Hamilton Stone Review #27
Roger Mitchell, Poetry Editor
Peterson & Grappelli
Harp seals squibble from the clock
& float like violin dust shaken loose
from a gown worn by an irritable monk
with gum disease & balls the size of China.
Cheetah spots, adolescent & sandy,
hang from the cedar lattice.
Poppies poke satin switchblades
into a garden of finches.
I stare down the trail of childhood
until my eyes blur in the alley behind
Curry Funeral Home where I threw
gravel at crows and stray dogs,
sang the latest song my sister taught
me, and tried to imitate my father’s
shower tenor. My eyes clear and I
spy the dead cat in the privet hedge,
its stomach alive with maggots.
I investigate with
a stick, poke and prod until I can see
its infested organs riddled with motion,
its own little universe of death, alive with
other living, busy before the frost comes
to claim it.
Grasp this trail
for a time, pity the boy lost to all but
memory, the old house empty, no one
home—you’re too late to visit. But
wait—when you pulled your socks
on this morning there was a scar
where a boy almost chopped his toe
off with his brother’s scout axe.
darkness leads the path away from
the kitchen table and a half glass
of cabernet to the mirror a night
window makes. In it a man in his
early sixties has his dead mother’s
his beard turning white, the lines
in his smile shadowed, haunted
with the boy’s old face, still poking
the universe with a stick.
The Dalai Lama on the Treadmill
He has been old for a very long time now.
The lenses of his glasses fogged with exertion
Sit askew on his weathered happy face.
His mindful breaths come and go, come and go,
As he takes in stride the inclined conveyor. He maintains
A steady, determined pace, just as a linebacker
Would, jogging onto the field, after the coach
Has given him the play, holding him by the shoulders,
Staring him in the eyes and letting him know
That the other team must not score.
The rubber tread slips away beneath his bare feet
Rebounding under each step like a muffled trampoline.
He is going nowhere. Not fast, not standing still exactly,
In the same way that the earth doesn’t seem to move,
Yet courses around the sun at approximately 107,000 kilometers per hour.
I put the magazine, which has a picture of the Dalai Lama on a treadmill, down,
Step outside, cross the damp pavers tinged with algae,
Cross the unruly pitch of grass that feeds
Into the ravine at the property line
And sit in my favorite unpainted chair, the one beneath
The silver maple. Alone. Not alone. The wind high overhead
Stirs the awestruck trees. The cloudless sky, a northern blue
As shallow as a membrane, seems to stall, as if the spinning world has stopped.
The breeze drops. This moment is sacred too.
The real is real enough. This momentary reflection, which
Reanimates every shimmering shaking detail of the day, creates
A magnificent invitation-- intricate, haphazard, transitory, eternal, one
Which does not advance a theory, does not retreat, but allows
Me to be a part of it, to feel the wind, to hear the sound,
To see it bend the tops of the trees.
The Coleman Lantern inside my tent,
(Which I know you’re not supposed to do,)
Gives me light enough to read my book,
But not enough to banish the darkness completely.
My tent is one of many at this site:
One of many tents and self-extinguishing fires
Scattered around the campground
Above which stars swim like silver fish, like Latin sounds.
I am alone beneath the narrow fitting flaps,
Which makes no sense to me at all,
Because I’m married and have a daughter
And wouldn’t go camping without them;
Yet here I am and reading "The Art of Love"
By Publius Ovidius Naso,
A paperback translation of the poem
With the Latin on the facing page.
I am reading the English text-- although
Once I could have read the Latin too.
Now, however, the couplets are like shadowy fish
In a stream. I can’t grab them. They shimmy away,
Then loiter just out of reach. What I know,
Or once knew, or perhaps only thought I knew,
Is just like that, like someone whispering in a dream:
Cera vadum temptet, rasis infusa tabellis.
