Archive for August, 2010

Pall and Peete: the Poem

August 30, 2010

…With wasteful, weak, propitiatory flowers.
—Philip Larkin, The Building

Hoo-ray! As Peete proclaims perfection in
Adamantine and pterodactyl-like,
Pall pens, There are no wings to speak of,
not tonight

They remark on the weather together.
Peete has been outside to grab
a cigarette. He writes, Rain, to describe
the Roc
. Pall in the rotunda writes,
and dwelling in the rain, a translation,
a transition to bittersweet, as in the You
apostrophizing the Youas in You  praise God for those
who do. You praise another God for those
who don’t.
Perhaps neglecting, Death that can
climb walls
, that it’s the subject in The rain can’t, and
the water can.
All writers write translation,
so  Peete can write it out as: Death, as rain
can’t climb the walls, You must have praise—
one God for those who do, another God
for those who don’t
. Much simpler, yes?
As imperceptible as rain is too—at least to Pall.

Death, you praise God and you mock Him. We agree.
We wanted currant pie and music by Bechet,
You wanted the last breaths to be quotidian,
a bee, its stinger poised…

So ends the poem.
It ends like the death it commemorates,
as if it’s built on precious skin, skin turned
to leather wings, growth on the breasts, as if
‘No wings’ means no to cherubs too.
So, no transition, translation, no siren in the night.
Most poems are little stories of a metamorphosis,
not death. Rain to pools of water.
They’re written as if to mark the weather,
how it’s poised, that’s all…

It’s Decided

August 21, 2010

It’s decided. Today I will arrange the stones
in piles next to the barn. It’s an order
only the angels will see. Out of the fields
and mighty fences, mighty angels might arise,
reposed…

…so poetry is nonsense…to expect
an angel from a pile of stones, so that
even the ‘I love you,’ can seem superfluous,
like tying a can to a cat’s tail to scare up
old ghosts, like empty space is to the stones.

In truth, all you have to do is sit and listen,
and hope it’s all inside you, even though
it can’t be love, it can’t be stone, and it can’t
be piled up high enough. It can’t be home.

Suppose the barn was full of cows again,
moving, waiting to be milked each morning,
the pasture full of cow pats, a family of cats
kept hungry to look for mice, rats. Just watch
the mid-day light; just watch the hayloft glow;
the milk we drink as fresh as that.

When I was nine, you were ten

August 18, 2010

The drought is over. You can see
the wet leaves on the wet sidewalk.
They look like the petals we wore for clothes
when we were kids. That morning we
held hands, while the morning flowers impeached
a more unnecessary presence from the earth
than us. The egg, the leaf that curled
like your young tongue, the tomato
un-sighed for and far, far too red,
left far too long and on the far-too-long-and-withered vine—
left so unsuppressed.

Yes, all the grass is wet and green again.
The land is lucid, ripe.
I was nine, you were ten.

Why Sound Is

August 8, 2010

Just stop. For just this once, just stop. Let me
be the one that’s deaf to the sweating animal.
Let me be the barrel of monkeys, the balancing seal.
Let me walk to the bathroom for you.
I hold your hand, even when it shakes so.
Let me drown now for you too
—those limpid waters—a final marriage
we never made, too old for such a noticing.

Let me see your fear as you climb the stairs,
as if we did meet sixty, seventy years ago,
and did climb mountains together. Let me
be the kids we never had, never helped to
grow up. We can’t even see those mountains,
much less sit at the top of them. We can’t even sink in
the same river. We can’t breathe the same air.
Let me be you together.
Zip the zipper on your fly.

I can give you many years.

On Fragile Isle

August 7, 2010

That running dog across the span of tidal flats,
he’s all we see against the sheen of sliding water.
He could be a Poseidon come ashore,
pulling a sea-cloth from the sea,
his muscles bringing buoyancy to
what passes for fragility on the isle.
The sea remains his oracle, the sky, his sky.

The air expressed is his last gasp.
His breath is running cold.
He runs so fast he must be lost.
He looks at us like we were candy.
There is blood on his belly and back,
still wet, still coagulating. I’ll have
to wash my hands of it when I get home.

This poem offers omniscience of a sort,
like the sky offers blue, like the air
offers a vacuum once you leave the plenum.
It offers a dog that’s running in the sand.
It turns his running into the tides that might
spring forth into the earth’s new engine.
It offers Aphrodite to an antiquated star.

O Wolf, O Tuscan

August 4, 2010

Walter, I just want to sit on my ass and fart and think about Dante.
—Samuel Beckett

All this fractures the Wolf. The ancient leaves
amid the ancient woods, wind riffling wind
in eddies she can see but she can’t hear,
the braying of a fatted calf which she
could eat, if she could hear thy call, O Wolf.

The tympani pretend to be a thunder roll,
the crashing cymbals mean to simulate
the distant lightning, all the strings—cello,
base, violin and viola—play the
pizzicato of rain commencing…

The Wolf sits to watch—what?—the floodlights fill
the stadium? the baton poised? the crowd
about to have their daily dose of not
quite silence served up yet again? She hates
that they have come to watch a prophecy.

It’s raining full blast now, the Wolf’s exchange
for music, how things balance out, how rain
fornicates in the forest, with its pools
and puddles, how it tenders lakes and rivers
and shadows… It can’t be! Ahead she sees him.

She sees Dante, the poet of the prophecy,
the one she has to drown.  It’s why she’s deaf.
She will not hear him wail. Kill him so he will rot
in hell before the other poet comes. Kill him
and spare the world another poem about

another world. The rain and music grow
so dense around her soul. She is so quick,
too quick for him to flee. She drags him still
alive, drags him to the lake of his heart.
Sink and die. In Paradise only bubbles rise.

The tympani pretend to be a thunder roll,
the crashing cymbals mean to simulate
the distant lightning, all the strings—cello,
base, violin, viola—play it soft,
so soft, as if the rain is about to start…

The Wolf and I walk the slopes of hell.
When Farinata and Cavalcante
rise up to ask her, ‘Who were thy ancestors?’
and ‘Where Is Guido?’ she howls. O Wolf.
O Tuscan. She howls.