colophon :: dean young

More than the beetles turned russet,
sunset, dragging their shield, more than
the crickets who think it’s evening all afternoon,
it’s the bees I love this time of year.

Sated, maybe drunk, who’ve lapped at the hips
of too many flowers for one summer but
still must go on hunting, one secret
closing, another ensuing, picking

lock after lock, rapping the glass,
getting stuck in a puddle of dish soap,
almost winter, almost dark, reading far past
the last paragraph into the back blank page,

acknowledgments, and history of type.
I think when my head finally cracks
out will come one of those ravening scouts
autumnal with hunger beyond any sipping,

swallowing, beyond the hive’s teeming
factory’s needs. I think maybe then,
when I’m dying like a bug in a puddle
of dish soap, I’ll be relieved,

my wings wet capes and not working,
antennae slicked back and not working,
eye that sees the ruby above going out,
eye that sees the ruby within getting brighter

as I drag myself to a tomato ripening
on the window sill, reddest, softest
island of my last planet, last aureola,
stinger waving and useless. I’ll wait then,

while air from the north rushes gulf air,
a tree indicating wildly, each leaf woke
in orange outcry. It won’t be suffering,
exactly. Rain coming, then gone, a chill

that means all my barbarous kind are alone
and perishing, our unrecognizable young
buried and waiting, bodies of fire becoming
bodies of air. I don’t think there’s any way

to prepare.

bird-shaped cliff :: dean young

Sometimes I think about climbing
a telephone pole but then what?
Telephone poles now have almost nothing
to do with telephones but I liked
how a curly cord went into the receiver
then a sturdier black wire went into the wall
through the wall out to a pole then
miles and miles of wire pole wire pole
sometimes underground underwater to
whomever you needed who’d dry her hands
thinking Gosh now what or Thank heavens
or Oh no then say Hello as a question
or a lie then the intimate negotiations
and sorry confessions and flat jokes
would take word form from excited electrons
moving through the wire and sometimes
a cowboy would suddenly gallop to town
through dust and cactus Yup a storm’s
a-coming to call someone but the fates
always intend so the cowboy must listen
for the rest of his days to the phone
make a funny insect-performing-Beckett
sound until the operator comes on and says,
Sorry but that calling area’s been hit
by the blast and the cowboy thinks,
What blast? What blast? riding off
into the moonlessly blue chaparral.

ash ode :: dean young

When I saw you ahead I ran two blocks
shouting your name then realizing it wasn’t
you but some alarmed pretender, I went on
running, shouting now into the sky,
continuing your fame and luster. Since I’ve
been incinerated, I’ve oft returned to this thought,
that all things loved are pursued and never caught,
even as you slept beside me you were flying off.
At least what’s never had can’t be lost, the sieve
of self stuck with just some larger chunks, jawbone,
wedding ring, a single repeated dream,
a lullaby in every elegy, descriptions
of the sea written in the desert, your broken
umbrella, me claiming I could fix it.

Courtesy of J.J.

he said turn here :: dean young

and then Tony showed us the lake
where he had thrown some of his sadness last summer
and it had dissolved like powder
so he thought maybe the lake could take
some of the radiant, aluminum kind
he had been making lately.
And it did.
It was a perfect lake,
none of the paint had chipped off,
no bolts showing, the arms that Dante
and Virgil would have to hack through
not even breaking the surface.
Mumbling Italian to itself,
it had climbed down two wooden stairs
back to the beach now that the rains were done.
How strange to be water so close to the ocean
yet the only other water you get to talk to
comes from the sky. Maybe this is why
it seems so willing to take on
Tony’s sadness which sometimes corrodes
his friends, which is really
many different sadnesses, smaller
and smaller, surrounded by more
and more space, each a world and
at its core an engine like a bee
inside a lily, like buzzing inside
the bee. It seems like nothing
could change its color although
we couldn’t tell what color it was,
it kept changing. In the summer,
Tony says he comes down early each day
and there’s no one around so the lake
barely says a thing when he dives in
and once when his kitchen was on fire in Maine
and he was asleep, the lake came and bit his hand,
trying to drag him to safety
and some nights in New Mexico,
he can hear it howling,
searching for him in the desert
so we’re glad Tony has this lake
and we promise to come back in August
and swim with him across,
maybe even race.