I Dreamed of My House in Ice
The night I turned the corner
and in sickly blue streetlight,
saw my house encased in clear,
thick ice. Only the recessed
front door was free of it. As I
came near, it swung slowly open
as though by itself. At first
I saw no one there, then,
from a dark fog within, my father
appeared. He stood, expressionless,
and did not speak or look at me. Slowly,
ceremoniously, he raised, and then
unfolded the whole length
of his arm, as the blade
of a knife unfolds from its handle,
swung it, as though he were
a chamberlain ushering
an ambassador into a royal
inner sanctum. He pointed to a place,
deep and far, where, I knew,
my mother lay dead, though
she would die elsewhere,
and not for years.
look at the world
change in one breath.
The March winds blow
everything gone. My
husband leaves in a swath
of joy and snow; our son,
out in the backyard garden,
cuts off his boy beard.
A mirror on the windowsill
reflects his beautiful new
face, blow of boy beard
in the wind. Spirituality
is all wild imagination:
bells, poems, flowers,
the boy’s sheddings in the wind,
my husband’s hands in my sleep,
silver buckets of cherry blossoms
I leave on the porch to light
him back, our daughter
carrying off his pillow
of last dreams. The lake
discovers new breath-
taking blues. Venus
and Jupiter bright
in the west night sky.
Apres Nous Le Deluge
Very few alive now remember
when teenage angels were curled up
under the covers masturbating
or the forest was cardboard cutout trees.
The world in those days resembled a maze.
Its name wasn’t actually Hotel Kafka.
We just called it that, the top floors occupied,
& the lower forty-eight on fire.
The God of Carnage rode around
in a shopping cart & waved his stump on TV,
while a woman, living quietly,
picked ashes from her hair.
The Arts of Cells
The road that knows the way it was built to go,
the unclear suffrage of sentient beings,
the urgent aesthetic lulls and breaking pitch,
the cradled genetic hemispheres cross-pollinating,
the museum of stone and unraveling,
what would know in between,
the spores carried by winds over the beluga ocean,
the onion-peeling Stonehenge of sensorium,
drive of defenders of seraphim,
the onset of obscure psychological fibrillation,
the flux of governing and realisms,
the windows that open into melting glacier,
the red tape of newborn steadiness,
the chests of Buddhists that rise and fall with breath,
the high and low confirmation depending,
the seahorse carried in the sacred pouch of the father,
the revolutions of the unfallen,
peaking burn of art,
concert trumpet that fills lips with blood,
Western hemlock sprawls of Pacific rain,
muskellunge fluid time,
the multiple possible hours,
the severe intelligence in deep pools,
the goose-V independence,
the labors of non-stop clock,
the Stellar’s jay that springs down by the kitchen,
the leaf-green aphids milked by ants,
loyalty swigging from the same jug,
the long note saddening without vibrato,
the abdominal lulls of conundrum,
afternoon steaming from the drive,
rock that shook through shoulders,
what would know what would know,
what in the world is going on everywhere anything is,
the living art of concurrent cells,
wheel-making that takes orders from the future,
the road glowing from small temples of apples,
the person who never loves with only one flower,
person who sways over time,
who drives a truck at the crossroads,
person whose selves add up to one,
whose brain holds more than he sees,
whose blossoming squash says when the time’s right,
the shafts of dust that doctor the shut spaces,
the roar raking through particles of doubt,
lightning grains rooted in fuels with risks,
person with coins in a purse,
person in scent of baking bread,
person who works from the root,
who stands where the next place is being
made by the sun no one will own.
There go the frogs again. I’m walking to the car after working late, mulling over my own business, this week the argument concerning intrinsic worth of each species, when the frogs aren’t stopping. The pedals of their rigs are close to the floor, and they’re pushing harder, lowering the pedal tone, trying to reach into the bark of trees.
I don’t know what they think they’re doing, the frogs that have stopped what I was thinking. The word self-organization occurs for the cells, but I’m out, unable to stay far from their pulse, unable to stop picturing them in their mud and unchecked ditches, so sure of their purposes they’re croaking, singing up into this atmosphere of the moon a little more than half undone, moon that’s all waves washing up through lit nuclear steams off the ponds.
The frogs go on, as I’m off, done with horns of the dilemma, finished listening to whole other worlds packed into a room, when they can’t stop talking, the frogs at work, tightening and untightening bolts that hold down the waters. They’re busy at it, socket wrenches recoiling, their throats sound, pouring out more glasses of mud and gas, their eyes camouflaged glassy irradiant coal.
