Aug 272015
 


An elegance that pursues silence

by Gregg Glory


PIG’S EARS

The gift of speech

Sentiment is the key. If the reader can be thrown strongly enough in a certain direction, or into a certain mood, then that feeling can create a connective web or atmosphere that holds the whole poem together: the web transformed into a nexus of human-centered meanings.

As with Wordsworth or Coleridge’s conversation poems, the reader is hip-checked by direct statements of strong feeling in the direction of the mood in which the poem will actually function as a poem and not merely a collection of statements. It is a wrestler’s work and no mistake. It is not the aesthetician’s golden ladder of words, nor imagination’s grand view, nor the jeweler’s precise chiseling of a potential diamond. It is a gross and direct appeal to the self-pitying piggy heart of common humanity that gives such poetry the emotive energy to soar. It’s the last weeks of an intense political campaign where rhetoric and competition have roiled winner and loser in a single vat. It is five seconds to go on the fifty yard line. Desperation, excitement, and commitment are all called up from the slop bucket of survivor’s guilt of evolution which has hazarded us this far.

But how to achieve this peanut-cracking rhetorical gore and gong-show ga-ga excitement in the current age, when rhetoric, speechifying, and fine sentiments have been frowned from the field of human communication? Only in television ads, charity appeals, and the Sunday sub-culture of evangelical shtick are such techniques still commonly employed.

Unless I was going to print my poetry on the side of a collection tin underneath the photo of an abused puppy, I was S.O.L. I thought to myself, How would Gomer Pyle propose to his lady-love and manage to be heard as more chivalrous than cartoonish? A proposal of marriage is a domestic moment of high drama in our reproductive lives, with a long shadow of consequences that hang from the act, casting back from the future a certain darkness or atmosphere upon the proposal’s moment. So, in imagination, I put myself into Gomer’s size twelve army boots and bent down on one knee. And shazzam! I saw Polly Pureheart a-blinkin’ down at me–so unbearably lovely in the moonlight near the babbling cr’k. And as much as I wanted to marry that Pureheart, and cherish and care for her, and hold her in my clumsy arms under the sighing weeping willow tree . . . . I, I, well, I just couldn’t say anything at all. I had been struck dumb by the immensity of the moment, and the intensity of my own feelings. The fear of rejection and the vulnerability of showing my truest soul were there as well, like a lump of flour in my throat. Yet, for all that, my intentions were clear to her, and Polly in her pity looked down with love in her eyes, and a simple, life-altering “Yes” on her lips. I was blessed.

What I took from this hillbilly vision was that clear intention–or direct statement of strong feeling– followed by silence, or a break from the intensity of that intention or feeling, can moisten the wry eye of the reticent reader, and cattle-prod a passive Polly into action. I wondered, with my personal penchant for potent possibilities and alternative scenarios, if a rhetorical question, sincere in the motivating gears of its feelings, could work as well as a bald blurt of hurt or happiness to create this space of silence in a poem– and which would then invite the reader to lean in and leer– not as a vampire umpire calling strikes– but as one of the dusty boys in pin-stripes ready to get dirty and knock some mud off of his cleats. I’ve tried this approach in the following poems too. (How’d I do?)

A question, such as

      How can we talk about love when everything's wrong?

creates a silence of need and self-doubt projecting from the speaker. If the reader has ever felt a similar doubt or moment of confused longing, then, I figured, a space of receptive silence and co-creation will occur. The poem just may succeed its way into meaning.

A direct statement of strong feeling, like

      It's going to take a very great person
      To just stand there and love me.

creates a similar silent space. The adjoining observations about a menacing sky, an aggressive squirrel, and some quietly patient horses all give that sentiment its fertile dung in which to blossom. Exacerbating or contradicting–both–can call that statement into greater relief. The squirrel and horses have nothing directly to do with the feeling the speaker is bludgeoned by– and yet, in the explosive silence of embarrassed eavesdropping the criminal reader has been plunged into– these props take onto themselves all the concomitant feelings that the words of the poem refuse to provide. They are the willow tree and moonlight to Gomer’s gulping proposal, his brown eyes swimming with unsayable sentiments that must still–somehow–be understood if he, and, downstream, the species is to survive.

Will you take my hand?

GREGG GLORY
Feb. 14th, 2009



MILES TO GO

This poem has no details
If you won't carry water
100 miles in your hands.

Break through the skim of ice 
In December, right behind that silent glass factory
All one tall shadow on the Raritan.

Watch your hands shiver.
Feel your wet cuffs the first 20 miles
Until the sky is a shard in your palms,

And you fret about cutting your wrists
Accidentally.



LIGHTING ROCKETS IN THE BACK YARD, JULY THE FOURTH, 1969

Kneel down in darkness
Beside my dark.
Flow your free hand
Into the rolling stack.

