Stretched different macabreThe dead men mean nothing. Grey and unreal.
They are on the same TV as "Ally McBeal."
Near her bus stop a tower for "Action News 10"
is the closest she'll come to the dusty, dead men.
Her grandma was four when they came from Berlin.
She inherited two things; a lopsided grin
and a pale, China doll. The kind with the eyes
that opened and closed when she put it beside
her in bed when her Dad came to turn out the light.
He kissed her, and the doll, and said, "Love you.
But inside the closet invisible gears
twist memory and images into the fears
that will haunt and disturb her when she has become
the woman whom Daddy kissed when she was young
and the dark-haired young soldiers yelled gibbering threats
that are translated calmly by invisible men. No...
No purchase, no friction on subconscious ice.
We need something more intimate. Something
nasty-nice and far deeper:
the time when her mom
cut her hand while spreading the cake frosting on
and the line of dark-ribbon-red spilled on the floor
and she slipped in it
banging her head on the
door and the
China doll falling, turning (cartwheel) in air
first feet-first then seemingly pulled
by the hair she remembers
when Bunny lost all of one ear,
he is still whole and "Bunny." And the time that she tore
the foot from Pink Poodle she still held him
close, nothing vital removed
but the doll, as it (she) falls,
hair down to the floor
bending no more impossible
clean white still life shattered
still seeps at the edges
in clear tape bound
she's mumbling Crazy Glue
but no a doll
never can't, no
doll again any-
New tricksYou are met in Heaven by a talking dog.
And to you he says,
"You were right to pet my head
and scratch my ears that whole night long.
So... Stay... You are entitled to this place."
Eyebrows raised you ask the beast,
"Who… or what? are you to be the judge of me?
Where are the rolls and tallies of my deeds?
The tithes and charities I gifted with my time,
my money, sweat and honest energy?"
He laughs, with tail and throaty bark.
"You think that giving back
what was never yours is charity?
Share meat with butchers and be marked
a fool. No wings wait nor halos for such acts."
He walks away, tail swaying lightly.
You follow, looking all around.
There’s only clouds on either side
and blackness there below.
Can't go sideways, back or down.
Change your pace, speed up,
and walk beside him, hand upon his back.
Scratch the spot behind his ears.
Do this and see the light shine up above
the misty road, the foggy track.
Oh. He is a sheepdog.
I should have mentioned that.
I'm waiting in a room made for my wait.
Chairs, a small table, water cooler, women's magazines.
I'm all alone. But still the doctor's running late
and I am left with russet walls and tangerine
carpet and the burp and gurgle of the jug.
The tooth-white beam of too-bright lighting tracks
above the grandpa clock. So out of place. It bugs
me. Makes me nervous. It's motion cracks
the frost of sterile calm. It hooks and snags my eyes
with every swing. Its long, faux-gold pendulum
is made of bone. It drags my breath and tries
to force my hands behind my back. I become
the plumb-bob of its retarded, greusome dance.
With one leg it will run me into dust,
into the ground
run me down
"Mr. Havens? Come on back. He'll see you now."
Don't resent your co-pay or deductible.
But rend the hands and leg of that vile
miser who cripples our circles with a square tattoo.
He will eat your cake. And have it, too.
Still lifeThe grey coat bleaches her eyes
and won't let the wind fly back her hair.
She turns her collar up against
the wind, steps off the curb and stares
Rain builds behind her eyes
and wind bends lines
of street, fence, dirty snow.
She is part of the scene, confined
by black-chalk trees. Below
the steps she knows so well
dead snow lies just out of sight.
Dead, but still held by the cold
that takes the blue light
from her eyes,
the blonde light from her hair
the blue light from the sky.
Obtuse triangleWind pulls me one way. No, not a shove.
We are not ships and our souls are not sails.
We are not driven. Not bullied or harried.
Its power is suction, temptation and id.
Wind speaks of clarity, cool and inviting.
No complex equations, just one simple line
of voice without testament, gut without guts,
slippery amnesty, pleasing and fresh.
Rock anchors rock. A möbius cable
of inbred and braided impartial impasse.
Perfect for sitting, for standing, for leaning.
Just where we left it, right there in the dirt.
Rock answers rock. Rock will be there tomorrow.
Rock allows rock, will not tolerate wind.
Rock is the spine of the book you are reading.
Very few words, but plenty of glue.
Fire is bright and fire loves envy,
rejoicing when moths fly too close and explode.
She is a dancer, her stage is mortality.
How could she dance without feeding on flesh?
Blushing from shame, from desire, from weariness,
keeping no secrets and hiding no sins.
Fire is what we regret in the morning.
