plane :: howard nemerov

Image projected at infinity,
The winged shadow with the self within,
Caught in the sky-completed rainbow’s eye
And haloed in the gunsight of the sun,
Cruises beneath its substance, one on one.

the vacuum :: howard nemerov

The house is so quiet now
The vacuum cleaner sulks in the corner closet,
Its bag limp as a stopped lung, its mouth
Grinning into the floor, maybe at my
Slovenly life, my dog-dead youth.

I’ve lived this way long enough,
But when my old woman died her soul
Went into that vacuum cleaner, and I can’t bear
To see the bag swell like a belly, eating the dust
And the woolen mice, and begin to howl

Because there is old filth everywhere
She used to crawl, in the corner and under the stair.
I know now how life is cheap as dirt,
And still the hungry, angry heart
Hangs on and howls, biting at air.

storm windows :: howard nemerov

People are putting up storm windows now,
Or were, this morning, until the heavy rain
Drove them indoors. So, coming home at noon,
I saw storm windows lying on the ground,
Frame-full of rain; through the water and glass
I saw the crushed grass, how it seemed to stream
Away in lines like seaweed on the tide
Or blades of wheat leaning under the wind.
The ripple and splash of rain on the blurred glass
Seemed that it briefly said, as I walked by,
Something I should have liked to say to you,
Something … the dry grass bent under the pane
Brimful of bouncing water … something of
A swaying clarity which blindly echoes
This lonely afternoon of memories
And missed desires, while the wintry rain
(Unspeakable, the distance in the mind!)
Runs on the standing windows and away.

a sprig of dill :: howard nemerov

Small, fragrant, green, a stalk splits at the top
And rays out a hemisphere of twenty stems
That split in their turn and ray out twenty more
In hemispheres of twenty yellow stars
Targeted white, sprays mothered of spray
Displaying their tripled oneness all at once,
Radiant and delicate and loosely exact
As the cosmos in The Comedy, or as
The Copernican system on an orrery,
The quiet flowerworks of the mind of God
In an Age of Reason—that’s in here. Out there,
The formless furnaces in Andromeda,
Hydra, The Veil, Orion’s nightmare head.

writing :: howard nemerov

The cursive crawl, the squared-off characters
these by themselves delight, even without
a meaning, in a foreign language, in
Chinese, for instance, or when skaters curve
all day across the lake, scoring their white
records in ice. Being intelligible,
these winding ways with their audacities
and delicate hesitations, they become
miraculous, so intimately, out there
at the pen’s point or brush’s tip, do world
and spirit wed. The small bones of the wrist
balance against great skeletons of stars
exactly; the blind bat surveys his way
by echo alone. Still, the point of style
is character. The universe induces
a different tremor in every hand, from the
check-forger’s to that of the Emperor
Hui Tsung, who called his own calligraphy
the ‘Slender Gold.’ A nervous man
writes nervously of a nervous world, and so on.

Miraculous. It is as though the world
were a great writing. Having said so much,
let us allow there is more to the world
than writing: continental faults are not
bare convoluted fissures in the brain.
Not only must the skaters soon go home;
also the hard inscription of their skates
is scored across the open water, which long
remembers nothing, neither wind nor wake.

pockets :: howard nemerov

Are generally over or around
Erogenous zones, they seem to dive
In the direction of those

Dark places, and indeed
It is their nature to be dark
Themselves, keeping a kind

Of thieves’ kitchen for the things
Sequestered from the world
For long or little while,

The keys, the handkerchiefs,
The sad and vagrant little coins
That are really only passing through.

For all they locate close to lust,
No pocket ever sees another;
There is in fact a certain sadness

To pockets, going in their lonesome ways
And snuffling up their sifting storms
Of dust, tobacco bits and lint.

A pocket with a hole in it
Drops out; from shame, is that, or pride?
What is a pocket but a hole?

to his piano :: howard nemerov

Old friend, patient of error as of accuracy,
Ready to think the fingerings of thought,
You but a scant year older than I am
With my expectant mother expecting maybe
An infant prodigy among her stars
But getting only little me instead–

To see you standing there for six decades
Containing chopsticks, Fur Elise, and
The Art of Fugue in your burnished rosewood box,
As well as all those years of silence and
The stumbling beginnings the children made,
Who would believe the twenty tons of stress
Your gilded frame’s kept stretched out all this while?