I know they’re hiding, which is good. I wouldn’t want to run into them by myself, an army pack of reference manuals and wooden fish crate of yellow newspapers from days each week of my parents’ European war making me a little wobbly, an instinctual duck, sitting in crosshairs of their fire power and unification plan that goes on outside my grasp.
Whatever they’re selling, I’m saying, “Sure, I need a few bottles.”
Or “Croaked-down then rehashed wings of gnats you can’t find, not when you need them?—I’ll have a bag,” where business as usual escapes. And silent night triggers more urgency. It’s not that they’re asking what fish still stand still in the current, but they’re telling me what to do: “Pity the poor mouse of the field. Pity the baby wren.”
They’re out, raising their pulse in the air, making it sound, frogs readjusting ambient mists for their beautiful Amphibia, who in turn keeps their breath ringing, their muds orbiting before the abstract brine of stars, as this is a night to be living.
I would like a do-over. I have tried again to read
the brilliant poems of _____ _____,
but aside from a lot of shitting and some
teasing glimpses of breasts
I can make no sense of them.
Anyway the house keeps getting colder,
I gave up my heater for the common good
and now even with my hood up and
a blanket on my legs I’m almost shivering.
It’s quiet in this room but upstairs
you can hear the waves pounding in,
explaining that mistakes have been made,
that certain sums must be collected,
that you don’t want the big guy
to hear about this.
My pulse barely registers.
I wait for a thought, a memory, a flicker.
Why do confident people make me go
all shifty and opaque at once?
Who can think with his head covered, anyway?
I would like to believe that throwing
the right things away is the secret
of success, but I don’t remember
hiding even a needle.
The algal blooms are visible from space.
The oven has been on since Thursday night.
The siren howls but nobody pays any attention.
The battery is at 41%.
I am currently connected to an unidentified network.
New updates are ready to install.
Our ability to perceive images as grotesque may be the emblem of
original sin, marking our once and future intimacy with the divine.
Geoffrey Harpham, On the Grotesque
The rabbit lady’s house is white. She keeps the heat at sixty.
The rabbits don’t mind, nestled in their tawny fur.
She cradles one, as you hold a child to be admired by a stranger.
She has no child, only a bastard ex who pissed away both their wages
and then the plant closed down.
The rabbits are better company anyway, and easier to house train.
Erhard Schön made Martin Luther’s nose a pipe played by the devil.
In the old engraving Satan rides the rebel preacher like a monkey,
blowing heresies into his ear.
Luther seems bewildered but not frightened, still alert and almost calm,
ready to scrawl his next screed against peasants and Anabaptists.
Straining for sublimity in bed, we ape the beasts.
Which of the seven deadly sins is the most grotesque?
I might be a serial killer, Misha admits, to nervous chuckles.
Bram Stoker spent four years composing his first spellbound letter to Walt Whitman.
There was that lot of him, and all so juicy.
Does animal cruelty always lead to worse?
Who does not love and fear the shock of broken borders, the monstrous hybrid?
The revelation of the tender skin laid open, the shocking, pragmatic organs.
The terrible knitting of human and beast, the paralysis of gaze and tongue.
I had lunch once with the director of the Institute for Bodily Transformation.
She was writing proposals, assigning reviews to the postdocs and grad students.
The book is all here, she told me, pointing to her right ear.
I muttered something about Kafka and Borges, and she said her funding
had been generous.
The rabbit lady rubs a docile buck under the chin, asks her customer
Do you want them for pets or meat?
I hate explanations. My own are generally full of rationalizing,
Guilt, and evasion. No, I love explanations, especially my own.
No. So many words. I can’t believe they keep coming to me.
Soon my quota will be gone and I will just wave, point, and grunt.
No. I love every word, so lucid, so plump, so worthy.
Redolent as the manure spreader kicking in to spread sheer bullshit.
The world is a grand heap of extravagant and odorous claims.
What can we do but offer even more extravagant bullshit?
