A Selection of Poems
1974-2004

Periodicals and anthologies where many of these poems first appeared: Antioch Review ("The Hats My Father Wore," "Firefly Sestina," "Poem of the Other World," "Winter in the Old Country"), Berkeley Poetry Review ("Memoire"), Brooklyn Review ("Above Tree-Line," "Ode," "Inner Dog," "I Recently Slept for Eighteen Hours"), Eye Prayers ("The Darkness of the Body"), Icarus ("Town Square"), Pocket Pal ("Rain Forest"), Porter Gulch Review ("The Accompanist," "The Gratitude of Van Gogh").

The Accompanist
Under the Piano
Vivaldi's Sposa son disprezzata
Upon Waking, to His Nurse
Rain Forest
The Darkness of the Body
Poem of the Other World
I Recently Slept for Eighteen Hours
Winter in the Old Country
I Don't Want to Love Baseball
Inner Dog
The Gratitude of Van Gogh
Town Square
The Hats My Father Wore
Firefly Sestina
Scattering the Ashes
Why We Should Continue
Above Tree-Line
The Catch
The Builder
To My Shoulders
A Domestic Silence
Marginalia
Ode
Memoire


The Accompanist

For Kit

She's right with you in any time;
you feel her soften
at the moment you come in,
or pull back when she knows you'll take it slow,

or phrase-in an echo of your line. And always--
like soft foliage beneath the bloom
or the birds that fly in, fly out before
the storm, or the ticking and creaking

of the house where you were born,
or the rain that settles in and soothes you
with its sound, or the sweet hands that work
your tired back--a place that surrounds you loves you today,

and is determined to grace
the swell of your song,
and you thank her for her shoulders and her arms
that dip and sway, and her eye that flashes touch...

and her fingers that are so
brilliant, each itself an earnest musician,
running like a sprite to charm the woods where
you run, the branch where you sing.


Under the Piano

for Kit

There is nothing better than listening
to Debussy's Claire du Lune,
under your piano.
Students who are leaving you
go under their last day
and listen to you
play for them.
It's how you say goodbye.

The piano sits in the corner
of the small carpeted front room,
a Baldwin baby-grand
next to my Grandmother's 100-year-old
German side-table with lions' paws.
You have them dive right back there
into the dark corner
right beneath the bass strings. In a way,

a piano is a horrifying thing;
this black angel's coffin
could come thumping down
and kill someone.
You and a student rode it out there
during the big quake;
a bookshelf full of music
smashed the bench,
stopping inches from the keys.

When I arrived home yesterday,
you were playing Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G Minor.
I don't know why--I didn't even break stride--
just went right under
to close my eyes awhile
after a long day.

It's cozy, actually,
relaxing and warm
even for those who normally don't prefer the floor.
Oh, I love this part... a dramatic downward run:
descending diminished seventh chords in octaves
proclaim a minor key, some triumph in exile
turned sumptuous, modulating back now upward in thirds....

And though I am not your student
and you are not saying goodbye,
how good it is that you are playing now
for me! sprawled on the old carpet
appreciating every heady consonance
but also every jangly overtone
and percussive distortion,
the hilarious volume and vivid harmonics;
no, not even a kiss can do this.
And as in love,
even the mistakes are glorious,
blunt thunder.

And then when you go a long time without missing a note,
how marvelous--what a miracle--
transported by virtuosity
into the composer's heart, or is it your heart?
or is it my own?
Oh, terrible exile;
oh wonderful life!

And such a private place, sacred: the piano
filling the sky.
So what happens? The wonder
mixes with the love, music, and privacy
to form
shameless ecstasy,
a fortune so difficult to find these days
in nature, church, politics,
or even the theater.

It may not be God, but I feel loved
and you feel loved.
All the better because neither
the machine nor the interpreter
is perfect,
but the resulting chaos might be
the best thing in life.

And having married the piano player
so many stormy years ago,
now, without sentimentality but in
the presence of
Rachmaninoff--
so much meaning--
and hearing the wonderful sense
in the sound, mouth set in its slight smirk,
as usual slightly disappointed at the world...
I for once do the logical thing:
nothing--just lie there
and weep through the whole recap and coda,
silently, shamelessly, for the ecstasy of it.




