Selected Poems

 

Almost Easter

We move through a familiar landscape filled with spotted cows . . .

Anniversaries

Early a.m., signs in the misted windshield . . .

Awaking to Read Vergil's Aeneid (Book 11)

Migrained again at 5 a.m., is it the Pyrrhic victory of human spirit . . .

Lighters

You bring the lighter to the unlit end . . .

Study in Claret

Easy strokes brush canvas, a fluttered color . . .

Warwickshire, Halloween Day

On a park bench he remembers . . .

 

 
 

Almost Easter

 

 

 

Anniversaries

for Wiebke

Early a.m., signs in the misted windshield

hard to read—gray, pebbled with water. Teaching

Sappho all day long for my sophomore lit., and

worried about it.

 

When our new white Mazda accelerates in

third, I take your hand: anniversaries re-

membered. Warm flesh, veins that are yours, enchant the

palm of the morning,

 

where some odd gust, grace of October air, sus-

pends a leaf, rust-colored and enigmatic

over us—just one, just a minute hanging

lost in the mirror.

 

Think of space, time, fate, and the palmistry en-

acting us, here, now, and another year that

blinks its foglights towards us; I squeeze your hand, hard,

loving you madly.

 

 

 

Awaking to Read Vergil’s Aeneid (Book 11)

 

Migrained again at 5 a.m., is it the Pyrrhic victory of human spirit

that the body needs, the open-minded slaughter of the bellum civile?

 

Do you hear it? Penthesilea wars for Troy, a second Troy, a third,

a fourth, even as you pour yourself a second cup of coffee, equivocate

 

once more the cost of broken walls, the gory fields, and fierce Camilla dead

(the spearchild suckling at the breast its first, last, best maternal food).

 

In your dreams she raced the frozen Thermodon and as suddenly was gone;

false dreams before waking turned by pain into strange similes

 

of Xanthus, Simois, the loved past that you can’t remember or forget

but only relive, stealing a language that shifts beneath you like a river

 

or a running horse. You mouth "the cost of progress" for the world your heirs

inherit. Your hatred comes from this and it is deep as seven years of travel;

 

you hug Sidonian Dido’s robe around you, remember her swift, sure hands—

envy her (the fourth, fifth time)—always it is tragic, winning.

 

Migration kills. You drink your coffee, bleakly stare across the field

where Aurora hitches another bloodred chariot and the bitter future waits.

 

 

 

 

Lighters

 

You bring the lighter to the unlit end

of your Marlboro Light: Flint flashes, sparks,

and then ignites the butane flow; a flame sends

light like a yellow caress in the dark

of your room and leaves us, as we ourselves tend

to abandon lighters or misplace them, marking

both fire and loss, absence. We purchase new ones, lend

out disposable old flames, bright-colored carcasses

of times too easily Promethean, where ignition

seems the only key to knowledge, and the lowering blue flame

terrorizes with its unfaith, its consuming dissolve of cognition,

leaving us sparking corpses, new lighters, increasing shame

at our inconstancy, feeling like believers who have sinned,

as we try—again and again, stupidly—to light our lighters in wind.

 

You smile at my sonneteering: "truth is butane, butane truth,"

your words like ragged roses, your angelical smoke-petalled mouth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Study in Claret

 

Easy strokes brush canvas, a fluttered color

clings to old paint, nests in a hard-won past when

birds at his gray window entranced him: blue-winged

sonnets in feathers.

 

Younger then, bright-plumed, he would watch the hopeful

birds as they flew anticlimactic arcs and

dove away. (She came in the night, the fragile

bones in her body

 

lighting there, live, various, coupling beauty,

act, as though no other existed, ever.)

Savage blue, orange, damson he paints, and never

knows he remembers.

 

 

 

 

 

Warwickshire, Halloween Day

 

(1)

On the park bench he remembers

a line of Stein, and thinks:

a slough is a slough is a slough is a slough.

In one Midwest: redwing

blackbirds, the spikes of cattail green,

and all the harsh pornography of spring.

He recalls the lacelike fringe of ice

that hovered above the mud;

he remembers the woman was blonde.

 

(2)

North of Stockholm the Volvo stalled —

and old American lovesongs spilled

onto the shoulder where they waited;

silent duckweed spread wide for the turtle

who slipped from the rock.

 

(3)

Her heart wandered out of her eyes,

and his hands were cold in the sun

and she held them.

Rare sun,

and a man with his terrier walking:

cattails spilling their seed in the pale October breeze:

she ran her fingernails

along the bones of his face.

He wonders

why she cries when they make love.

Carved in the arm of the bench

are letters that tell him to ask,

but he closes his eyes

to the slough bright with sun,

watches the sun black and red in his eye,

and remembers the woman was blonde.