Ash our reminder of dancing and joy.
Wind in the rocks singing songs of horizon.
Rocks in the hearth, still warm the next day.
Smoke from the fire is blown up to heaven,
God smells our prayers and is pleased with our praise.
Visit in summerMiranda stood still, naked at her mirror in the morning,
put a finger to the silver and enjoyed the water's slide
as it pooled around her knuckles and slipped down along her wrist.
She makes me smell her cellar and points out the sounds of squirrel sex.
Miranda grabbed the bar-stool and put her tan, bare feet up,
heels crossed, up on the counter. I watched her brand-new sun-dress
as it slid down, slowly bunching into folds around her waist.
Miranda's eyes are August high-noon-blue, like birthday frosting.
She sipped an orange pop and asked, "Why do you come here summers?"
Her warm palms pressed the bottle, rolled it slowly back and forth.
She licked one sticky finger, clinked her teeth around the neck.
She is lovely, young and strong and so I tried to tell the truth:
"I come to watch the sunlight blowing through your pale, pink curtains.
To hear the shushing of your skin across the clean bed-linen.
You make me smell the cool-sweet-damp of darkness in your cellar.
I'm here because without you, it's all dreary, dull and thick."
She grinned and blew a bass-note out across the empty bottle,
put her feet down quickly, her yellow dress a sliding whisper.
She handed me the bottle, now just glass, a whiff of sugar,
turned and said, "Good answer," and went to take a long, cool bath.
Looking outSilver and wet, we flew down
and took the form of ivy vines
to break the night, and hide the sun.
We lay and slept on city windows.
Cool and slow, the grey noon winked
and curtsied and she, the girl inside,
never noticed us.
We cling in inky lines and break the light.
Here, outside and unseen on the frame,
sketched in putty, painted in periphery
no distinct thoughts.
Sitting by the ledge and drinking
scented coffee, eating blueberries
she never noticed our edge, the cutting
color of climbing vine, of licking lines aching
to remain unseen. She always knows
when it has rained. Why is wet
so important, and the delicate frame
She said once, "Days like this
make me want to sleep forever."
When she did sleep
change would steal over the ledge,
jumping up, a reversed suicidal dive
from the ash-grey pavement, from the hot-dog vender
near the news stand (he never leaves
because she never sees him).
The up-leap is not a dream.
It is not a movie.
It could be her television, left on late at night,
grey, indistinct, dry non-life fighting for effect.
The noise remains white, and fuzzy
like a five day shadow.
She doesn't hear it.
She has fallen asleep on the couch.
As we sing our soundless green-black prop.
The television is near the center,
that is its grace, and it
also sings. It is made,
whereas we are unmade,
only growing and stealing upward.
The screen is on the inside.
Its luck, its kismet.
Surrounding, though, is enough
to see, sometimes.
The night when she lay
not asleep (no, not)
on the rug on the stones on the hearth
and the wind (we know him)
found the space
between her leg and jeans
and we followed him up and saw that
like a porcelain gargoyle
on her forehead.
And even though there was an itch
on her left thigh
she would not move.
Afraid to tip the imp,
to break, perhaps, the stone
to which it clung.
Stucco thicketSmall birds are somehow always in the mall.
The stately, doméd food-court is their hall and tiny sky.
Tad, the tall, bald man is flustered by their dives,
perturbed, trying to wind down with fries and coke.
"Incoming!" his mind cries. They've flown by before he jolts,
curses, blushes, feels shame for such a chicken flinch.
Just thrushes, sparrows. A kind of finch? Who knows,
who cares what make or model of bird lives there
iIn the eves above the columned gates of Sears.
Birds of the food-court.
Birds of the mall.
Tiny, spiraling tears of grey and brown.
Tad wishes for a mop or broom
to swat them down.
Seasons' beautyI’ve viewed the scene a thousand times before;
the meadow, woods and school are ordinary. Still
I love to watch from just outside my door
as seasons change when I relax my will
to see the leaves as they are, and the day.
Instead, when concentration fades I summon there
a white mirage to paint and overlay
the lime-green, lively grass. And this is where
the red-brown, bookish leaves can blow
across the same spring field where they were born.
Not in a year from blossoms’ birth to death –
but in one moment. A single afternoon.
No once-glimpsed beauty ever near compares
to scenes lived through a lifetime’s seasoned eyes.
For as we love the sights of months and years
We cast a magic lens. And this is why
I love to see Christina every day.
For when I pause, I see not just my wife
but all the girls she was, and is and may
become as we dance through our life.
A thousand loves in her I've known.
Each new one lovelier and ever lovely grown.