Vivaldi's Sposa son disprezzata

"il mio sposo, il mio amor,
la mia speranza."

In this song about a faithful wife
betrayed (che feci mai„what did I do),
I was astonished at how
the spare single verse and brief refrain
made one particular word
take flight within its vowel: sper-ahhhh-nza.

It flew!
In a six minute song, on the warm
current of grief, the soprano
soared again and again
a full thirty seconds
just on the updraft
of that one vowel,

as if the meaning of the song weren't grief at all,
but rather the possibility of
hope„
as if singing
were making„naming
her grief.

She was too good for him.
How freely and completely
she flew! Over and over,
veiled, yet soaring„
for as long as her breath would hold.



Upon Waking, To His Nurse

For Jeff and Nancy

From where I lie in my angel, I look up at the high, waving boughs,
feel bitter sleet dampen my wings,
spines of windblown snow across my face,
spectacles clouded.

Hear children's gloves in the powder,
squeals against window glass,
laughing faces a mile away,
feel bones taking to hard root,

flames of feet,
sockets of knees and hips,
skin reddening;
snow melting where it comes under my coat,

fingers liquefy along the chest,
or beneath the chin, down my neck.
Beard glittering in millions of drops,
like a whole landscape of droplets, bubbles of light, oracles, wholenesses, joyful beads....

the bottom of my knit cap, a sponge,
something a mother might wring out,
lay on my brow...
coins of light in the trees, glee all around;

clouds astonish, feathery creatures,
air icy as artesian springs,
and I drink in sweet gulps,
geese rising, amazing sounds in the sky....

Then, a scrape
against a bare wrist,
a crunch at the nose, icy spray
across parka,

followed by a thud against the neck,
another flush across the carotid;
splashes of ice dripping now
along mustache and tongue;

fresh mounds of slush filling
nose, mouth, ears, as if
all the children in the world
were laughing, and the gods. Beaten,

I close my eyes,
spread myself out over the yard
and into the cypress, spruce, rising
to see

a sky's-eye view of my own carcass
spread across the land,
yet supine, thrashed„so strangely peaceful„
wings outstretched, fully victimized!

Calling for me now
as dusk glides in, like a Great Horned
among quiescent drifts
and evergreens,

as clear as anything
I have heard,
calling for me now
with their clear whispers

and transparent cries„
all my friends,
from the wings of sleep,
calling me back.


Rain Forest

These trails lead to villages
you are told. Also mudflowers,
each petal its own
red duster, ostrich plume.

At one point you trip,
spin like a bird,
blown branch,
but never leave your feet;

you laugh at first, then pick
for luck one mudflower,
carry it gently in your hands
the whole way

through the rain, below your ankles
twigs of insects,
hidden roots,
the fallen limbs of deer..


The Darkness of the Body

I once saw a rainbow with roots in the sea;
it spread out like a tree trunk as we drove by,
then spread somewhere up in the grey air.
You said look! look! as if it might take off and fly.
But it stayed a full moment, like the long breath
of evening, that hard steady wind off the water.

That night, your thumb against the switch
cast into the woods
at the edge of the campsight the artificial beam;
see, the exact twigs bent
into depths where the fibrous earth
is finely grained and graced with exact form...

All the great speeds lie down in their orbits.
You are the black gate behind the blinding beam
that startles the sleeping animals
and summons the insects. They don't know about you,
only about your light, that stirs,
that reaches down to them.




Poem of the Other World

The whole day I think of you,
off in the distance, over the horizon
where sleep pushes you along with his finger
farther and farther into me...

even as I cut the alarm
like the spacewalker's lifeline,
you slip away
faster than I can rescue you.

Still, I pause by the mirror as if somewhere
in the room someone
were whispering
or insects chewing...

As I gladly enter
the business of waking life again,
I act like someone deeply in love.
Yours are the lips and hands.

As I touch again
the familiar objects„lather, hot water„
you are still with me, gift of sleep,
gift of the other world.


I Recently Slept for Eighteen Hours

I recently slept for eighteen of the past twenty-four hours. It felt good!
Oh, it felt better than good. How important our dreams are! How important
it is to sleep!

