The litany goes on. First your hair
in the toilet bowl casts a shadow on the bottom
that resembles bacteria under the microscope
at Livonia Stevenson, then there’s mice in the wall.
These are pearls, he says to me, meaning the days
I think, that I have them at all, I just want concrete
from him, not a lecture on the no-armed man,
how he doesn’t complain under the underpass
where he lives. I say finally, how would we know,
it’s not like we hang under the underpass,
not as if the no-armed man could write you a letter,
“Dear Seller of Concrete, This is wonderful,
not having a grip on things.” I’ve been running
very fast up a hill. At the top, I stand and feel
for a moment how I’m at the top, it’s a sensation
all its own, as is turning to run back down,
as is spinning the Lazy Susan to watch flour
come into view and leave me again. Drinks
at five, dinner at seven: now you believe
in structure, little slices of beef on red plates,
her explanation at your elbow
of why the granting agency said no
to the man “you both know causally.” It sounds
like there’s a game of catch in that phrase,
or wearing familiar pants, or looking at cards
in your hand without any intent to win the game.
It’s more about the conversation around the table,
how we need these excuses with Kings on them
to pull up chairs to the moment and let it be
inclusive of us. I’ve always read monads
moan-ads, I don’t know why. Everything with a shell
around it, even the moments when nothing
seems to have a shell around it. One is left
with the sense that romanticism was a response
to the hooks people saw on every bird and lament
but had no thread to connect, or had vast spools
of thread but no feeling for the various eyes
of the various needles, and everything was lost
in full view of everything else. A vortex, if you will,
or a closet with no discipline, or a discipline
one order of magnitude above our understanding of it,
such that, when we’re being shown a face,
we see static. You didn’t know, at the exhibition,
that you were looking at a spiderweb full of pubic hairs
until you were told. Most of us thought it beautiful,
then the fact of the matter went around the room,
then we were disgusted by life and turned
against the artist, saying to people the next day,
it wasn’t much of a show, then looking at the bill,
trying to decide who had the calamari.
Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?
But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
—Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
—A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.
—Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr’dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages.
—Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds’ cages.
—And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians’ speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:
“Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?
Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there … No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?”
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things."
I know, I know. It arrives always & suddenly
through the ochre hours of rising
& washing, shadow in the doorway,
a softly wilting thing to staple
behind the honey cabinet unread,
no news being better
than good news, way out here
where the urge to stockpile
is understandable. Where weathers
heave & flatten.
These superstitions. This boiling
water from the stove,
enough for one bowl of orange root
& fennel. As if it is ever enough
to offer tea & burn
the lantern. As if any unbidden guest
leaves easy. Yes. Nothing
than the body’s smallest failure.
And in the throat a forest.
Boreal climate of sorrowing.
White gown & room. Metallic & shiver.
In the end, an occasion to feel your heart
inside your arm & beating.
Needle & skin: echo line of trees,
four sunsets’ distance from the clearing.
Just once I knew what life was for.
In Boston, quite suddenly, I understood;
walked there along the Charles River,
watched the lights copying themselves,
all neoned and strobe-hearted, opening
their mouths as wide as opera singers;
counted the stars, my little campaigners,
my scar daisies, and knew that I walked my love
on the night green side of it and cried
my heart to the eastbound cars and cried
my heart to the westbound cars and took
my truth across a small humped bridge
and hurried my truth, the charm of it, home
and hoarded these constants into morning
only to find them gone.
The light on upstairs
before four every morning. The man
asleep every night before eight.
What programs they watch. Who
traded cars, what keeps the town
The town knows. You
know. You’ve known for years over
drugstore coffee. Who hurts, who
Why, today, in the house
two down from the church, people
you know cannot stop weeping.
The tongue of the waves tolled in the earth’s bell.
Blue rippled and soaked in the fire of blue.
The dried mouthbones of a shark in the hot swale
Gaped on nothing but sand on either side.
The bone tasted of nothing and smelled of nothing,
A scalded toothless harp, uncrushed, unstrung.
The joined arcs made the shape of birth and craving
And the welded-open shape kept mouthing O.
Ossified cords held the corners together
In groined spirals pleated like a summer dress.
But where was the limber grin, the gash of pleasure?
Infinitesimal mouths bore it away.
The beach scrubbed and etched and pickled it clean.
But O I love you it sings, my little my country
My food my parent my child I want you my own
My flower my fin my life my lightness my O.
for example I once stayed with
you all afternoon I remember
you wore that red dress
& yes I’ve been faithful
do you or do you not miss me
now that I’m an honest man
but for the record I don’t recall
ever seeing your house & I don’t
remember getting out of bed
that day I had a fever had religion
1001 hornets up & down
my spine but I could be
making this shit up or I could
be dying I could tell you it’s
ridiculous being afraid
worrying about everything
wishing I was dead all that shit
but I want it to be real though
want to be the suburb
you grew up in
you can be Lake Michigan
I’ll hold my breath
inside of you
but what I’d really like is
to see you wearing nothing
but my hockey sweater
you are so Mia Sara to me
I don’t know what
I want to do with my life
I think I want to let it all out
be hailstorm kick out the siding
glass door at your house so I can
see inside your night your dear diary &
ride the train home hot for you
dreaming about you now
in the bathtub &
how bootleg you is.