Friday, February 26, 2021

The Books of the Dead

 for Stuart James


Jesus, Stuart, look
What we have come to, thick
And tired, brought to book,
Brought to ground, and sick
With authors. I had read
Every single one—
Recited them in bed
And taught them to my son.
Now they look away.
It’s just as they had said,
They never meant to stay.
Jesus, they’re all dead.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Permafrost

 

A foot of snow descended on the house,

All fall at once, and we pretended joy
At such a purty fluffiness, and broke
Our backs and shovel blades, and prayed for spring.
Spring would arrive; but not because of us
The snow grows grass and lubricates the bulbs
Stripped from their husks it promised and delivered.
Summer, which disbelieves in snow, will swear
Sweat is the moisture agriculture named;
But summer lies, and winter lasts: within
The master bedroom wall a cache of snow
Waits and concedes no melting, never melts.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Reading Yeats for Greats

 This appeared in Poetry & Audience.


Imagine that it’s been

A century since Yeats.

Imagine, and conclude

How meaningless are dates.

All of time gone by,

And not a second passed

For you who saw him first

And you who read him last.



He stepped outside to say

A line or two. It was

Out of time and place,

But no one cared because

No one had built a wall,

Nobody tore one down.

Beautiful women merged

There in Lissome Town.



When you are given away

Another century hence,

Your comely wisdom combined

Worth a couple pence,

The women still will walk,

And rebels stop and stare,

Nothing much to say.

Helen will not care.




Thursday, February 11, 2021

A Lack of Resolution

 

There enters January from the left,

A grinning rush of sudden death. I say,

Says January, You know that’s not true.

I kill the pine-bore beetles, and I spread

The grass with green—potentially. I turn

Away. I have no time for this. I’ve made

Friends with the spring. It promised me a shoot,

A pistil, and the grounds to make them work.

January wears cold around its lungs,

A heart of hoar, the frost that doesn’t care

Who freezes whom. It has its ice on you,

Its arabesques of cars out of control,

Its night where streetlights groan about the dark.

Somewhere the exiled cupids fletch their bows.

Saturday, February 06, 2021

The Men Who Would Be Kings

We were a caravan, the score of us,
Camels and dogs and rugs. We infidels,
We passed for what we were, a flea-brained bunch
Determined to be wise, and if we failed,
Experienced at least. We heard that the sands
Turned ruby when they were wet, but they were dry.
Advised that the womenfolk were glorious
Beyond appraisal, we saw only men,
And they saw us and were not over pleased.
Far, far too many stars for urbanites:
We missed our meals and thought that we were brave.

Perhaps we were. A little foolishness
Is necessary for the gentle born.
Four of us returned, we four who returned,
We held our tongues and spent a year or two
Deciding what was dream and what was not.
It all was dream, the four of us conclude
And watch TV and nod our grizzled heads,
And some of them were probably attached.


Monday, February 01, 2021

Anything Goes

 

Some of the souvenirs began to squirm
As hibernating gods shook off their sleep.
Their naps had been profound, their dreams so vague,
They didn't know where parts of them had gone;
But shelves in Indonesia and Brazil
Let down their severed heads; and in Duluth
And Lower Slaughter little shiny coins
Twirled. It was more than mildly disconcerting.

Poseidon had a charley-horse and Dis,
Occluded vision. Iris saw her dress
Change colors, as the label, Roy G. Biv,
Turned inside out and backwards. Down below,
A village suffered instant disrepute
When all the hausfraus ran away with birds.
In Rome the statues changed their legal names,
And some converted. Venus wept real tears,

The tiny tears of dolldom, small and briny.
Green, like the eyes which they obscured, they fell,
But raised no fruit. It was her elder name
Which founded Paris, where the horses reared,
And no one knew what anything meant or cost.
The souvenirs dissolved, and mighty Zeus
Stroked his oiled beard, but did not wake. The heads
Of headless torsos speechified from dust.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Beaux Bois, e.g.

 

The trains still run through small, eccentric towns,

Mostly at night, the children, brave in their beds,

Dreaming of sleeping somewhere else, so young

They think that Indiana is escape—

Trains still pass by the silos, which are not

Mere symbols of desire, and they pass

What used to be a station, but is now

A home for unwed orphans, and they pass

Fireflies making fun of locomotives.

And nobody jumps the train. If it slows down,

That’s so the engineer can take a leak

On Illinois, grateful for the attention.

The children who wake up—well, more or less—

Will check if they are now emancipate.

They’re not; but tracks still run both ways at once.