First, I went to bed at seven a.m. I was tired! I had been awake all night. At
two in the afternoon, I awoke.

After breakfast (it was four o'clock) I felt wonderful. I relaxed for a while,
and read from a novel. I read so slowly! I read twenty pages an hour. At
that rate it will take me thirty-five hours to read the book! five working
days! I used to think it would be good to read faster. But, I have changed
my mind! I remember things from that book, meaningless details, that
others certainly passed over. Another victory!

At seven, I became thirsty and went to the icebox. It was full of bread and
beer. I had beer, which made me satisfied. But also tired! Quite tired! I
strolled from the easy chair to the bedroom. This took a short time.

And without removing my clothes, within moments, I was asleep! Asleep,
dreaming, dreaming, unconscious, lying in my bed beneath the quilts
warm and asleep. This is an important feeling. This is certainly a
marvelous feeling.

At eleven o'clock, when the phone rang, I stumbled to the phone, foolishly,
out of reflex. It was a boring friend! It was one of my boring friends
calling to bother me! I held the telephone down at my side and dozed while
he spoke. It was nice to doze! It felt marvelous. It was a good moment of
"twilight sleep," one I'll never forget. And when I heard the buzz of his
voice die off in the distance, I thought of my bed, my beautiful bed with its
warm quilts, and this time removing my clothes, I went to it, went to it to
sleep some more, to sleep until tomorrow, through the morning, to sleep
until afternoon!


Winter in the Old Country

I wish I kept losing my greatcoat. Very clumsy coat. But I've got a
distracted maid who won't let that happen. I try to redistract her with
perfumes from the black forest, alcohol, love, but she won't let that
happen. Once, I offered her endless possibilities! Still, the greatcoat
smoothed over me at dawn like an iron curtain.

And her for that matter, smiling above me like some statue of liberty! She
wants to protect me. She wants to tuck me in and generously offers to lick
the genitals of my foreign and primitive languages. Enough, I say, let me
sleep this off, will you? Our shadows across fields

of snow. Or the worry: about drowning, pathetically, in salt, ash, in some
hermetic roomful of money, or like a sewer rat swirling in an enormous
dark vat of albumen.


I Don't Want to Love Baseball

I'd rather love
something far more important.
Feelings far more heroic,
operatic, significant.

I don't want to love baseball.
I don't want to love the body
loping, judging,
diving into grass or space.

I'd rather love the problems
of men. I'd rather love facing
the needs of men. Seeing,
serving those needs.

I don't want to love baseball:
childhood that should have long been
packed away in a cardboard case.
I don't want to love an object

inarticulate, like a ball,
though baseball is a language after all„
I am touched by a great play
as by a great speech.

But I want more from life
than the rhetoric of the body„

routine animal glory, day to day
the refusing logic, never over 'til it's over„
I don't want to love
baseball. Because it is not real.

Not real unity, pluralism,
peace or nobility,
as we fans make it out to be.
I have this dream

of baseball
in which I get a few key hits,
make some great plays,
am a champion„just once„

or is once enough?
Perhaps a modest yet notable succession
of championships? I don't want
to love baseball.


Inner Dog

After a day's loping through burr country,
wants nothing better than to shag out
privately dreaming of dead woodrats,
nosing sniff-holes, burrowing root mulch

where there is tasty corpse and garbage,
where hunters buried ragged cans, blacksmith
square nails sharper than tetanus,
medicine bottles of opaque violet colored glass...

also a sodden roll of paper to annihilate
or an abandoned nest to scour and shake with flabby jowls;
worrisome squirrels give him a lurch,
toward some nasty tick tree to spring under.

Dog wants out„
paw nails on glass,
or sometimes a warmer moan
like scratch my stomach you cad...

wide open grass to kick through,
the shape of play turned fierce,
the flying to a rise where they gather alone,
the glory of loping through the pasture.

Now I can see those glassy shapes of sky.
Now I can smell the dead in the stars;
I can stand & listen to them with my long tongue
scrolling and dripping,

and I can breathe in this
chill night, where the senses burn..
with inner dogs, the dead in heat,
who throw back their saucy heads, and cry.


