‘WE TALKED OUR TRUTHS INTO THE NIGHT”
Into darkness. The way truth with its spotty light
bounces off the river birch at the edge of the lot,
river birch bifurcating, one truth becomes two, spur-like, two-leaved, the beginning of a book,
such an easy lateral branching, and then pages
and pages drift back and forth in the night air.
I tell you my disappointments, those black lenticels begun long ago, things I tried to scratch out,
into another heart, into heartwood. How long it has been since we heard from the children, the boy, the girls,
sitting perhaps somewhere like us talking their own scars
into the dusk? Into the gloom?
Some say it is easier to speak
when we cannot see the other’s mouth.
I say some nights I cannot stop speaking
volumes into the sunfall, the dark stars.
FOR I WILL CONSIDER MY MOTHER’S CAT GEORGE
One-eyed, one-eared, and after that accident,
crooked-jawed, mangle-pawed, limping,
George, bad cat, mad cat, dirty yellow tiger cat,
ditch and alley, down-in-the-mouth,
in-and-out cat, scrapper, rapper, smelling of fish,
long-haired mat cat, the rad cat of cartoons,
sneaking after those churchified mousies
waving their sanctified hankies at the moon—
oh how my mother who barely tolerated kits
in or out her house, in or out the shed, loved him,
all her tight-lipped anger made flesh, oh, how quick
she ran when my sister’s boyfriend Jerry showed up,
saying he thought he saw George limping
into the field, probably hit by a car,
she knew, we all knew it was Jerry’s car,
but she did not accuse him, no—
she ran out that raw and rainy night
and found him, her cat, gurgling in the weeds, dying,
took him to the vet’s anyway and thereby saved
the seventh of his nine contentious lives.
Somehow the vet wired his jaw together and for two months
my mother fed George milk with an eyedropper,
and he recovered, how could he not?,
looking more rakish than ever.
I think of my mother sometimes,
sitting silent and smiling as the preacher’s wife she was
and on her lap, old George, her one-eyed, one-eared darling,
snuffling and snarling.
SOMETHING ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT
Tonight I’m watching a video
several of my high school freshmen
posted on You-Tube.
They are rollicking a rowboat
on a shallow suburban lake.
And the boys—a flop-haired Ulysses
and his swabbies—are filming themselves
with difficulty, their shirtless torsos
and basketball shorts bobbing about
their beer-brine sea. They are filming,
their version of that sack of winds
the King of Breeze gave to our hero,
and in their version it looks like a plastic
shopping sack from Target.
As soon as our teenage hero closes his eyes,
a smirking friend opens the wind bag
and the camera begins to bob
the way it might in a seasick horror film.
I know they are hoping for an A—
and they’re having such a good time
how can I refuse?—though it looks
like their rowboat is about to capsize.
They have not asked how Aeolus
crammed those winds into a burlap purse
or whether they have any chance now
to return the bora, brickfielder and southerly buster
to their tote or stuff the sirocco, the shamoon,
the zonda back in their bottle,
or suck the typhoon and samoon
back to their lamp. And how can I condemn
their shenandigans–when I know we all should have
listened to Odysseus 50 years ago
when we had the chance
to herd the hurricanes back into the bag.
THOUGH I AVOIDED HIS NAME
Night drove out from under
his soiled baseball cap
into the limestone west,
into the saffron and ochre sunstone
towards Black Rock, Arizona,
passing through the Pleasantvilles
one by one: New Jersey,
New York, Pennsylvania,
Ohio, Indiana, Iowa,
And I was sitting beside him
him once again . . .
tossing my clothes
out the window.
OPENING RECEPTION WITH A NOD TO SAPPHO AND PUNS
I have an intuitive approach to painting,
she says as I view her abstract variations
and try to figure out just what she intuited
even though she thinks the predictive validity
of my gut feelings is low and leads to misjudgment.
I can’t decide if I am seeing a marled photograph
of Lenin or a bother and child or . . . perhaps
a mask from New Guinea with every tooth
in transgendered father-of-pearl. No, I am
not trying to be dismissive, I don’t say my dog
could have done that, for I know
how easily a whetstone can become a wet stone,
a click, a clink, and I am somehow imprisoned in her prisms
and would like to erase a line or tow and fret myself out.
So I strum the linear lemons, touch the grizzly hums,
how the hairy the leg of a bee. Why shouldn’t painting
be as synesthetic as poetry? Standing by my bed
in gold sandals, Dawn that very moment
awakes me. But wait—there’s the quite wine.
There’s the please and crackers. She says this
is her unique artistic exploration using oil stick
and steel scraper. I say, just whittle the visceral
down to deck and float off to the olive sea.