Nightmare: second person fallingLaughing we watch
the dancers on
my created roof.
How can I know
that she by the fire,
up there, is too beautiful?
And, dancing, some metal
catches the light
from this impossible distance.
Part of the dance: she falls,
back-lit by yellow windows,
and from here
I can not hear her hit
my created ground.
How can I not know
her voice, or laugh?
She was mine, and my dance,
and dead before I woke.
I seeIt has been explained to me,
and so I say, "I see."
I will say it once again, soon.
I close my eyes because they itch,
and burn with lack of sleep,
with allergies, with dust.
They burn from being trained
on screens where pixels change,
from waiting as I lick my thumb
to turn another page
in bed by light that could be brighter.
Yellow, pleasant light.
It resonates with pride of private places
never raked by blue-white tubes.
I say, "I see," and what I mean
is I have seen
the dancing bears, the bears on balls
(the balancing bears), the juggling bears,
the bears in bright, red fez,
the bears on bikes, the banjo bears,
the bear who counts to ten.
The other bear who counts to ten.
Bear dander also makes me sneeze,
makes my eyes itch when I need
to work with bears to keep their banjos tuned.
I say once more, "I see."
A disappointed scene. Two syllables too simple to
convey the sorrow, disappointment,
sudden loss of cabin pressure, something later,
maybe, come back, records kept on file.
"That's the way it is."
I do not see. The holy city
within the circle of my crown.
I can not see. My face
curved back behind my eyes.
But I see... you.
Behind my hands you disappear,
you go somewhere
where I see not.
I see you.
All my stories start and end there.
(Across the playground fence
a had-been blue kite is hanged,
from the old woman knuckles
of a used birch.)
the pendulum: perfect in motion,
now frozen, suspended
by an ancient, worn tendon
and unmoving, held, fastened
between country grass
and Delphic neon;
unobtrusive (after eight,
razor just waited
on top of the mirror)
to its rotting
Cotton lifeThe subtle cold lives
in the home town girls;
dirty blonde hair,
in the tips of their ears,
on their fingertips
at football games.
It lives in the grandfathers'
worn, secure knuckles,
clamped on pipes. Blowing
perfect smoke rings
for the six-year-olds
on the dock,
fishing as an excuse.
The tender cold
finds impossible entrance
through flannel and cotton.
A small, covered penlight
over sleep heavy feet.
(In the summer
we bowl. Weighted with near rain,
by slow, marching heat. Until)
light, transparent air.
Bert on the assembly lineAll that needed to be done
was to put one thing
into another thing.
Bert had been doing this in one form or another
Nipples and spoons, etc.
Later, he had to lose his virginity.
So putting one thing
into another thing
came more than naturally
He had to put himself in school
This was harder than breast feeding.
So he dropped out.
The nice man told him to put
into this hole.
Bert could do this all day,
While putting this bolt
into this hole
Bert listened to his mustache,
which told him stories.
Once, during a particularly interesting story,
Bert put this bolt
into *that* hole,
Bert was put into a coffin,
which was even easier than breast feeding.
The Brown Djinn
Step 1. ChamberYou need to know the small things.
The bookends of a small boy’s tale. So
peel an orange, section it.
Press two sections in your eyes.
Face the clear noon sun and squint.
Feel the day. This day?
Humid? Too hot? Snow? I don’t care.
Keep the oranges in your eyes.
Put on baggy pants, a loose T-shirt.
Place a fan in front of you
blowing up your leg, over your waist, onto your chest, the breeze just reaching
your bottom lip.
How old are you? Thirty-two? Nineteen? Sixty?
Keep the oranges. Keep the fan, the baggy pants, the loose T-shirt.
and remember -
the day you decidedwhat your favorite ice cream flavor was,
sand in your shorts, the first song on the radio you knew the words to.
The must and breath of your first beloved library.
Step 2. StockJimmy was that age when school was out and for two bucks you could get
a comic, Coke and Snickers.
This was the first year he was old enough to know
that he had once been younger.
Long days, muggy nights, when friends gather in tents
and eat anything cheap, when mosquitos don't matter much.
Jimmy shot hoops.
The bone-solid bonce of a well inflated basket ball
was his first hint of adolescence.
Jimmy watched the net swing
in that wind.
Taking foul shots.
He was, his dad said, "Damn good for a kid
no higher than my tits."
Occasionally wiping a line of sweat off his forehead
("mopping my brow," he thought),
Jimmy wore faded jeans.
Which is not as easy as it sounds
for a boy not yet fully long.
Almost dusk, it was, the sky that color,
when the Brown Djinn strode
from his heaven home, stepping down
the Violet Spiral Stairs,
wiping his infinite hands
on the Cloth of Sky.
