Once, two spoons in bed,
now tined forks
across a granite table
and the knives they have hired.
If This Is Paradise
“The true mystery of the world is the visible” – Oscar Wilde
If this is paradise: trees, beehives,
boulders. And this: bald moon, shooting
stars, a little sun. If in your hands
this is paradise: sensate flesh,
hidden bone, your own eyes
opening, then why should we speak?
Why not lift into each day like the animals
that we are and go silently
about our true business: the hunt
for water, fat berries, the mushroom’s
pale meat, tumble through waist-high grasses
without reason, find shade and rest there,
our limbs spread beneath the meaningless sky,
find the scent of the lover
and mate wildly. If this is paradise
and all we have to do is be born and live
and die, why pick up the stick at all?
Why see the wheel in the rock?
Why bring back from the burning fields
a bowl full of fire and pretend that it’s magic?
The Thing Is
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
Ballad for the Future
Future – with what hands shall we pass you on?
You’re very far, you can’t make out our hands.
Our palms are clammy bank notes.
The lines of life, honor, duty and art
cross those of shame.
Under our nails is the mud from crawling
our way up to the point of our fall.
No one else but we ourselves
handcuffed us, comfortably, in the face of our fear.
That’s why we offer you our two bound palms
instead of unfolded wings.
The only remnant
of shame we felt
was when we buried our mothers with communal fees,
then we dared not put
our hands on their foreheads
so they wouldn’t carry to the grave
the imprint of our horror.
Of course, there were shining ones among us.
They set off long ago, Future, to meet you.
But the ballad tells us
they went blind on the road.
trust no one: there is not a shred of loyalty
that will not yield to advantage or change of
circumstance: when you do what you’re supposed
to do and others do what they’re supposed to
do, trust is not called for: (the point,
actually is to foray for aye – and not to
yield): (you know how wide the universe is;
we can blow off a few spots and nothing
ever missing): oh, foller the dollar, it knows
the way: dam the way up, so the dollars get
out of hand in mounds, deep chests, and long
keepings, moldy trusts: put your dollars to
work: and stay home yourself: if you don’t
have two dollars, start with one: pretty soon
you’ll be sitting around thinking of all the
things money can’t buy: (it is important to
note that all states are miserable: the only
joy is in thinking it desirable to get from
one to the other, state, I mean: California
is the best state, because you can’t get to
another state that way, so your misery can
turn into the delights of imagining an East:
oh, the tricky land of the luck-strewn East,
the painted temples scribbled and scrolled
so amply as to allow the falling out of the
farthest personal chance, number: let’s see:
what other moralizing can I do, orders give,
prayers urge – all unimaged, unexampled:
(take Long San Temple, for example, the
dolphins yin and yang circling the center,
a floridity of dragons (florality?) entertwining
the outside of the circle, the inside of the
octagon): Shakespeare, heightening artifice,