Think of the writers we love best, Whitman, Blake, that poser Emerson,
His handyman Thoreau—every one a grand, proud bullshitter.
Maybe not Dickinson. Mary Oliver? Is it just the men?
But think of Wuthering Heights: every page, transcendent bullshit.
And Keats. The saddest, loveliest bullshit. “I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.” The cold hill side. Explaining. No birds sing.
My Daddy is not a Beekeeper
With apologies to Sylvia Plath
u do not do, u do not do
Like a father bee.
Keeper in a black box.
Deeper, deeper, without ado.
Airless, breathless, inside this white shroud.
Aching like an old, poor shoe.
Daddy, u have killed me.
Many times before,
I have died.
ur artful hands caressing
Skin of ur own flesh.
And with my freakish head askew,
I cower and pray
Where the Atlantic pours
High-gloss avocado green.
In strange tongues, in flat towns
Sick, sick, sick,
But there is nothing common about ur kind.
My insane friend
The touch of ur rotten roots, ur athlete’s foot,
Ich, ich ,ich, ich.
A dozen years or a century or two
Can never undo.
Stuck in ur barbarous lair,
Ew, ew, ew, ew
I can hardly speak.
And that brute of a German in u,
ur obscene sexual snare.
The whip, the whip.
Chug, chug, chug, chug.
From Auschwitz, Dachau, Belsen.
They stalk like u.
I think they may well be u.
Neither the ice packed snow nor the Bloody Mary
Can numb the truth.
With my tarot card and my amulet
And my Prozac pack and my Prozac pack,
I may have become a bit of a wandering shrew.
With ur evil eye neat as a pin
ur boo always scares true.
A bomber in the bright blue night
Bogeyman, Bogeyman- U!
ur Fascist Nazi God
In the black brute sky.
The heartless boot
And makes women cry.
The blackboard chills.
ur claws scrape.
The clefts in ur heels make u kosher
But instead the devil u ate
And bit, bit, bit.
u rip my soul
Off the bone, to
And suck me
And model me after u.
Leave me lying in glue
With nothing able to do.
And rack my brain all through.
Let me rot at the root
Like a worm
And I knew, I knew, I knew
That to kill me is to kill u.
The Hitler who was u.
Who choked Jew blood in WWII.
Six years it took
For him to achoo.
But u Daddy, u
Many more years u will rue.
I lie down now,
Stake a claim in the dirt,
Let my flesh heart finally beat through.
With apologies to Miller Williams
Womenfolk and Menfolk
please be seated.
We are about to start
a tour of this war strewn land.
Stand to attention and nobody will get hurt.
A mark for the conductor, bitte
who has come back from his grave
to pay his respect.
He didn’t know.
Look to the left.
There are the ghosts of those
whom were sent in that direction.
There you see a girl
with a broken face.
This is a gas can.
On the left you see a hag
with bones for legs
sitting on a casket
crocheting a shroud.
On the right is a flag with skull & bones.
Also on the left is a flag with skull & bones.
In the Wehrmacht Bank
you can see the head teller
rubbing his hands with glee.
On the bank vault the sign reads
Poison: Keep Out
Achtung. Keep you hands inside.
We still need to dust for fingerprints.
There are still many missing.
On the right is the Roman Catholic Church
They are silent
(we do not understand why)
I direct your attention back of the attic window
You see a mother and child and a huddle of people inside
She is smothering it with a pillow
There are no words in the room
On the right is man with a Colt Mustang
He is fixing it at a boy with knickers
whose hands are up
It is a famous shot
(you can find it on page 380 in your history books)
Many have claimed to be this boy
None have ever been confirmed.
On the left is the Roman Catholic Church
They are still silent
Notice the boy again
he has crapped in his pants.
He is whispering something in Aramaic.
On the right you see the Enemies of the People
They are holding hands:
a Gypsy grandmother
a Polish soldier
a Russian general
a Jewish businessman
a deformed child
a True priest
a boy with side locks
a girl with candlesticks
with twine for braids
a mother with bread for hands
Can you see what they are doing now?