The Gratitude of Van Gogh

Of ten thousand things, a few are joy:
the inner feel of a color or a star,
or working the garden of a painting of a man,
tending, lifting,
loving what is imperfect,
or what is suffering,
as in the self-portrait of the postman,
or himself ear-bandaged
standing in winter clothes,
the south-sea isle Gaugin
hanging behind him, or
the following spring, the atmosphere thick, lush,
given form; the inanimate made primitive,
snake-like, tropical, the air itself
alive, dancing....

More and more this atmosphere,
a "cracked pitcher,"
brushes thick to paint the emptiness
in skies
and cloth and wheatfields,
and the thirty-seven years,
final ten in particular,
after deciding to become a painter„
one thousand drawings,
nine hundred paintings„
in the yellow cloak of the sun,
Armand's mute gaze,
or in the painting of the stars,
our own ten thousand swarming above
her green tongue of cold fire...

You too take your place in the sky,
moon-sun, radiant
in the upper right;
one can't know everything,
one can only be one
place at a time, maybe hint
at other places
to enrich the viewpoint,
and Van Gogh, even Christmas Eve
sprinting after Gaugin to murder him,
knew how to hint at the other places,
loved his brother,
wrote him many long letters,
and was stunned, early-on, in his twenties,
by gratitude
from which he never fully recovered,
and with which
into the final darkness
he flew.


Town Square

My father was from a town like these. But steel is a hard line;
the dogs are caged, and a fire would mean someone's after money.

All I want is a cloud, a kiss, a story. The same statue as before pointing to the
invisible stars. Lift me from the pages of a book, winter, a park bench; then
my belief could tell its tale.

We are all holding hands. As the sun rises, the shadows of the unmoving cease
to disturb us. We have done this together. Alone, there would be no one to tell
it to, and we would go home quickly, with cold hands.


The Hats My Father Wore

Today I was reminded of the hats my father wore,
as if I could feel what it was like for him.
I modeled those fedoras at the closet mirror,
tilted slightly against the temple and forehead

the leather inner-band and satin lining,
perhaps his tailored overcoat, hands
missing now. When he wore them, it meant
he was leaving. Vitalis and a little water

set his hair shining, menthol aftershave,
fresh suits zipped in travel bags,
a briefcase, an umbrella. We'd follow him out
and help him pack the Caprice or the Impala,

and wave as he backed out onto Weybridge.
He'd gesture back at us and force a smile,
the hat next to him on the seat,
a companion, cool and formal.


Firefly Sestina

You said they were stars,
the flowers in your clothes,
a fragrant race
of insects in a river
heading toward us,
light turning to matter.

Did it matter
if they were stars
or they were us
looking too close?
Our eyes are also rivers
in a race

for the future, a race
with matter
over time and the river.
The stars
are close
to us,

all of us:
a race
that will kill to close
a matter,
erase stars,
defile a river,

even this one river
forever heading toward us
we barely navigate, like fixed stars
in a race
that ought to matter
and never close.

Wearing no clothes
we step into the river.
No matter
that it covers us
with darkness, whose race
over our bodies fills with stars.

Whose stars
clothe our bodies as they race
toward a river of no matter to us.


Scattering the Ashes


I sip my drink, imagine riding
with the boatman on his rounds,
your dust already poured. You cross your legs
and settle back the rocker.

Cremation and then scattered in the sea
you say again, and bite your lip,
the waves of light
like plankton crawling up your skin. You hot-box,

flare your cigarette. Only the rocking
never ceases in the night's garden,
the captain and I, silhouettes
by the time we reach the harbor mouth.


Why We Should Continue

The necklace you gave me, the pearls
unstrung, bouncing like moons down the warm concrete.
The room we had to leave, the one we cut our feet in.
The white river we're heading towards.

If these dreams are creating something,
why don't they let us in on it? In the morning
someone tossing dust, slit fingers, knives.
Someone I'm already

rowing toward. Of course, I can't see him.
"Don't worry" he says. Or "Worry!" his arms
ripping out of the water. Because he's throwing
pearls at me. Because he's urging me on.