Over the Mountains of Steel and the Mountains of Earth,
through the Seven Gates of Rock and Fire,
Rain and Wind, Life, Death
Leaping, at last,
from the lip of the World's Bowl
into that day and wind.
Alighting on the three point line.
Step 3. SightJimmy missed his shot.
The ball bounced off behind him
and he saw
the Brown Djinn sitting there and he was…
Grateful Dead T-shirt, torn jeans faded white,
old, ripped Nikes.
Smoking a Lucky Strike,
the pack rolled into his short sleeve.
Mirrored sun-glasses hanging from his collar.
Tanned to near red, muscled and lean,
a day's growth of beard
hair combed only by the wind,
bleached by summers of experience.
Jimmy held the ball.
And was not afraid.
And the Brown Djinn spoke:
Step 4. TriggerTo get that sky, now, you'd have to mix
some blood or strawberries
with the orange in your eyes.
The red turning the left of his face
to tarnished copper
the Brown Djinn explained
The words he spoke are not enough.
If you have been standing on and looking over
on a clear October ninth
and smelled the dying of the green,
the life of the red and orange,
the dead and sweet brown
you will remember feeling
To relish the death of a forest,
the expiring flame of a thousand square miles
is not -- and should not be –
The hills bleed, and rust.
The pines and spruce mock
the maples, the oaks, the birch.
They stand green and blue and sneer.
When I was small I was comforted in my unease
by the green needles which never changed.
Now I would bleed and rust them, if I could.
Burn them, if necessary, just to see them exhale
Jimmy heard the words of the Brown Djinn
and sensed a passing
of dry wind through fallen needles,
pins charred grey and white after a fire-storm.
And Jimmy smiled.
Step 5. HammerThe Brown Djinn granted Jim, before the strawberries and blood
had left the sky, a sort of wish.
"Sort of,?" Jim asked, and the Djinn replied:
"I will make you master of a vector."
He paused, lit another Strike, and explained.
"Pick one arena, one specific area.
And I will grant you complete control
over speed and direction."
He made Jim understand, as his classmates later would,
Jim nodded. The Brown Djinn satisfied, maybe sad
(but who can tell in that failing light),
put a hand on the boy’s shoulder.
Jim nodded again and the Brown Djinn
strode into the last of the day,
stepping over the chalk-rust horizon,
falling through the sea
to return to his heaven home.
Step 6. SparkFor a moment, Jim considered:
The perfect example of direction and speed: the ball, the net.
But realized, I can do that
Later he almost chose again,
and almost made the girls come to him.
There was one, Laura, perfect in her walk
smelling of shampoo and strawberries.
Jim saw her and wanted.
And almost invoked.
She came on her own.
Not so quickly. But in his direction.
Once, cornered by three, in a locker-room fight,
the word touched the back of his lips
but he stopped.
His heart a machine in his chest,
his fear a dog in his gut.
And it ended in only
and sour sweat,
and Jim never saw them, much, again.
And the Brown Djinn
faded to outline,
to day-dream, to dream
as Jim aged out
Step 7. ShellDad's old Buick. Right.
Lessons with a man named Stanly. Sure.
A permit. Drives with mom. O joy.
But that summer when work came
and first he held cash that he’d earned,
when the heat to own came down
and turned his eyes. He fell in love.
She was black gloss and silver.
Ten years old and close to mint.
Vinyl, chrome, steel, glass and ice
and his for a summer's wage.
For one whole week he had her just in town.
Stop. Go. Stop. Go.
Then Friday night. And they were
into Boston on the Pike.
Straight and wide, devoid of cops.
He let her have her head.
Step 8. BulletHe felt the memory sting him
like morning through a tent.
Not seeing, hearing, only the slight heat
behind his eyes.
No red in the rear-view, no white up ahead.
Clutch, shift, fourth pressing at his back,
wind in his ears, across the corners of his eyes.
The feel of a wheel, of wheels, not a ball,
the dark, not orange light
was in him
and he shouted:
Step 9. FlightLooking up from the sports' page,
the Brown Djinn smiles and points
his tan hand, thus.
And the black '78 Camero
nearly lifts up off the ground.
How fast came the fire when she first kissed you?
Measure your blood's rush when first she said
or did not have to say,
Double the speed of the ice along your nerves
that time she touched you in the dark.
Oh that, and more.
Step 10. TargetNo speed and all.
Just barely slow enough
to see the lights
Doppler off behind.
Taking corners, ninety degrees,
as fast as the straightaway.
Stopping (as he sometimes must)
without ever slowing first.