peach farm :: dean young

I’m thinking it’s time to go back
to the peach farm or rather
the peach farm seems to be wanting me back
even though the work of picking, sorting,
the sticky perils and sudden swarms are done.
Okay, full disclosure, I’ve never
been on a peach farm, just glimpsed
from a car squat trees I assumed
were peach and knew a couple in school
who went off one summer, so they said,
to work on a peach farm. She was pregnant,
he didn’t have much intention, canvases
of crushed lightbulbs and screws in paste.
He’d gotten fired from the lunch counter
for putting too much meat
on the sandwiches of his friends
then ended up in Macy’s in New York
selling caviar and she went home
I think to Scranton, two more versions
of never hearing from someone again.
I’d like to say the most important fruits
are within but that’s the very sort of bullshit
one goes to the peach farm to avoid,
not just flight from quadratic equations,
waiting for the plumber,
finding out your insurance won’t pay.
Everyone wants out of the spider’s stomach.
Everyone wants to be part of some harvest
and stop coughing to death and cursing
at nothing and waking up nowhere near
an orchard. Look at these baskets,
bashed about, nearly ruined with good employ.
Often, after you’ve spent a day on a ladder,
you dream of angels, the one with the trumpet
and free subscriptions to the New Yorker
or the archer, the oink angel, angel
of ten dollar bills found in the dryer
or the one who welcomes you in work gloves
and says if you’re caught eating a single peach,
even windfall, you’ll be executed.
Then laughs. It’s okay, kiddo,
long as you’re here, you’re one of us.

elegy on toy piano :: dean young

For Kenneth Koch

You don’t need a pony
to connect you to the unseeable
or an airplane to connect you to the sky.

Necessary it is to love to live
and there are many manuals
but in all important ways
one is on one’s own.

You need not cut off your hand.
No need to eat a bouquet.
Your head becomes a peach pit.
Your tongue a honeycomb.

Necessary it is to live to love,
to charge into the burning tower
then charge back out
and necessary it is to die.
Even for the trees, even for the pony
connecting you to what can’t be grasped.

The injured gazelle falls behind the
herd. One last wild enjambment.

Because of the sores in his mouth,
the great poet struggles with a dumpling.
His work has enlarged the world
but the world is about to stop including him.
He is the tower the world runs out of.

When something becomes ash,
there’s nothing you can do to turn it back.
About this, even diamonds do not lie.

son of fog :: dean young

When the fog burns off and the air’s pulverized
diamonds and you can see beyond the islands
of forever!—far too dramatic for me. It hurts
something behind my eyes near the sphenoid,
not good. I prefer fog with fog behind it,
uninflammable fog. Then there’s no competition
for brightness, no Byron for your Shelley,
no Juno eclisping your Athena, no big bridge
statement about bringing unity to landmasses.
All the thought balloons are blank. The marching
band can’t practice, even a bird’s got to get
within five feet before it can start an argument.
Like dead flies on the sill of an abandoned
nursery, we too are seeds in the rattle
of mortality. A foglike baby god
picks it up, shakes it, laughs insanely
then goes back to playing with her feet.
I have felt awful cold and lonely and fog
has been blotting paper to my tears.
My dog is fog and I don’t have to scoop
its poop with my hand in a plastic bag.
There are sensations that begin in the world,
the mind responding with ideas but then
those ideas cause other sensations.
What a mess. We stand at the edge
of a drop that doesn’t answer back,
fog our only friend although it’s hell
on shrimpboats. There, there, says the fog.
Where, where? You can’t see a thing.