Her husband lifeless
in chair facing
TV, whole days
mute, her own mind,
shot. And it won’t
get any better. Absolutely
nothing to look
forward to, she says
to whom if
Wearing two identical
left shoes. No one
believes I don’t
dye my hair, she remarks
for the umpteenth
time. Point taken, I’m
grayer than my
in the mirror I see
her face, her small
Five states north, he
he hears behind
voice: she must
be down on the
floor, the phone
in one hand
rakes the carpet.
green case on the nightstand
glasses on a Redskins lanyard
green glasses case
containing one hearing aid
minus its battery on the nightstand
glasses on a Redskins lanyard
in the green grass
under one of many bird feeders
in the backyard thronging
with blurred mute birds
Occasional muculent chortling
or choking and steady
beep of the EKG.
be a good person,
to that? How
is it true
I have to
go now? For her, the
occasion of my
more. Who is my
mother now I am
So take her hand, walking in
the garden: an animal moment of warmth
she won’t recall after our sit. Voracious
starlings ride a swinging cage of suet.
That signal enthusiasm in her eyes
muddles with torment. Choose whatever
you will and the disease
still wins. Like a heavy shawl,
the shadow of cloud drags across
mountains on the horizon. Maybe I’ve
misread her expression.
To plunge into love as into a sidewalk.
Came awake as though I were a siren going off.
The ugliness of putting food in my
mouth, my belly gurgling
like so many horseleeches. And so
days-to-come will crack open without you,
dropping their yolk over places you walked.
And the white lowly primrose will foam
wild like some scrap of your happiness
refusing to abandon me. Blah blah. The
mirror in the shrine is memory. All
you lived adjusts now and is lived back
in me here on earth. A flock of geese
sifts through the barrow pit. Postpuke
acid sears my throat.
To find the present breaking itself
loose from the sequence of events, bolting
through gaps in the corral of context and
carrying its befuddled rider
into an expanding plain of brumous outlines.
A Home in Dark Grass
In the deep fall, the body awakes,
And we find lions on the seashore—
Nothing to fear.
The wind rises, the water is born,
Spreading white tomb-clothes on a rocky shore,
Drawing us up
From the bed of the land.
We did not come to remain whole.
We came to lose our leaves like the trees,
The trees that are broken
And start again, drawing up on great roots;
Like mad poets captured by the Moors,
Men who live out
A second life.
That we should learn of poverty and rags,
That we should taste the weed of Dillinger,
And swim in the sea,
Not always walking on dry land,
And, dancing, find in the trees a saviour,
A home in the dark grass,
And nourishment in death.
Essay on the Personal
Because finally the personal
is all that matters,
we spend years describing stones,
chairs, abandoned farmhouses—
until we’re ready. Always
it’s a matter of precision,
what it feels like
to kiss someone or to walk
out the door. How good it was
to practice on stones
which were things we could love
without weeping over. How good
someone else abandoned the farmhouse,
bankrupt and desperate.
Now we can bring a fine edge
to our parents. We can hold hurt
up to the sun for examination.
But just when we think we have it,
the personal goes the way of
belief. What seemed so deep
begins to seem naive, something
that could be trusted
because we hadn’t read Plato
or held two contradictory ideas
or women in the same day.
Love, then, becomes an old movie.
Loss seems so common
it belongs to the air,
to breath itself, anyone’s.
We’re left with style, a particular
way of standing and saying,
the idiosyncratic look
at the frown which means nothing
until we say it does. Years later,
long after we believed it peculiar
to ourselves, we return to love.
We return to everything
strange, inchoate, like living
with someone, like living alone,
settling for the partial, the almost
satisfactory sense of it.
All the years of nights
rapt for each other
all the joy and later
all the trouble
less trouble than job
and this one night’s sky
so full of stars each
flows farther away
as the low wing-wash
of a hunting owl
so close overhead
I didn’t hear
until it was beyond
all night walking
on the black road
I didn’t see pass
the great freighter
of a shared life
furrows in the cut field
pushed up from a
prow I didn’t know
had sailed by and
where has it gone …
Shape the lips to an o, say a.
One word of Swedish has changed the whole neighborhood.
When I look up, the yellow house on the corner
is a galleon stranded in flowers. Around it
the wind. Even the high roar of a leaf-mulcher
could be the horn-blast from a ship
as it skirts to the misted shoals.
We don’t need much more to keep things going.
Families complete themselves
and refuse to budge from the present,
the present extends its glass forehead to sea
(backyard breezes, scattered cardinals)
and if, one evening, the house on the corner
took off over the marshland,
neither I nor my neighbor
would be amazed. Sometimes
a word is found so right it trembles
at the slightest explanation.
You start out with one thing, end
up with another, and nothing’s
like it used to be, not even the future.