They are taking off their clothes one after the other
Far to the right the
is doing its business.
Behind the brick building the janitor stokes
the furnace. It is turning red hot.
A woman moans.
There walking backward down the field
is my ghost.
And straight ahead are my
sitting on the tracks
His name is Judenrein
Her name is also Judenrein
They are holding hands
They have no fingers
You must look quickly. They will soon
go up in smoke.
Why is it that my sympathies lie all
With him—not with Ulysses? One would think
(Wouldn’t one?) that the man of guile and gall—
A hero out of time time out of mind—
Would always claim our praise. Hear my heart sink
At that, though, since the lummox is my kind,
The oaf my kith, the ox my kin. He bore
The brunt that hectored lugs have always borne,
But won Achilles’ shield, all fair in war
And square in love. How well his speech has worn
These forty years: what Tennyson has done,
Or Joyce? They do not count. Go chase the sun,
Odysseus; I will sing that man whose shame
Was only that he could not play your game.
My Wessex midwife, Mrs. Tenney—she
Who guided me through ninth-grade Casterbridge—
Should be here now. If only she could see
The calm cool clammy corner into which
I find myself painted. This is the worn-
Thin slate of one whom we in tandem read,
And now I tread on. Pardon (both) one born
To be here; all of us stand on the dead.
So like some still unholy palmer, now
I look down at the tramped-on sepulchre.
Such traffic! Can he bear yet one more bow
As I prepare to honor him—and her—
Wondering was his heart cut out for this?
I kneel, and yield the slab one stony kiss.
I had to laugh when someone from the crowd,
Hearing my Calvus explicate the case
Against Vatinius with so much grace,
Marveling, threw up his hands and yelled out loud,
“My god, that midget puts words in their place!”
To My Brother On The Day He Goes To The Hospital And Doesn't Return
Maybe–the rain made us slow and careless,
the bloated streets so full of water, it's hard to steer
your eyes into what is real. Is this how it rained
for our ancestors, nights becoming starless, cloaking
danger in its toothless mouth? I roused you from bed and you
were all grumbles–a grizzly bear. But, even bears have enemies.
Man is capable of such cruelty. White pioneers once killed every
last grizzly in these mountains–and now we kill our own.
There must be something extinct in those men, how they hunt
with metal teeth and hearts. On bullet night I wished for power–
like the old ones, to protect ourselves in animal form, for our arms
to grow wings or our skin to be covered in thick fur. But even your bearish
body is delicate to bullet. I see you against concrete, against porch,
your name becomes a scream–tunneled deep within. A name I will know,
when I have no more language. I see you clearly now, your center, the hand
I clung to, while the other reached–into the night, becoming a living fossil.
Always After Fire
there’s nothing left to take
warped pots limp blades without handles
decent books no photographs
We cannot tell the children
We cannot tell them anything
Must not split them into kindling
armloads stacked at the ready
Make them wait like trimmed wicks
when they resort to shadow anyway
play with matches
sensing how parents and tender
adults would burn down the world
to get to the next one
where there’s even a circle for suicides
around a smoldering cellar hole
singing “Do not lead me into the valley”
they were sure the children just came from
the muggy punitive womb
And so children want most to be
out nights scuffing in ashes
so low to the ground
bright green grass snake
garter crossed with yellow bands
any of which makes Carbon
spring high and back on instinct
(dogs are color-blind) but drop down
ready to move on into daily marking
gathering information that matters
through his nose
No matter of trust
Carbon merely startles
at that shape like a vine
ribbon of bark or leash
undulating on its own
down a hole or under a rock
Not much at all to Carbon
who will slide a paper napkin off your lap
and swallow on a scent of sauce
before you can say NO
he will come through the door all wet
and lie down on the braided rug
without another look at who is sitting
with bottle or belt or gun on the sofa
or at the granddaughter in the lap
of her favorite old man oblivious
as you are who are not really listening
passing your eye down this rhythm
loving dogs like Carbon
who does not come when called
In shadow waning into mossy dusk
that stump beneath a spruce
could be my mother, or just
a doe rising primly
printing leaves as she steps away
through shreds of light
surprised from her bed by my sweat,
my breath, her ears turned my way
as if she knew me well
mistaking me for friend
the son she always wanted
out of her body, out of her woods
her boy with rifle and knife
come to take flesh from gloom.
