On a frozen window
Of a small schoolhouse.
An empire, I read somewhere,
Maintains itself through
The cruelty of its prisons.
In the Snow
Tracks of someone lost,
In these here woods,
Licking his wounds
And crunching the snow,
As he trudges on,
Bereft and baffled,
In mounting terror
With no way out,
Jinxed at every turn,
A mystery to himself.
Like the twist of a knife, the shaft penetrates – first a naked man wandering freely through city streets, covered in feathers and erect. Then suddenly, the twist – a different man, a broken disaster of a man, “quarrelsome and desperate”. These who populate.
About the Knife
To live without any news
in the boonies
like any wretched, luckless person.
Go to town and buy a spade
as if intending to turn over a garden.
Instead, find your humble place
in the village graveyard,
swing high and dig yourself a grave.
Set it up, decorate it, write on it.
Find your humble place
in a world gone mad.
Take a message, crow, as the day breaks.
And find the one I hold dear,
Tell her the trees are almost bare
And the nights here are dark and cold.
Learn if she lights the stove already,
Goes to bed naked or fully dressed,
Sips hot tea in the morning, watching
Neighbors’ children wait for a school bus.
Tell her nothing fills me with more sorrow,
Than the memory of seeing her
Covering her face with her hands
When she thought she was alone.
Help me, bird, flapping from tree to tree
And calling in a voice full of distress,
To some fond companion of yours
You’d like to see flying by your side.
Signs of the Times
For a mind full of disquiet
A trembling roadside weed is Cassandra,
And so is the right
Of a boarded up public library,
The rows of books beyond its windows
Unopened for years,
The sickly old dog on its steps,
And a man slumped next to him,
His mouth working mutely
Like an actor unable to recall his lines
At the end of some tragic farce.
That Elusive Something
Was it in the smell of freshly baked bread
That came out to meet me in the street?
The face of a girl carrying a white dress
From the cleaners with her eyes half closed?
The sight of a building blackened by fire
Where once I went to look for work?
The toothless old man passing out leaflets
For a clothing store going out of business?
Or was it the woman pushing a baby carriage
About to turn the corner? I ran after,
As if the little one lying in it was known to me,
And found myself alone on a busy street
I didn’t recognize, feeling like someone
Out for the first time after a long illness,
Who sees the world with his heart,
Then hurries home to forget how it felt.
These rags the spirit borrows
To clothe itself
Against the chill of mortality.
O barbed wire of crossed-out words,
Crown of thorns,
Camp meeting of dead wall reveries,
Spilled worry beads,
Fortune-teller’s coffee dregs,
My footholds in the abyss.