This one. This one, this one, this one. I have stanzas and half-stanzas and semi-stanzas and absolute brain farts all over the page on either side of this one. Gerard has an essay titled The Arrival in which he talks about not only the work involved in really writing a poem, but the way a writer can be consumed by it. The way it works and more importantly the way it doesn’t work. The fact that you cannot, as he says “pound out “Howl” in a weekend on a diet of meth.” In other words, it takes a while.
I have a few that went that way. Cavity is one. Cut is another, so is The Whole Sky, All at Once. Tons of time poured into those, and they all still need work (Cavity in particular is a weird experimental thing that I almost hate). The one I’m putting up here today is just one stanza that looked complete in the middle of a general muddle, and I have to post it just so I can break its hold for a minute and get up out of this chair.
God has taken from us the sun
which loving was too much like firefly July,
watching our brother kiss the girl
we knew we were too little to love
but loved with cloying loyalty anyway.
A name in a notebook
and the little electric leavings
of her path across our sky.
After reading Virginia Woolf
I am not more right.
I do not know better.
I just can’t run with the baton I’m handed
when my leg of the race comes up.
It is gross, the baton.
Slimy, and it smells of rot covered by perfume.
I cannot carry it.
I cannot wield it.
You can pass it between each other
because you carry it low
against your thighs
and don’t look at it
and instinct makes the transfer.
Instinct never smelled a corpse to know it.
It hasn’t the time.
A found poem made of phrases from newspapers
Two hours into the operation
time came to choose
twice sold books
over and over again.
But the last survivors of that era –
they are all gone away
to bring your children
An insect feast,
accessible game meats,
some bottles of water,
and unrelenting nerve pain in the face.
Are you done with these?
Are you still down there
with the flame proof wisdom
of a snow storm
fluent in English and Japanese?
How is the fairy tale?
Oh don’t go cold, Heaven now. Don’t
shiver-shrug our dust from your shoulders
and ice shut each new tomb.
My grave awaits me yet
and whatever I am in death
will not lie down forever.
Just trying to live in it.
I only know what morning is
by the way it holds my bones.
It’s the only cold I welcome there
And I feel it, most, alone.
The morning holds me in it like
the water holds the fish.
Like I should try to breathe it in
To be more of what it is.
And the morning is inside of me
the way the water’s in the fish
The morning moves inside of me
Like a fear inside a wish.
Most mornings I forget to think,
and so I chase the cold away
before it can remind me what
my life will cost that day.
But the cold is how I know I start
with a grace as yet unearned.
The crystals of my rising breath
Are holiness confirmed.
A long-looking wind blows
memory into drifts and dapples
the withered ego
of an old tree alone
among the husks and chaff.
There is no sound but the rattle-clack
of its old rheumatic branches
in a wind not of its making.
A wind form somewhere else that
bends it nonetheless away –
it always seems away
always bent away because a wind
from somewhere else
never has you in it.
The bent tree tends forever back
and barks ahead across
a thin space made on a frozen pond
in the blown prairie.
A thin space made
of a wisp-drifted memory
where, with no blades to cut the ice
with nothing so precise
we skated in our shoes and listened
for the deep – the ancient –
sound of gasping cracks that we knew,
because we were experts already
would never reach the surface.
Visible saints, back from visible wars,
Mount our black tarmac and try coming unstuck.
They come bleeding sand from unsettled scores,
Try smiling at wives and babies and luck.
We smile right back as big as we’re able,
Thank them at ballparks and ice hockey rinks.
Hide our old story behind a true fable,
Salute them with handshakes, college, and drinks.
We broadcast their service in movies and books,
Sure to display them with due gratitude.
They did what the softened civilian can’t brook
So we hail their hard hearts (but think ours less crude).
Some, though they drummed in the same brothered band
Cover their ears with their unbloodied hands.