Each breath anticipates the next.

Excited, we lean
Nearer than the night.
Nearer than the spur
Of sparks about to start.

Hold my hand.  Hold this match with me.



CLIMBING MT. TABOR

I don't belong here, in this creation.
The clear air flies around me,
One frenzied blue wing escaping.

The path up is all grey wrecked stones
Made naked where the runoff comes bursting in Spring.
They hint at the uppermost, topless spot
All bald flat bold long rocks
Veined with autumn-leaved vines and dry ivies.
Now I can see what 
I have been pushing for until
My head and shoulders are slick with afterbirth.

Over the cliff, the landscape patches itself together.

A bare, thin
Cigarette smoke of veiled haze
Puts a varnish finish to the valley.
The Delaware lays like a wet, crooked stick
Abandoned in a ditch.

From up here,
At the brownish prow of lookout rock,
I can almost see my whole stupid life.
Clouds assemble, whispering frigid things against me.
I have no idea why nobody's here with me,
Why I have no lovers at my age,
Or why I'm tearing my loafers out on a mountainside,
Scoring water off of strangers
And trying to forget my face
With my back 
Against this cliff.



DELIBERATELY

Deliberately
I drove until
The only thing I was
Was lost.  Scrub pines hunched
Like dwarf men under the lowering roof
Of eggshell heaven, each man bent into his own
Posture of Dantescan agony.  I kicked uncomfortably
Against the sterile pinecones large as a fist
Or dud handgrenade until they rolled into the shadows
Full of needles, with a sound like crumpled paper.
The patient preoccupation that had bade me lose my way
Loosened like pneumonia phlegm with every cracking kick.
Now, at last, quite lost, I laughed!
Not even my own troubles could find me here,
Shadow-mottled as a forgotten fawn.
Under a wing of vines, beside some swirl of wet,
I sat contemplative in my self-forget.
The vine-leaves' yellow eyes, all rimmed with red,
Offered inedible tears of berries cheerily,
Which, if I ate as offered, would let the sick inside
Slide up slick as a roar.  I smiled aside
My wry temptation to see
Just what it was was in me,
And pulled my fingers from the vines like a half-plucked harp.
I put away my need to know
Just what had gotten lost when I had gotten so,
To see it sized and sorted on some obscene plate
Curiously served up
For I and eyes to eat.

Low above, on a white dry pine bough overhead,
The sinuous weight of a great black snake
Waits in its hisses.



INSOMNIA

Better off dead,
I keep poking my pillow with my elbow,
Looking for sleep--
The cold pleasure of unconsciousness,--
An apricot kept at the back of the fridge
Sweating quietly in a lightless box
Until the sudden click of dawn
Bares its teeth.



IF ANYTHING

There's something crappy in the sand along Belmar's shore.
The grains are too big, or there's too much weird junk
To run it
Smoothly between your palms.
Tar from the pier pilings sticks
In your dungarees.
And the Shark River inlet, no longer busy
With chaotic traffic or crab traps
Keeps spitting at you.
Even the dying flounder
From some old drunkard's afternoon haul
Stares up at you to go.

But you stay,
Stuck on your perch and your thoughts--
A little helplessly.

And when the oil rig lights twinkle on like an evening dress
All along the bottom of the sky's deepening scythe of green,
It's hard to know what to call it.
If anything.

 

COMBING THE LONG BRANCH BEACH, I LOSE MY LIFE IN THE DEBRIS

I feel trapped in my old life
Like a hermit crab that won't abandon its shell
It is so intensely curled
Into its stiffened whorl of habits.

The seashore wails and wails
Its single, filial demand--
Repetitious as a herd of commodities brokers
Shouting in their calico patchwork of blazers
Until the final bell.

How can I change if the sea won't?
My yearning stands straight out like a flag, same as ever.

Seaweed everywhere,
Beaten brown and soft as a drenched felt hat,
Fits itself alluringly
To the suavities of the rocks,
Adapting crash by crash by crash.



WHISPERS ON THE COT

Nervous and warm as mice
The skinny cot at Camp O
Squeals with our comingling.

Wet nose to nose, past midnight
We whisper the dawn awake.

How can we talk about love when everything's wrong?

We touch through frayed fingerless gloves
It is so cold.

It is so cold,
Our breath wets the cinderblocks
And almost freezes.

Our shoulders get sore,
Facing each other in the dark.

Light comes into the room
Like a page turning out of its shadow.

Before I could see your eyes,
--Before I met you even,--

I would cry remembering them.



BURIAL AT SEA

This keeps happening:

In the field outside
Mist gathers in little clutters
Unswept.  It glitters and sags.

