Epitaph for a Pair of Old Shoes
Humble, born to the earth,
They knew where they stood.
When they moved,
It was because they must.
Anger moved them,
And the desire to be elsewhere,
Or something in them
Responding to music.
They knew also
What waiting can be.
Side by side, they mastered it,
Like an old married couple.
Once, you loved permanence,
Indelible. You’d sink
Your thoughts in a black well,
And called the error ink.
And then you crossed it out;
You canceled as you went.
But you craved permanence,
And honored the intent.
Perfection was a blot
That could not be undone.
You honored what was not,
And it was legion.
And you were sure, so sure,
But now you cannot stay sure.
You turn the point around
And honor the erasure.
Rubber stubs the page,
The heart, a stiletto of lead,
And all that was black and white
Is in-between instead.
All scratch, all sketch, all note,
All tentative, all tensile
Line that is not broken,
But pauses with the pencil,
And all choice, multiple,
The quiz that gives no quarter,
And Time the other implement
That sharpens and grows shorter.
Darest Thou Now O Soul
DAREST thou now, O Soul,
Walk out with me toward the Unknown Region,
Where neither ground is for the feet, nor any path to follow?
No map, there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.
I know it not, O Soul;
Nor dost thou—all is a blank before us;
All waits, undream’d of, in that region—that inaccessible land.
Till, when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds, bound us.
Then we burst forth—we float,
In Time and Space, O Soul—prepared for them;
Equal, equipt at last—(O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil, O Soul.
When I consider the worn, petal-scented bar of soap
my lover inadvertently left in the deep woods,
alongside the river we camped by for a week,
I think first of watching her bathe there,
how I waited with her towel in the sun, her clean clothes
warming on the radiant stones.
Then I think of a man not unlike myself finding it,
a pink and botanical soap, in a perfectly scooped dish
on the back of a large, water-polished rock.
He senses her in the curve and slope
of its undoing at her skin, and holding it
to his lips he takes in some faint but vivid
scent of her, stepping clean into her towel and my arms,
which now are his, and who then, unable to help himself,
offers the soap’s pale astringent underside a kiss.
For the Kens of the world
The Man Into Whose Yard You Should Not Hit Your Ball
each day mowed
and mowed his lawn, his dry quarter acre,
the machine slicing a wisp
from each blade’s tip. Dust storms rose
around the roar: 6:00 P.M., every day,
spring, summer, fall. If he could mow
the snow he would.
On one side, his neighbors the cows
turned their backs to him
and did what they do to the grass.
Where he worked, I don’t know
but it sets his jaw to: tight.
His wife a cipher, shoebox tissue,
a shattered apron. As if
into her head he drove a wedge of shale.
Years later his daughter goes to jail.
Mow, mow, mow his lawn
gently down a decade’s summers.
On his other side lived mine and me,
across a narrow pasture, often fallow;
a field of fly balls, the best part of childhood
and baseball, but one could not cross his line
and if it did,
as one did in 1956
and another in 1958,
it came back coleslaw — his lawn mower
ate it up, happy
to cut something, no matter
what the manual said
about foreign objects,
stones, or sticks.