The Final Bone

Earlier is better.

You can read the cold
in the austerity of porchlights
and the white soul of maple bark
that makes a shy shiver
when it guesses which star
might love it back.

But I am all halogen high beams
in this poor morning.
The final bone of an unwelcome skeleton
that won’t leave its ghost alone.

And here in the city –
with none of the long-sung
undone thunder of somewhere
less given to the living –
I am stung by lone red lights
and the odd mid-block walker
made bold by the madness
of his addictions.

Still.
He moves on.
I do all the stopping.

Yes

Don’t look back

God has taken from us the sun, 
which loving was too much like firefly July, 
watching our brother kiss the girl 
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.

But must we just go sunless sad, 
wearing moods like wet vestments 
at a mirthless service? 

		No!
 
We kick wet leaves 
on the cooling coals of long November
and hoist such a hard, proud December 
that our summerlost girl 
- hand still in rival’s hand - 
turns in a wistful flourish 
to look back once upon us 
and wish that she 
were half so free 
as we.

Why the Gods Stopped Answering

On being careful what you wish for.

In a year that started with three months of march
the gods of the globe met a girl on a Hill,
fit with ambition and requests for the rights
of all of the people to be equally filled.

Great Zeus consulted the God of Abraham
and Mohammed added a surah or two.
Buddha nodded his silent approval
and Brahma saw it the right thing to do.

The wish was granted, her prayers were answered
and equality had been wholly ordained.
But the protester gathered her high-lettered signs
and marched, in her hat, right back out again.

Zeus looked at God and said “What’s this about?”
while angry Mohammed drew out his blade.
Buddha sat down and Om’d ‘til he shook,
Brahma wondered what mistake they had made.

The young woman said you’ve all done so well
in answering my prayers and granting my wish.
but by making my purpose so neatly complete
you’ve presented my hunger a cold, empty dish.

They watched her smartly set out for the heart
of the love that only they could create.
With a burgeoning army she chanted and marched
‘til she raised a new devil from an angelic state.

So Zeus and the God of Abraham shrugged.
Mohammed’s scimitar furrowed the dirt.
Buddha looked to have tuned it all out,
and Brahma just picked at a stain on his shirt.

Bodily Functions

I’ll skip the meth.

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.

Worship

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.

Noondark Dreaming

Too early to eulogize Autumn?

Sometimes I’m somewhere – Jesus,
it’s no poet’s dream!
A street decayingly toothed with slouched houses
dirty cars and trash bins
(every day is collection day)
where muckfoot gutters suck shoes to the potholed road
in the scum-slurry brown of Autumn’s
rape-shortened honeymoon.

(Winter you shrill beast, you crook, you tyrant!
Making the robes of three seasons’ bounty
cower and tremble dead to earth
before the world can limp naked
and embarrassed into your icy bed!)

Sometimes I’m somewhere – Jesus,
yes, no dream of mine!
A street wearing hard a century’s neglect
and the slop-rotten offerings of a
beaten world’s winter-tithe
all swamped under noondark and I think
thank God I’m a poet.

This is beautiful.

Frozen Stories

Midwestern Memories

Frozen Stories

Midwestern winters ask kids to make
a risky reckoning best left to the wise,
standing at the edge of a snowdusty pond

and measuring its slab of ice against
the way the weather’s been and how long
and daring (or not) to step out onto it.

But this is Northwest February and
I barely get to speak of ice at all out here,
or hear tales of boys fallen through

over the years and how once you’re under
the black water moves to hide the hole you made.
I barely get to speak of ice out here

or worry that a spot of skin’s gone white.
The weather asks so little of me
that I have to beg memory to list

wispy words and show hung pictures
of winterfear. But memory’s different
from knowing like guessing’s different

from fearing and I know that if I ever
do get to speak of ice out here
it’ll be so whisperthin that every one

of mom’s drowning boys would have
measured it beneath them to even try.
They would just walk around the sound,

well trained by a place where
the weather asks so much of them
and the ice is always on their tongues.