Is it starting to rain?
Did the check bounce?
Are we out of coffee?
Is this going to hurt?
Could you lose your job?
Did the glass break?
Was the baggage misrouted?
Will this go on my record?
Are you missing much money?
Was anyone injured?
Is the traffic heavy?
Do I have to remove my clothes?
Will it leave a scar?
Must you go?
Will this be in the papers?
Is my time up already?
Are we seeing the understudy?
Will it affect my eyesight?
Did all the books burn?
Are you still smoking?
Is the bone broken?
Will I have to put him to sleep?
Was the car totaled?
Am I responsible for these charges?
Are you contagious?
Will we have to wait long?
Is the runway icy?
Was the gun loaded?
Could this cause side effects?
Do you know who betrayed you?
Is the wound infected?
Are we lost?
Will it get any worse?
(June 30, France)
I set the cookbook on fire
by holding it close to the
I began the reading lamp fire
by holding it close
I lit the romance by
close to the cookbook
Soil is for planting in,
The donor is the third person
in the triangle.
Sty and style are not related;
neither are braid and bread
except in the bakery window
where they twist into temptation.
But some words like river and rival
surprisingly are, and more obviously,
void and avoid.
II. Multiple Choice
The woman on the bus has a ______ around her head.
a. braid b. style c. void
The man who sells his sperm to pay for art school is a ______.
a. river b. donor c. rival
Their child was taught to ______ the oven.
a. rival b. soil c. avoid
She still liked to put her hands in the ______.
a. bread b. dirt c. river
The pigs, meanwhile, seem content in their ______.
a. style b. sty c. void
III. Conversationally Speaking
The river enriches the soil for planting.
The river is the donor of riches. The sty, however,
is full of dirt (the pigs might see this differently —
planting their feet, their snouts). The pig
is the ultimate donor of pork, which is to say
it has no rival. We avoid thinking of it this way.
We avoid the (thought of the) sty; hence the separation
from lunchmeat. We like better the smell
of bread (daily, given, whole) done up in the style
of a braid, pure product of the soil.
It is wise to avoid the void, which is nothing really
like the river, the sty, or the emptied bakery
window (its closest rival). Instead
we could relax by the river, picnic on meat
and bread, or just bread–pigtails are kin
to braids–since eating pork’s gone out of style.
The catalogue of forms is endless:
until every shape has found its city,
new cities will continue to be born.
Was it impossible to love the city
in which it happened?
City of unfinished structure,
city of developing forms.
Where the red crane against the blue sky
guided the calculated geometry of steel
through the delineating space.
The church sent blessings
and a parcel of its adjacent heaven.
The community assembled
a collective will of iron.
The courage to build slowly
in the determined Roman way—
to knock off at sundown,
return the next day and the next,
thermos of coffee snapped under
the metal dome of a lunch kit.
Already the neighbors’ eyes
climbed like elevators,
passing the three floors of infancy,
ten of childhood, how many
teenaged stories . . .
Out of the great blasted hole—
which had shaken their bearing walls,
which had drilled them from sleep—
it reached, square upon square,
where all that could happen would happen,
faithful to the blueprint.
Ceilings, floors, membranes of the common walls.
Even feelings seemed less abstract
once the concrete was poured.
Rooms where they lost, pined, brooded,
listened to wonderful music,
wrote letters, washed,
concocted recipes of deficiency
or excess, shifted photos
of the living with the dead.
When had they moved in?
To what lease had they signed their assent?
Now, making out envelopes, they didn’t
hesitate, writing the return address
as though it had always existed.
What began with desire, the girder,
the rising silhouette at twilight—
shape of things to come.