She rises vesper hours to clear the fence,
get out of the Old Country,
memories of shelling, soldiers, the fierce
stifling thick of it in a vermin day
into the wide pasture
wide to sharpened stars,
the fresh dark.
She hungers for what’s left
of Spring’s trace, green, thin blades,
as I get up from the boney ground,
passing her in fading haze.
A long hike pulls me through spruce and birch and time
by a limestone anticline cliffed where the logging road still ends,
leaves another mile of forest to the shore of a shady tarn
set like a black mortar in the inevitable syncline, too cold
to swim in summer, sunlight too small a brass pestle.
Very few have fished there. A mystery how brook trout
got there to thrive on the spring and ice fed oxygen they need
being salmonids, or how I got there once and forever to breathe in
the death-cold solace of obsidian water
a gelid fog in my lungs on hot streets and lots, a tarn
resting in my chest, calm and thoughtless, imagining nothing.
I can do that anytime, sense no magic, or beauty, or peace,
danger or anything else but bottomless self, no place to die
or live but leave alone,
fish just once in a lifetime, releasing the heart’s raft, the black
brookies with the bright red spots and orange fins, watching them
slither down beyond sight without gratitude or remembering
a grave presence of mind.
The Crowing Season
Like a nectarine in the mouth the days came full and fleshy
and the stringy pulp caught on the pit as we bit down.
The lake flat, dark as a penny in the sun was before us
and the listless fields lay open as rose hips to our left.
We kept to them both.
But the bitten day stayed hard at our heel as we tumbled
into night—so it goes there was no cease fire for us in living.
Hustled to a run by ripened lock and root and groin—
but I wouldn’t have taken it any slower (run being far better than walk)—
though fruit gathered haphazardly and spilt from our pockets mid-jaunt.
That quiet time at dusk in late summer—
when even the kids know to be quiet without anyone saying it—it’s something we
sense because no one can say it—
that quiet when the sky whitens at its edges
then turns dark; and when the trees too heed that call into darkness—
it’s just before the night closes in on us like a flower shutting—
voices get hushed if only for a few moments while the sun slips like a soapy body
—though really the earth’s just spinning on.
And it is at that quiet I imagine he did it—taking the rope from his shoulder when
he’d finished climbing the tree
and the only sound would be the slipping of the rope into knot—
and his sneakers leaving the bark of the branch—both a chafing sound—then more
As if he’d sensed the timing that I think he could not
explain—and if we sensed the timing too, we never so much as hinted—.
In that quiet
at dusk, heavy as a handprint and momentary (for us)—we spoke not at all.
In the minute of death and in the many before and fewer after the heart loves what
it loves: grips hard to it.
In the minute of death the heart is wet on the tongue—but this is nothing new. And
if it loosens its hold on the throat in death (as it certainly never does in life) then it
does so like the fog on this lake—
burning off adagio so the opposite banks come on like ancient rust-to-black hulks
appearing at the prow—
and the blue is sluggish to come on to the sky, plodding in like a war that nobody
notices—and it will go that way too, with even less notice.
In the minute of death (like always) the heart is helpful—it takes the chill off like an
iron cast fire in the stove box—lifting the cold inside these yellow cabin walls
and outside the birch trees spill their leaves over the lake. They are used to any type
of cold—and the moss is many-colored and light is changing on the lake—
we will watch it with our whole bodies facing forward (the body loves what the
heart loves and the mouth is always wet); we will watch the water with our firm and
entire bodies, meanwhile—
loving death and murder and rape; loving the drone, the bullet, the knife and
scream, the kill—we are blood, we are blood.