Above Tree-Line

Now I am left with all you left unsaid.
A lesson, sure, though not enough to live on.
I chew a green pine-needle and flush red
in a cold wind, and push above the tree-line.
My life has been a trial of your invention,
everything a question mark in nature...
Two friends of mine who were caught coming down,
waist deep, in the tropical storm in summer;
they died in an embrace, facing, frozen.
Something was unsaid and came over them...
As if the snow were words that they'd been missing,
stolen and scattered from another form.
The way of intimacy was hard to know.
Still, climbing, I listen, and think of you.



The Catch

The diving sprawling out of
nowhere catch to save the game

in gap and alley.... The ball is hit
somewhere far off into the green wall,

and the crowd feels
the season may be over

as it arcs, searing
high and far„like a shot fired

we cannot bring back,
our fathers going away again.

The boys who stand
with their mouths a little open

watch with vague terror or blind hope
the ball hiss

with mystery, deepening
afternoon.

We care
uselessly, hope

shamelessly!
As in any danger,

at the crack of the bat,
the trick

is to have prepared for this
since childhood;

and then once the sound reaches you
you're off...

The fans' breathing stops
in little gasps of despair.

The tying run has already crossed home plate;
the winning run a few strides away„

this season is history
unless,

as the ball disappears in shadow,
the impossible takes shape.

He came out of nowhere,
they'll say.

But this is a matter
rich in contexts,

rich in somewheres,
because he came

out of need and desire.
Isn't nowhere the place

we all come out of in
the miracle of each moment?

Now, as his frame
soars into view,

the full length of his stride
scissors uncanny

portions of twilight
and the question first forms

like the possibility of love,
the dizziness

that somehow
there could be this thing,

life,
love,

our sons
we throw

and catch
in their sweet youth...

He glides;
he measures...

The ball
appears to hang just a little

up in a hint
of mist...

We can already see:
he will have to dive

full length
away from the diamond,

all hope a lunge, a guess,
a floating blur,

uncertain...
arms extended

inches farther than ever
the sperm nears the egg...

Norman Rockwell didn't see this!
Ritual sublimation!

Wild faith and chance!
All that happens in the wrist

floating, and the shoulder
loosening,

the eyes flipped into crazed perfection
hat flown off,

the body off the ground:
every inch of effort an inch of memory...

And as we watch him,
our fathers are alive,

our brothers are with us,
and as he dives we know

but swallow our cries.
For this is the math of pure feeling.

Such speed and chance!
Nature so wild here,

so bare!
Forever that moment

we hear and see,
catch and hold--

Everything we cannot know,
everything we never understand.


The Builder

for James

Brings a garden shovel to the beach,
digs wide and deep, just at the water line.

Dogs and bullies edge close
but fade and feign in grudging homage

to his emerging Gaudi spines
and regal silvery pools of tidal brine.

Through it all, his hands on the shovel,
his hands spinning the bucket,

he builds. The builder builds,
and does not look up.

I take his brother somewhere;
an hour later, I return alone.

The beach is fuller, hotter, louder.
At first, I can't find him

against the foreground of umbrellas,
screaming din, and the backdrop of pelicans

swooping, tearing at fleeting
shapes of anchovy.

I finally see him,
or I see his building, and then him

kneeling behind it,
owning land, hitting water,

bringing new water around
in canals, aqueducts,

daring the ocean, taunting it.
The builder builds with his power,

and he builds with his insatiable hands.
He grave robs, invades, caresses, commands.

I see him pause once to drink a soda
after a busy hour.

He turns, as he drinks, and admires
not his work, nor his many admirers„

but the enormous, flat shelf of sea
and the great horizon.

One day soon he will walk away,
with his lover. But for now,

he will walk away
with his shovel and buckets,

leaving his temple to destiny
and other grateful children from out of town.

The builder packs up and heads home
for pizza.

Tonight, his bunk bed
will have to suffice;

everything he has built„smooth humps,
moonlit hollows, embedded shells

washed,
invaded; some of it will last

all night, murmurs the builder,
still building, glistening,

relinquishing all now
at the great tide of sleep.


To My Shoulders


Friends!
Ordinary, aching friends!

Limbs root on you; sons
slip-jump

from you
in the motel pool.

