he loved her. He wanted her there
sitting in the front pew when he preached.
He liked to watch her putting up her hair
and ate whatever she cooked and never broached
the subject of the years before they met.
He was thoughtful always. He let her say
whether or not they did anything in bed
and tried to learn the games she tried to play.
She could tell how deep his feeling ran.
He liked to say her name and bought her stuff
for no good reason. He was a gentle man.
How few there are she knew well enough.
He sometimes reached to flick away a speck
of something on her clothes and didn’t drum
his fingers on the table when she spoke.
What would he do if he knew she had a dream
sometimes, slipping out of her nightgown—
if ever God forbid he really knew her—
to slip once out of the house and across town
and find someone to talk dirty to her.