And the heart is blood and the heart loves what it loves without remorse—loves
itself above all else.
the trees have nearly nothing to say; their leaves
are quiet as still hands and the lake is calm—
all is quiet and still as one coin or as it is to miss you
and your too much black hair—the trees are all
different colors of the color green and I haven’t
(have not) seen you in something like seven weeks
which is not that long but it is not that short either—
and my hands to myself are not enough even
when they are not still and green gets far too green
on the beech and birch and pine trees—
even when it rains; even when it rains so hard steam beats
off the water; even when it rains so hard the rocks get soft;
even when my hands are not to myself (are not still
at all) it is quiet (too quiet) and I miss you.
It never begins, you
It never begins, you
carry off this rain
not yet dry enough to be afraid
–there’s no sky either
just your reaching down
and for the hundred hundredth time
this tombstone is still sharp
though what you touch
is too wide, stays soft
and what falls through
still sifts for dirt
that won’t come closer
is already bleeding
and in your heart
as sand and thirst.
Just below the surface one arm
loosens in front the other
the way rock still breaks apart
for air --this bench leaks
needs nails and the wobble
full blown, half beaten into it
half by your lips growing here
as grass that never strikes bottom
–kisses! needs cheeks to lock
when they come close and drown
–wood is useless now
though you count backwards
lifting the bench, empty it
on the ground that longs for you
and one bare hand as its own.
Aged, finding it more
troublesome to keep them
together I rise and
don the tired cardigan
and go about raking
my memories into
a mound where they lie in
a friable heap, each
as indistinct as leaves
from the same tree; I look
intently until I
find one to hold, to
press the petiole
between thumb and fore
finger, as if to feel
why it was dropped from
the limb of my life; I
rub the dry veins where the
succoring sap flowed when
green; the present like a
boisterous boy romps through
the pile, the crisp leaves roiled,
tossed lightly into the
airy eddies of time,
whirling and dancing toward
tomorrow, out of reach
of memory’s hand tool.
Phoenix, July 2011
So now I see the small body of Christina Taylor Green,
9-years old, dead these months,
shot by a crazy man outside the Tucson Safeway.
When I close my eyes, I do not want to dream
of her child's body curling into itself;
her nostrils widening, taking in, with her last breath,
the smell of exhaust and Starbucks,
creosote and SUVS, asphalt and winter wind
rolling into city streets from the high Sonoran desert.
I do not want to think of how, earlier in the day,
the neighbor lady might have stood
at the kitchen window, coffee cup in hand,
looking at the young girl coming from her parent's house.
And I want to be spared the picture
of Christina--always and forever now a child--
reading on the front porch.
Let me unknow how the woman will feel
when—in a moment’s time—she speaks
the words "town" and "go into" and "Congress Congress on Your Corner”
to the child who could be her own.
Don’t tell me
how much Suzi Hileman loves the girl and loves this singular moment
when the child, open book propped against both knees,
somewhere in the middle of the page. Don’t let me
watch how the woman watches
closing the book. Don’t let me see how,
when the words finally get spoken,
Christina Taylor Green will nod yes yes yes
when she looks up—her face is flushed, all shiny apple-cheeked happy.
Then the women will smile at the girl. And before they go into town,
keep me from fully understanding
how they will feel
when, in this precise and unending moment,
each will come to believe
the human heart is plain but it is not simple.
A Woman at My Back
listens to a critic
on a headset
intent on not missing
a word. I stand between
house paint streaking
a slash of green
between “Merritt Parkway”
and “Bolton Landing”
on canvas. Words
keep tipping me
into oncoming traffic.
Headlights like ideas
box my ears
like the air. Windows
crank open. Air pummels
the interior, exterior.
In the gallery a pair
with short grey hair
murmur in French about
Japanese for dinner
after the show. “Is there
water on the farm?”
the tall man with a beard
asks a child. “A gift
from a knitting
aunt?” a girl asks her date.
My shoulders ache
under the weight of a thing
no longer here, you,
getting smaller and smaller,
like some miniature
who doesn’t know
how to drive,
who keeps making wrong turns,
trusting flawed instincts
to love this one,
When someone you love leaves
they never come back
the public intellectual
in her journal.
Is it any better where you are now,
the land and sea
the plains of abstraction clear?
Her nose to the ground,
the air ducts and stone
steps of the Italian consulate
scents are way tastier than
the stiff Spanish Institute.
