We Won’t Take Yes for an Answer
We tell them no means no
what part of that word
they don’t understand.
Every secret place on the far side
of casual conversation
after the fire sale.
I would tell you read my lips
but fear being taken
for a president
boasting Mission Accomplished.
There is no mission here,
donning its invisibility cloak
We tell them no means no.
They smile disarmingly.
We won’t take yes for an answer
and turn them into pillars of salt.
Molecules Sometimes Wonder
No ideas but in things… —William Carlos Williams
Beneath the seconds I hear a clock ticking
in a language I once knew.
Beneath the minutes, pathways fade
on frayed maps, their faces turned
to a sputtering midnight sun.
The hours are weighted with surplus food,
the sort that comes in UN packaging,
pale blue with white letters:
desperate invitation to survive.
I carry those days and weeks and months
on a back bent by the poundage of hope
in a world still moving only in one direction:
forward, although its molecules
sometimes wonder whether they are
coming or going.
We press time for new possibilities,
intuit a future long gone
or just around the corner.
I may claim our past
will rise again
or all time is simultaneous
rather than sequential.
I can imagine realities as impossible
as the airplane in 1850
or computers back when I longed
for my first Royal portable.
I can play da Vinci to your doubting Thomas.
But that won’t provide the extra year
a woman with cancer hopes she has
or the food needed by a child of war
so she may reach adulthood.
Imagined time still meets
the mundane cousin standing in its way
with broad shoulders,
arms akimbo and all the ballast
of a 390-pound running back.
When it comes to assessing matter,
the movement of atoms, quarks,
string theory, loops, the singularity
at the center of a black hole
or where we are going or have been,
there is only our body’s story
etched in a mind that is also flesh,
the perfect location
when approached from all directions.
Today Was a Good Day
Today was a good day. To begin with
I woke up this morning
and was able to get out of bed
unbending the length of my body.
I could aim a remote at the heater
and the room began
to lose its chill. The milk
in my refrigerator hadn’t gone bad.
If I opened my door I wouldn’t
find myself in Mogadishu
New Mexico’s sun holds me close.
My children nurture their children
in cities where life is possible.
The ravages of hunger haven’t yet
claimed their limbs and eyes.
It is easy to calculate solutions
to the world’s problems
nestled on a comfortable couch
or seated before a computer.
I know I must consult the mother
forced back to Honduras
without her child, the young girl
taken by Boko Haram.
I understand the distance
I’d have to travel
and the language I’d have to learn
to be free from “them” and “me.”
Today was a good day but even if
just some of the walls come down
it will be better tomorrow,
better still the next.
Out of Violence into Poetry
Water, real or illusory, shimmers along
the desert horizon.
Oasis: early 17th century word
via late Latin from the Greek,
perhaps of Egyptian origin.
Egypt, a country of vast sand
on which wet and fertile
exceptions nourish life.
Also: peaceful area or period
in the midst of troubled times.
Thus, place becomes time in the blink
of geography’s eye.
Double helix embracing itself
as it rises in our throats:
see-saw of intuition singing loud.
Let me satiate your thirst, feed
your hunger. Satisfy mine,
if only because we are
conscious beings standing together
in this dangerous century.
We are reduced to small gestures:
reflected in a gaze
or touch of a hand,
oases of light where we may move
out of violence into poetry.