Monthly Archives: June 2018

Cardinal

Red stroke by the window.
A cardinal is here.
Occasional visitor
who’s been around
in short bursts
for most of the day.

Under the feeders, also
present from first light,
a mourning dove.
Can’t recall the last time
one came and stayed
like this, although
we hear them often 
from overhead.

The cardinal holds court
from the shepherd’s crook
that holds the suet cage.
The dove holds the humble ground
below.

Red stroke by the window again.

The cardinal is gone — stayed long enough 
for cardinal purposes, although
gone too fast, left too soon for us;

the mourning dove remains — 
cooing, soothing,
peace in its voice

along with tears
and a promise of return.


Scenes From Videos

A thin man takes off a diamond-paved mask.
Another releases a white horse in an empty palace.

A man slumps against a lit, street-level window.
He goes on to levitate above a roof ledge, then settles back to safety.

Ah — there’s a woman in this one, behind the wheel of a muscle car.
A painting of the same woman, blindfolded and bound, is resting on an easel.

You see the oddest, fanciest people at an Old West wedding.
You see them again at a funeral on the day after the wedding.

A downcast man sits on a roof ledge with another downcast man.
A woman strokes another man’s hair; someone here might be an angel.

Those shoes, that hair, that coat, that long walk in a desert without dust.
That hatchet, that payphone, that Jeep, that briefcase paved in diamonds, full of water balloons.

And now more Jeeps, more muscle cars, more deserts and angelic nights and grand clothes.
There is an obvious way to end the endless but I’m afraid of what world I’ll find if I turn this off. 


Nothing Pretty

I really don’t have
anything pretty
to say. This
is a problem.

I’m supposed to drag
the good words out
almost on demand, 
certainly at my own command.

I don’t put much stock
in the idea of a Muse.
I don’t channel
anything, am no conduit.

Still, right now
the moments that get me in gear
to pull a stunner out
are just not happening.

I will not blame
anything or anyone for this.
I will not blame the President
or dark weather.

Instead, I will melt down
the rough lead I’ve been pouring
into molds for bullets and sinkers
and make from it instead

a dull gray god. An idol
for a religion of beauty
I used to follow, but cannot
put current faith in. 

Once cast I will set it up
and pray to it. I’ll ask it
to make my hand strong
and show me how to forge ahead.

I will wrestle up a vision
unlike past visions. It will not
be beautiful, but it will be 
true. I do not care what Emily said:

they are not always the same
but it’s possible
that they know each other
and that they talk;

I hope they do and when they do,
I hope they discover
that they both know
my name.


Green And Gold And Good And Spring

Originally posted 4-17-2018.  Revised.

It’s a good
spring day here —

good birds, good buds,
good sight of people on foot,
lightly dressed and smiling
as they see the good golden sun.

Hard to believe 
that it’s also spring in places
where the songs
come from ambulances,
the people 
are heavily dressed in blood,
and the sun is somewhere behind
the smoke from a bomb. 

My sky negates what their air whispers:

this could happen
anywhere
and everywhere 
soon.

My response?
I go outside 
and plant a seed.

 


For The Sound

Originally posted 4/25/17.  Revised.
 
You think of this work I do
(when you think of it at all)
as the opening 
of petals, or of veins,

no matter how many times
I tell you otherwise,
no matter that you know
how many years I’ve been at it.

If it were the opening of petals, 
I’d have long ago turned to fruit,
fallen to the ground, 
rooted as seed, regrown.

If it were the opening of veins?
How red would your hands be
every time you touched
one of my poems? Would you feel guilt

waiting to read
the next one?
Would you wash
your hands first?

This isn’t as easy
as simply blooming or bleeding.
It is indeed an opening
but one more like cracking a safe

or picking a lock
and then pulling 
a door
until it swings wide. 
Inside, maybe,
will be flowers, maybe 
buckets of brimful red.

You can have those.
I live for the cracking, the picking;
for the sound — my God, for the sound —
of those moving doors.

 

Colonial Works Of Art

1.
In the first chapter
bad decisions set
all the rest of the disasters
that run from there to the end
into motion.

The characters are born flawed
and devolve from there
into petty monsters who harass 
and slay others both like
and unlike them.

They call it the righteous path
and the great experiment. 

There is no second chapter.

2.
The songbook
is full of theft
and hubris.

Now and then
someone breaks through with
generosity and we notice,

then steal from that and
brag about it.  Authenticity
makes a good mask

if you
are planning
to rob someone.