A sharp left at Park & 65th,
offers the bliss of take-out
and caviar flicked off crackers
and a yank of her chain
to protect her from choking.
But the trails!
All the world, a canine carpet
of indigenous scents. Since
moving to the East Side
she’s barely missed
the cauliflower fields and deer,
the wild rotting carcass
of the woods. Urban dwelling
hasn’t stifled her olfactory nerves
one bit, though the treats here
are decidedly different:
so many curious dogs,
for instance, and the stains grizzled
men leave in the gleam of
Donna Karan and Godiva
door-wells at night. This morning
at sunrise, a rat as fat as a possum
crossed her path. Every morning
Wall Streeters like farmers
pull up their socks,
suck down coffee, leave their lovers
still sleeping as the day wakes.
More sensations than
she could have imagined,
living a life she would have thought grim
compared to seaside phragmites, pine
trees, and sky. She tells me all this in a look
knocking her tail against a streetlamp
licking her lips.
Finally, you’ve come
to appreciate it.
Certainly it helps
that you’re walking
along the Seine
with the woman you love,
but the relationship
has blossomed beyond
moments of bliss.
You’ve come to admire
your heart’s allegiance
and the way it never
faltered the way you have
when despair made
the mere thought of walking
along the Seine
with the woman you love
impossible. Look at it
donning a beret
for the occasion and saying
its name is now Pierre.
I adjust my National League baseball cap
and climb the turret stairs to the castle’s
top, followed in quick succession
by a man in a rugby uniform,
two nuns, and a woman tattooed and booted—
wearing a red miniskirt brighter than Cardinal
Richelieu’s sash. Together we gaze
over the immaculate gardens,
the beautiful rivers scorched yellow by the sun.
A flag of the fleur-de-lis droops above the wall—
and a King, sleeping in late again,
stirs in his small bed, his head slipping
off the pillow embroidered with a blue dolphin,
dreaming of generosity more and more—no more
understanding why he does this
than I do when dreaming of the miraculous.
Watching Water Boil
When water boils
it makes a bubble net
at the bottom of the pan.
But the mind
watching the mind
in ways we predict.
The mind watching
may be calm
or may recoil.
Who can tell what
spoils a mind?
I’ve watched my
own mind boil.
I’ve touched the stove.
I formed a committee.
As a consequence I was
forlorn as a committee.
The truth is
I can’t get along in a committee.
I’m already a committee.
I’m a committee in a committee.
Don’t expect me to run the committee.
Watch the committee try to run by me.
If you think oyster bars are cheap
you’ve never been in one
in a committee.
The last memorandum
by the committee was so numbing
it took a head wound
for the committee.
Oh, cabbages of regret,
Oh, desperate histories
of all committees
since the world began,
today the rain is as sparkling
as Keats rolling over in bed.
He was extraordinarily good looking,
according to the committee.
Did he appoint the committee?
The good thing is:
the committee has advanced a motion
to disband itself as a committee.
Thank you, members of the committee.
Thank you for your labors,
many and wonderful and sundry.
Thank you on behalf of the committee.
Parakeet perches on
what the hell.
Little brain loose
in big kitchen.
Shredding sounds! Panic fans!
Those are my wings.
Pretty, pretty, pretty.
pretty in a cage?
Sparrows are not
Is that my eyelid?
Why cover night?
Rain Makes the Sound
i lovE you
all over a
gain &i won
der won der
a bout things
that break a
that forms a
gain the broken
piEcE s we thought
we’d neVer see
i foolish(ly lOve
we meet most)ly in the o
we sit with head sin
we sip d.rinks &re
leaSe what(ever we
when the rain hits
the paVe-ment we
forget the stars.a child(ours?)
cries &we em
brace the earth.
the rain makes(the sound)
the sun(is the thunder)
clouds remain silent(&sneaKy)
children we want
(to learm from)
on good days
when the drinKs
Are plenty-full.we watch
Nascence willbe for a
nother day.t his way
&we drift.deliciouS. sound―less―sounds
the shutter shuts.mute.a.