Sober

We Lived Happily during the War

And when they bombed other people’s houses, we

 

protested

but not enough, we opposed them but not

 

enough. I was

in my bed, around my bed America

 

was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house —

 

I took a chair outside and watched the sun.

 

In the sixth month

of a disastrous reign in the house of money

 

in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,

our great country of money, we (forgive us)

Unfledged

What did I know, what did I know

of love’s austere and lonely offices?

— Robert Hayden

 

 

Weekends too my father roofed poor neighborhoods,

at prices only his back could carry

 

into profit.  In the name of labor’s

virtue—or was it another bill collector’s callous

 

calling again?—my brother and I became

his two-boy cleanup crew.  During those hard,

 

gloved hours under the sun’s weight, I studied

my father, from the ground—the distance he kept

 

Jesse's Farm

We’re driving and the radio says mass marine extinctions within a

generation. No silence, no sirens — an unflustered inflection, then

stock markets, cryptic as Latin mass. I force myself: the interval

between a mother and her child — not enough for refuge in numerics,

reckoning we’ll be old or gone. Her in my rear-view mirror when I skew

it. Undoing velcro:  velours crochet — the maker plucked burrs from

his sweater, studied them under a microscope. There’s a microscope

I inherited, embedded in a fake snakeskin case. Ravaged scales,

We Are Surprised

Now, we take the moon

into the middle of our brains

 

so we look like roadside stray cats

with bright flashlight-white eyes

 

in our faces, but no real ideas

of when or where to run.

 

We linger on the field’s green edge

and say, Someday, son, none of this

 

will be yours. Miracles are all around.

We’re not so much homeless

 

as we are home-free, penny-poor,

but plenty lucky for love and leaves

 

A Thin Plea

(Falteringly)

 

Our national bird ­– for years – was – as A M Klein said –

the rocking chair

 

I don’t know what our national bird is now – but my totem bird is

the killdeer

 

Its names – odd mannerisms – & cry – explain bits about me – in

riddles

 

My daily writing self at 57 has accrued the usual odd habits &

noises – there are awful names I know myself by – lie-dances I

perform

 

Sorting through Documents at Dawn

three crosses appear

on the tv screen

 

following a

sweep of my hair

 

that felt like your hand

 

maybe i dreamt it

but i so badly

 

want it to be you

(in whatever form)

 

near

 

not in the light through

which you’ve disappeared

 

leaving us

with questions

 

what is your social insurance number

what is your mother’s maiden name

 

how

 

Between Strangers

Stranger, who can measure the distance between us?

Distance is the rumor of a never-before-seen sea.

Distance the width of a layer of dust.

Maybe we need only strike a match

for my world to flicker in your sky,

Visible finally, and eye-to-eye.

Breachable, finally, the border between us.

What if we touched? What then?

Would something in us hum an old familiar song? 

Maybe then our feet would wear a path back and forth

between our lives, like houses in neighboring lots.

Un Docteur Anglophone Traduit Les Inquiétudes De Son Patient Avec Google/An English Speaking Doctor Translates the Concerns of his Patient with Google

écoute

à quoi bon être poète

 

beau dire

ce mal

semble dans la tête comme

marteau feu enclume clou couteau

ou l’éclat d’une baudroie ou des

aurores boréales

 

à la fin

pour ce qui importe

on fait toujours mauvais traduction

la douleur est un langue

où les mots sont minable tentative

à ce qu’on ne peut que vivre

dans le corp

 

écoute

docteur

toi qui connais

la souffrance

dis

simplement

ce mal d’aujourd’hui

je

The New School

Do you remember, Nancy,

when we sat in the Creole restaurant

and glanced up at the television to see students running

with their hands in the air and photographs

of two young men?

Their angular faces. Trench coats.

We didn’t understand what was happening,

our brains felt like mush, it wasn’t the wine,

it was like being in a foreign country,

on the street corner, at a hospital,

struggling to understand or be heard.

 

This morning, on the way to work,

After Betty Goodwin's The Memory of the Body (1993)

As Whitman sang the body electric

Goodwin sings the body forested:

dense stand of dark-trunked saplings

illumined by a blood-streaked sky,

ominous forest where

abandoned children wander

vulnerable to the spell of wolves,

stepmothers and jealous queens—

omnivorous forest, perilous to enter.

 

I mean the body unseen,

the body beneath the skin

where invisible infrastructure

thrums as it surges and sluices

through murky runnels and canals, networks

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