You who stroke liners,
retrieve

a well-hit ball,
toss a child in the air,

butterfly,
crawl,

push a mower,
heft lumber, swing the hammer...

you test every threshold:
sentries, escorts,

chapels;
your scapula, clavicle arches soar,

noble creatures, freckled
shadows,

round
like vowels.

You float above the heart.

You take the full sag

of the wind, the beating
of the sun. Then all night

I hold a cheek
against your wing!

Dumb love, stuck
in a pillow of bone.

Shoulders warm the being
of a man.


A Domestic Silence


A silence so sweet and inhabited:
bubble of aquarium,
the electric buzz of the tank aerator
vibrating the bookshelf like a hummingbird,

the telephone alert but half asleep
having one of its dozes

like some soldier in Hamlet
leaning against the castle walls deep of night,

or my own half-sleep
from working till early morning„
meetings all afternoon.

Now in the afterglow of a shower,
the flesh warm, relaxed,
an almost audible thrum.

Across the room, a ten-year-old boy
has learned to whistle,
so he, too, is a part of this silence.
In fact, there is a clatter of hard plastic
as he digs for toys
in this great silence he is
a part of. There is a constant
rub of knees across carpet,
a story about ice cream
and injustice,
or later a whispering: barely audible„
sneered imitations of grown-ups.

Or now he rises up in that domestic silence
and moves in and out of it
like a great bear spirit
howling down from Loma Prieta
or Fremont Peak.

Even so,
sleep settles peacefully
across afternoon hum;
the lips sag slightly to gravity.

Such a silence, so deep
and sweet, so
fleeting!

Faucet drip.

Apricot branch scrape
across rain gutter.

Skates on concrete.



Marginalia


It is sad to grade papers at night
in the office with the lights burning
and looking out at the dark,

each paper another path
into a wild country
where there are no companions;

if I pick mangos, I pick them alone
for someone else and am usually left
with not even a xeroxed

mango, just the memory or description
of mangos, an entry on tropical fruit.
"Comments" we call them, we readers

of the graveyard shift.
This obscurest of graffitis,
these loving epitaphs,

this encouragement
longing like the Tibetan Book of the Dead
to liven things up„you know,

there really is no decent background music
for grading papers„
nothing Brahmsian enough

that lasts and lasts
but doesn't distract
with advertisements

from Ferrari dealerships....
This one in front of me,
thirtieth in a stack of thirty-six,

suggests Chopin's funeral march,
or if it were daytime, something
dreadful by Delius.

Look, I really don't mean it.
There's a wonderful voice
somewhere in this jungle,

this Brazil of prose....
Marginalia! my machete,
my princess,

samba me into the dark heart,
show me the skill and patience
of monks

who copied Bibles,
decorated, gilded painstakingly
in the dim light

of monasteries
the Word, while Gregorian chant
floated up to them

where they stood, hunched over tomes....
We are privileged
in our work.

I know--Miles.
If those monks had had "Sketches of Spain"
they might have enjoyed

the change of pace. This is
fine for awhile. But it ends,
as it always will,

with just you, my love,
and me, scratching away earnestly...
while the cat preens, then dozes

at the kitchen table
through the lovely quiet
of the dead of night.


Ode

The edams and gargonzolas;
the soft white bellies of gouda
along the sky of the tongue;
the drifts of saliva, melted cheddar
throwing up ladders,
tossing up a line from scrambled eggs;
like chewing sensation itself,
its soft bed of pleasures,
its deep pores and roots, its chasms and flowers.

The coolest dampest
cheeses of the marketplace,
sliced like custard,
saltier, with a few stones;
mystery of cow, where
several shadows meet and form
a moon, a double star; flavor
of photosynthesis and birth;
the stacks of patties,
the warm pungent
smells pricking the back of the nose.
Like blankets being beaten,
those buds are being freshened„ammonia
on cleaning day, but murkier, underground,
a cave where a birth has taken place.
Invisible gardens, the blessed molds! Mysterious
country cheeses,
sweat, part grass and dirt, part light...

