Friday, January 27, 2023

Renaissance

 

The timbers rotted and the close rooms stank.

Pomanders did no good. Out in the stables

The horses held their noses in the dank

And straw. Laid out on the damasked tables,

The joints turned green, the bread grew hard and died;

No lady could spend such a spring inside.


The cuckoo on the move sang in hysterics;

The hawthorn sucked in air and stained it pink;

The garden walks were seasoned well with clerics;

The poets hid in hedges with their ink

And rhyming paper. In the elmtree shade,

Vertically, a man knocked up a maid.


Heads would depart before there came a June,

And no man knew the faith that in the fall

Would be allowed. Red-ripe and out of tune,

Wind in their blood made lyres of them all.

Men died, who let their mustaches relax

Or thought of a conundrum worth an ax.


Sunday, January 22, 2023

The Buried Life

 

The buried life of immigrants, obscured

from sight by Grandma Hortense's Pall Malls,

came to a stop in her, when she declined

to tell the stories her mother told her

to Dad, or when he didn't care to hear

his own voice bearing tales to me. Somewhere

in Germany—we were too proud to be

from Eastern Europe, or, may God forbid,

that Tsarist place—the Epsteins went to shul,

if given leave, and Grampy made a minyan.

It must be so. They all grew old and gnarled

and must have built portable roots, but we,

the Friends of Crockett, Boone, and Hopalong,

we weren't to know what they had heard and so

in our turn, shtum. The Indians lived once

where we had Sunday school; the Gentiles bore

no adverse rights in our town. Grandma knew

unlike that Mrs Feingold, she belonged.


Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Suffering Succotash

         

    This appeared in South Ash several hundred years ago

 

Let us enumerate some things which move you
(one, two, three, five—let’s only count the primes,
the ones that really count).
Your daughter’s hands
stained to the wrist in peas and carrots, saying,
“Mommy, can you do this?”
Your husband stopping
and getting back out of the car and coming back
to the house to say he won’t be home for dinner.
The thought of the lover you have never met
thinking of you and wondering what sound
you’d make if he turned you this way first, then that.
Your husband calling, saying, since they serve
fresh fish tonight on Burma Airlines, he
might miss dinner tomorrow, too, and if
Air Kampuchea takes his Mastercard,
he’ll send a postcard back from Angkor Wat.
The sight of your fingers telling you they are
your lover’s in extremity.
The voice
you haven’t heard paying you that one praise
you always wanted not to have to seek.
The airline calling, asking if you are
the beneficiary whom he called
aloud to, somewhere over Bora Bora.
A footstep at the doorstep, at the door.
Your daughter asking if someone could please
change her, isn’t anyone going to change?




Thursday, January 12, 2023

What, This City Park?

 

            Potpourri printed this one.


        Here is God’s plenty
        --Dryden

I watch the garden mythologically,
predator swans beneath the victim trees
whose limbs still twist, the Zoo a generation
of sweat transforming semen. It may be
the tail of the tapir holds statistical
significance, as flexible as a god.

Look at the fountain, all carved heads and mouths
smiling in blindness, O-O’d in stone terror,
or blank, as though anomie were their defense.
The flowers soil themselves with seed: they once
cried to be changed, and now they are, they are.
The coral snake remembers better days

when he swam double-breasted in a rain
of terror. There are peacocks in my path.
Two antelopes who can’t elope because
Jove pinned them in begetting to the sand
until they begged in heat for hooves, they made
story. A bullfinch twitters. From my first

fable up to the present, who has been
transformed by hormones, given plumes, and sent
to brood odd young in armor? Who’s been paid
for charm in stars? Who started school but came
back home a tale of fantasy in feet
some free verse mortal thought too cute to count?


Saturday, January 07, 2023

Or A Tufted Titmouse

 

Let's hear it for the frenzied fritillaries.

They flit, yes, I am sure they do, but look—

Their wings make boys in Paraguay run backwards

And girls at St Lestrade grow maidenheads.

Have you no hope of following? Well, no,

Not with that punim, marked with freckled dust

Of sweet and sweaty apocalypse; but I

Shall soon arrive, accomplishment no go

And expectation up for sale, reduced

To realistic, pure disapparation.



So grab my hand, descend to Pluto's cave,

Where slopes are slick and trees have been conjoined

And mica and basalt are felonies.

There we shall break our fast. We'll beg to stay

Trunked and taut and parallel forever.




Monday, January 02, 2023

The Intelligence Community

 

    This appeared in Staple.


A place where each room glows by lamp at night

as buildings grumble back into the ground,

groomed, but no longer supple, as they gray,

where docents sprinkle sets of books with dust,

and privilege is lectured on by experts



in bespoke suits and coats of arms, where rubes

like me can listen from the vestibule,

absorbing facts and accents, but not charm,

contempt both for themselves and others, not

a hope of Heaven, but twelve names for grace:



this is a college comfy with itself.

Punts in the current, gals who've been to dances

with one's new roommate's brother, not with one,

they go together like the sound of cash

and knowledge of vocatives. I can be turned,



bought and subverted, for a vowel sound.

Treachery leads me to the place where we

must pay to be shown over the great hall,

the gallery, the messes. Up above,

in bedrooms, something else is taking place.




Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Duck, Duck, Duck, Goose

 

1/

Ducks, the feathered biped, take to the air
And are transformed. We should keep faith with dirt,
Carpets and planking our relatives; but ducks
All but turn cartwheels, launching off of sky,
Air to air missiles. We are only earthed.

2/
You wanna buy a duck? You say, Duck, duck,
A bird. Who cares? I ain’t afraid of birds.
You say the secret word, and what you win
Is life eternal, if you’ll only die;
And who brings down the news, who marks the spot?
A duck, a duck. Your kingdom by a duck.

3/
We lay enmeshed in eiderdown, a pair
Professing satisfaction and perplexed
Our fluid situation had been stanched
And we were now what we were going to be.
She twitched the duvet, adjusting me, and hoped
I wouldn’t take too long to be re-lit.
A fire for my fireplace, she said.
She threw the cover back; unfeathered, made
A sight an angel would have molted for.
Ducks died so you could show yourself, I said.
What a canard, she answered, moving in.