3.
The painters
and sculptors 
know how to glorify.

The architects
know how to use
paintings and sculptures.

There is a museum
on every bloody corner
full of shell casings

in frames captioned:
this is what we made
along our way to the top.

4.
Did they dance
before they got here?
If they did, they’ve
forgotten how.

Some of them
are quick learners,
more or less. Usually
less. Usually 
they don’t
dance much;

too busy acquiring
dance floors, bandstands;
buying up whole towns
full of us 
dancing.

5.
In terms of fashion?

We’re left
with no pockets
to pick.


Fluent In Disturbance

No need to speak softly.
I’m fluent in disturbance.
I witness your rough prayer.
I shall raise you up.

No need to offer yourself
alone. No need to backpedal
or hesitate. I’m opening
my war cage. Releasing

my deepest bombs long held within.
Too old to hang on to them
for a better moment. This is 
that time. There is no time but this.

Those conversant in all the languages
of strife and how to struggle must listen
to each other now, and speak as they must;
no silence from any corner.

Make the silencers afraid.
Drown them out and hold them down,
face down, mouths full of ash.
They are fearsome, I know.

But I will hold you up and away.
I will cry them down into their filth. 
I will join hands

with others in war song. 

We will be no longer soft.
No longer silent.
No more of what
they count on us to be.


Worcester

Stanley Kunitz, one time
Poet Laureate of the United States,

born and bred in Worcester, MA,
once said this city provoked him to poetry.

I met him only once
and then only for a moment,

would never say I think
we might have gotten along, yet

I will lay odds that on this point
we would have agreed

and from there something like respect and
affable conversation 

might have developed, as I am
easily irked to poetry in the Parkway diner here

over strong coffee, provoked
into meter by watching the rhythm

of a short-order cook working hash
and eggs into perfect harmony, lured to verse

on Harding Street, that paved over secret canal;
irritated 
into forms by the voices of those

who live here and work here
whether they want the town to be

itself or some other town, whether they
love its worn, durable face

or want to cover it by spending
Boston level money on a Boston mask.

Not too far from my house is the home
where Stanley Kunitz grew up, in a city

called Worcester that had
an honest if rough face. I know that face

well. It’s my face, it’s the face
of my next door neighbor from Ghana,

the face of Angel on the third floor
whose mother is staying with him till they rebuild

her storm wrecked home in Puerto Rico,
the face of the old Polish man

across the street who talks to no one, the faces
of all the street people and all the rich ones too.

Worcester’s face is not a face you’d forget,
or want to forget.  Even if it’s covered

one day by a fraud,
a shroud of silk and gold,

it will not die. It will do what Worcester does.
It will say what it means

even if only with its eyes —
pleading, quoting Stanley:

touch me,
remind me who I am.


Tree Mystery

There are fresh footprints in the pasture
disappearing under this new burst of snow.
Two people walked out there
to stand by two trees, apparently not long ago.
They may have stood there, may have
walked around the trunks — two
looking at two as if drawn together by
the power of pairs — and then they apparently
walked back here to the fence and back out
to the road where they parked, probably
where my car is parked now. That’s all
I can say from looking at this.

Ten minutes more and the prints will be buried
and no one will know
any of this happened. We already don’t know
why it happened.
I could walk out there myself and ask
those two dark sentinels
what happened but I do not think
they would tell,
and then I would walk back puzzled
and go on my way
and another set of prints would disappear
in that pasture where the trees
stand as they have for years,
not telling anyone what they know.


Broken, Healing

Daylight arriving:
too much of a thing,

neither bad nor good,
that inserts its presence

without asking.
Dusk and dark:

blankets only, 
fixes for nothing.

Day or night
the air smells like fear, like

blue lights
in my rear view.

I am broken,
I’ve been told.

I’ve been told
I’m in the process

of healing. Terrifying words,
broken, healing; broken

for how I’ve been
and how I am seen;

healing for its reminder that
I have not only not

been repaired fully,
but that I may never be.

What I do daily, nightly,
is pretend the healing is working.

I sit in the scent of fear
and bathe myself.

I call it a treatment.
I treat myself to 

immersion in what you call
healing, which for me is

a rough massage
of broken parts

that is alleged to make me
better, but really 

just moves fractures
into hiding under my skin.

The hurt never changes
and I can’t escape the smell.

I am more broken than
healing. This is my life.

I live it and have lived it
but I will not pretend

to have liked 
much of it.