The strange Norwegian goats,
heavy as the chocolate cheeses of American dairies;
or the eerie white discs of mozzarella,
the hat that becomes its wearer,
the light that melts into the skin;

or the blues, the roqueforts,
full of chunks of nutritious mold;
the breathing leaves of the salad,
the garden vegetables, tasting of earth and air,
want to wrap themselves around it,
be smudged and sullied.
It reminds them of roots,
their home in the earth...
the dark recesses of the mouth.



Memoire

The rose is an afterthought

Stephen Kuusisto

I love time! I love
the alarm clock. I love
the day's little handmaidens.
I love mornings, minutes, hours,
churchbells, calenders, birthdays, birthday cake!
I love to punch out for coffee break!
I like planning my course of study,
winding my watch if I get a second,
listening to you with one eye on the clock.
I love time, in the largest sense and to the tiniest
microsecond. Oh, half-life!
Between you and the Heisenberg principle
I'm quite desperate, really!
When can we go away together?
Will we get a chance to do everything we'd hoped?

***
I have no woman angels though I am a woman
looking through the angled cross of a window
at night sky, an old chevy's streetlit chrome...

A little light clicks on
where the boy used to hide
among cool garments.
When I speak, I hear the clothes
under his breath,
a way of saying
the clothes nearest the heart.

The voice is of the body,
and there are little rooms
where rich place mothballs,
or poor hang a few things...

***
Prokofiev, you are my reindeer,
you are my silk pajamas!
Brilliant fish
nibble at the covers
like hydroelectric rainbows;
their aquamarine torsos
of flourescent mist
tantalize my late sleep.
Plainly I love you
in some language of the deep!


***
First I want these letters
to my friends explaining everything
in just a few words, of course
I'm happy, they're happy,

in just a few words we've
explained it all. And what I've wanted
to say all this time,
what I've tried to introduce

and piece together all this time,
a cliche! Worse, a cliche
for something we already have!
some folk wisdom of simple

no-reason-to-be-otherwise joy,
like doing bird calls, or lying down
in lieu of passing out...

***
That's when Mays walks in, puts his bat down on the counter,
asks for a beer, I say Willie where you been man where you been
but he don't look at me don't even hear me just
hold onto his bat with one hand and staring just up and to the
right, with his face, like home run country.

***
Hidden behind a schoolyard
leaning against a cold fence,
fingers clinging to the holes
where coke glass sticks in mud
and exhaust rolls across the eyes,
a boy waits for his mother
to drive up in her sports car.
He takes a secret joy in his sadness.


***
My brother spies on me through the door crack.
I'm breathing through my mouth, on his bed,
twelve years old, reading one by one the many-paged
translucent letters from the girl he'll marry.

***
Blow-by clouds of the eyes of children,
white stains, broken stitches, parasites.
Come back simple ones, one hand on the moon,
humble dancers, old barefoot lovers.

***
During the day, I close my eyes and kiss night,
to give it pleasure, as if the dark were a woman
in a garden, a fragrance of trees and flowers,
one long "standing-up" dream; like the voyage,
branching through the brain, of the unborn....

***
With hands through our hair
and over our eyes
or later
both together
swimming through the dark
we asked
will it end
will our thoughts about ourselves
destroy us...

There was a man whose arms
were made of gold
his face was ten stories high
or another turning towards you
sees only blackness
he is the one
you love...

wallpaper to ashes to sky
sunrise to necklace to embrace
we are running our hands
through our hair...

***
Little face of a boy, stay away from me, stay far from me.
Your face drowned out by music isn't the first winter
our skies have suffered. Little face of a boy,
tiny little face of a boy, blond
eyes, blond bones, when you are close
clouds suffer, the sky gets up and leaves,

your face in front of me like a bubble on a hoop,
like the dream of a sailor,
like an old coin that won't quite come true...
maybe you will be my son,
and one day you'll walk out the back door
for the first time, on your own, my son.


***
The way light worships morning,
I fold my hope into a bird of you.
This thick mist is the prayer you
demanded, quiet as stone,

quiet as our needs. You don't know
how beautiful your spirit is.

Like the glare of sun on rock.
You are the wick, flame and smoke.
The breeze that turns the page and
darkens the room. You see through every heart.
Like the earth, you teach without speaking.
Your touch is the first fall rain