Zero to infinity in -- whatever.
However long he wants.
Lord of a Vector. Jim drives a demon,
rides the back of the great black gryphon.
Slowing for none, resting on whim.
Singing wind and rubber into the day.
Shouting paradox at the night.
and doesn't grudge
the stagnant green.
Don't askThere is great joy in ice-cream
if you can eat a double scoop
and never think, not once, of death.
A trick I don't have down.
And when they say, “Our dog is ten.
That’s seventy in people years.”
I do the math and realize I’m
a two-hundred year old pug.
I want a poltergeist to come
and set up in our house.
Those who know me understand
that I would haunt the ghost.
You see, I never planned to be here.
In third grade our Mrs. Glore
told us we would all be nuked
by Russians some day soon.
That’s comforting. When Uncle Lou
asks you what you’ll be
when you grow up. Just tell him,
“Oh, a puff of glowing dust.”
The small joys that elude my friends
I always chew ten times.
I treasure all the music, all the jokes,
the food, the books.
But I want some reassurance
that when I’m old and sick and short
no one will ask me what I’ll be
when I’m finally grown down.
In the eyeI’ve told her she’s my life,
my all, my princess and my peace.
That she would stay beneath this bridge
and eat the goats I’ve killed for her
is miracle enough.
Tally all the skinning, boiling, boning
that she does without complaint
and I feel my deal is far past fair,
that I have cheated, somehow,
I make a step with one broad palm
and with the other hold her hip so
she can reach the top shelf of the cave.
There’s honey there. She hides it
from me. Knowing I would eat it
all. I know she hides it there, but
won’t betray the game we’ve played so long.
Why does she stay, when riders pass each day
knock-knock knock-knock knock-knock
on weathered boards above?
I’ve asked and asked and she just shrugs and says,
“They are the same. All smooth and dull
like river stones.”
But once, when she had drunk a little drop
of rum I keep to help me capture sleep,
she let it slip.
“I love you for the puppet shows.
The dolls you make from bones
and dentures, wigs and painted canes
you take from those who trespass
That Troy’s own Helen should be loved for beauty
I would think would give her no real joy.
She knew from puberty her countenance was fair.
But the sun itself will warm me less than half of what I feel
when now I braid the stolen hair and glue it
to a snuff box on a stick.
And make it dance and whistle.
Christina's sonnet More than half a life ago, a girl
With eyes like sky in windy, fluid light
Leaned in and snatched the axle of my world,
Spun it fast and laughed my left to right.
When those of us who blueprint every act
Are blown off-course we try to find a sign
To lead us back from fable into fact.
So I sought common landmarks for a time.
But every scene I knew had been recast,
Blurred and vague the lines I'd known so well.
The firm, familiar path was in my past.
All balance gone, afraid, I fell and fell
In love with you. And never will regret
The loss of what made sense before you came.
In twenty lifetimes I could not forget
How joyless it had been, how sadly same.
I found in eyes that change from day to day
A constant grace, one love to guide my way.
Just the frameHe never spoke, the whole day they
walked slowly through the gallery. He
watched her shadow spread and weave
on tight, silk screens and over
honey-glossed parquet. He didn't
say, "I like this one." He didn't nod.
He didn't cluck his tongue and squint
as if to weigh some meaning on his
scale of art. He didn't sneer or ask,
"What kind of schmuck would pay
so much for crap like that?"
He didn't roll his eyes or check his watch.
No grudge marred his gait. He didn't stay
in the men's room way too long.
He didn't smile. He didn't crack
his neck or shake his keys. Or flirt
with the coat-check girl the gallery
shared with the small, attached café
where they went afterward.
Until he dies, though, he will see her hair
when golden, city sun runs streams of yellow,
haloed glaze on hardwood floors
in galleries, or anywhere.
RallentandoAbandon, Miranda, the visible rhythm. Leave elbows and neon,
vodka and plastic to women who walk in sure placement.
Deaf to music that breathes, blind to wind in the grass,
afraid to go barefoot at night. The darkness
that lies at your lips calls to me when you're asleep.
It demands that I watch and watch still as you turn,
turn towards the wall, watch the slide
of your neck, watch the catch of your throat.
Can you live in this sleep, in this shadow
that laughs at my words and not know
how your arm thrown over the afghan
sneers, "No, you will not. Not like this,
you won’t know me." Miranda, your days
make me cold and unseeing as glass.
When you speak I hear nothing
but the sum of your laughter.
How can I wake you from lunches,
from makeup and voice mail?
from men who say nothing?
Stay silent, Miranda. I will watch
and pretend. Close your eyes.