Thoughtful

monday thaw

On TV it looked like a high-speed photo of a milk drop

the dying leader of the Pana Wave laboratory cult smack in the

centre.

Acres of white cloth streamered his followers, who

circled him like crown jewels.

 

More and more I'm responding to stark white on black,

letting the morning frost finish for me.

 

Calgary is fur-lined in the sun. Although the cold front

will chop us down to minus, there are hints of a melt.

Dad's three-legged shadow bends blueness

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the

flow of human blood in human veins.

 

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

 

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln

went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy

Famous

The river is famous to the fish.

 

The loud voice is famous to silence,

which knew it would inherit the earth

before anybody said so.

 

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds

watching him from the birdhouse.

 

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

 

The idea you carry close to your bosom

is famous to your bosom.

 

The boot is famous to the earth,

more famous than the dress shoe,

which is famous only to floors.

 

Alone

I never thought Michiko would come back

after she died. But if she did, I knew

it would be as a lady in a long white dress.

It is strange that she has returned

as somebody's dalmatian. I meet

the man walking her on a leash

almost every week. He says good morning

and I stoop down to calm her. He said

once that she was never like that with

other people. Sometimes she is tethered

on their lawn when I go by. If nobody

is around, I sit on the grass. When she

January 1, Dawn

After the celebrations,

people, TV channels, telephones,

the year’s recently-corrected digit

finally falls asleep.

 

Between the final night and the first dawn

a jagged piece of sky

as if viewed from the open mouth of a whale.

Inside her belly and inside the belly of time,

there’s no point worrying.

You glide gently along. She knows her course.

Inside her, you are digested slowly, painlessly. 

 

And if you’re lucky, like Jonah,

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)

Theme for English B

The instructor said,

 

Go home and write

a page tonight.

And let that page come out of you —

Then, it will be true.

 

I wonder if it’s that simple?

I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.

I went to school there, then Durham, then here

to this college on the hill above Harlem.

I am the only colored student in my class.

The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,

39

Oliver Sacks is going to die,

He tells us blithely in the New York Times.

He’s 81. His liver’s shot.

 

He’s blind in one eye

Though when both worked fine

He could still get lost in a parking lot.

 

He’s extremely famous and terribly shy.

He’s lost his leg but it's still attached.

He’s been practicing dying, Oliver Sacks.

 

He will do it well,

Politely evading heaven and hell.

Doctor Oliver Sacks, farewell.

Happy Birthday Moon

Dad reads aloud. I follow his finger across the page.

Sometimes his finger moves past words, tracing white space.

He makes the Moon say something new every night

to his deaf son who slurs his speech.

 

Sometimes his finger moves past words, tracing white space.

Tonight he gives the Moon my name, but I can’t say it,

his deaf son who slurs his speech.

Dad taps the page, says, try again.

 

Tonight he gives the Moon my name, but I can’t say it.

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