Nothing in my life is very tidy.
The stamp collection from when I was 12
Blows off the shelf in a windstorm
Of colorful, cancelled leaves.

        I am older than I was yesterday.
When Lisa calls on the phone, casually blank,
I don't care.  It hurts.

Shaving, I cut someone else's face.
The watery blear of blood flows away from him,
Down the well-formed hole in the porcelain
Made for the purpose.


 

“DON’T YOU KNOW ANYONE ELSE TO FALL IN LOVE WITH?”

The waters that tumbled us together
Now are pushing us apart
The way sometimes pond ice
Will throw over an old tree
(A decaying oak even)
And give its roots unwanted air.
Nothing is lost, and everything is changed.

2
What is the purpose of a fingernail?
It feels nothing and keeps on growing, 
Even when you're croaked.  The only time
I ever noticed mine was when I lost one
In a dumb moped accident.  My thumb one.
It was OK though, really, or at least
It grew back long enough to cut me
When I wasn't thinking.

3
Things keep turning out this certain way.
The moon keeps meaning something angry and sad.
I hate that.  It makes me want to cry.



THE BLACK RATTLE

Yesterday's lime, and yesterday's,
Split at the meridian,
Mummifies in its little ceramic dish.
Its green is almost white,
And it is dry to the touch as an almond.
Still, I remember when it was
Fresh and bitter.

Now, is there nothing else for the mouth to hold
But these thin syllables?

Every day, I wash my face
Beside your dusty toothbrush, the black rattle.
The sky is square and bright in the window.

When a man's love is mocked away
Death becomes beautiful.



A HARD MARCH

Stars drag and spark.
Cold ponds soften and go black in the March moonlight.
Valedictory icicles fall ringing from the eves,
Inhabiting my sleep.

Deep in the fallow meadow's gopher holes,
Near the golden hibernates
Head down in their breathing dark,
Spring ripens.

Goodbye winter, goodbye love!
Nothing shall remain fresh in this winter's-light
Even one more day.

I lift my arm
As though it were a bough of evergreen waving.
Nothing can save us at this point.
And I
Don't want to.




THE GIRAFFE

Some things are so proud. A giraffe, proud of its tallness, looks down with its wet stone brown eyes through Maybelline lashes keeping the dust of the sun out. Looks down on us as if we had fallen from the sky too and had forgotten how to get back up. We are the broken-hipped, the pitiable.

But the giraffe moves on, too proud to grow hands and help us back to the sky-world. Taking slow, liquid steps as though pushing against an ocean we can no longer feel, her concern moves forward to what concerns her. And the pale afternoon moon follows her, I notice . . . indifferent to clouds or poems thrown like rocks or bouquets to bring the moon down to us so we could touch it and wash it and swaddle it with big hands in fresh cotton like a newborn baby.

The giraffe is done with hands, done with distractions. There’s something else up there, something more important, something necessary. Something has made her spotted neck rise and rise for generations without losing the pull of its helium, the tautness of its string tugging on her shoulders, her nose high as if just above the waterline she has been pushing against all these eons refusing to drown, her lips outstretched as if dying of thirst to reach the tenderest, least green, smallest leaves at the tip-top of the thorn tree.

 

THE SEA URCHIN

has a mouth full of feelers. It is careful about what it takes in, what it ingests for its own health. It has a hard shell and it traverses along its spines. Yet, for all that shell, those spines loaded with goading poison, it is delicate, delicate. An unwary foot can crush it, turning its delicately waving spines into fiddlesticks. It’s round as an eye, and as wet; a ball of lashes that can sting.

What comes to this underwater oddball floats to it, mostly. Always it is surprised by what drifts onto its radar. Its small, central mouth is always open; always it is saying: O, o, o, o. Quietly it lies and lives in a world full of fast monsters. Barracuda, all sinister grin, speed by the bristling urchin unmolestingly. It walks, when it does, the way a starburst would have to– carefully on its extended points.

To me, it feels hairy and lonely. This denizen of tidal waters and marginal sands that never ventures from its furry shell, leaves, at last, a washed up skeleton-ball children rattle by their ears. Shaken, it is still full of worry beads.

 

IN QUIET LIGHT

The excitement of waking up alone in the morning
Has left me.

The ceiling is closer than in my childhood,
And less interesting.

The yard outside is immaculate and empty.
Nobody disturbs my snows.

Looking at the frozen dogwood, weighted heavily down and down,
Broken branches lay beneath like scribbled hieroglyphs,
Wands encased in cold glass.

Why is there pity without mercy?
I think, Just as you start getting it right it all changes.

2.
A starving coyote, new to the neighborhood,
Trots from trash can to trash can, too weak 
To tip any over and put his muzzle 
In richness.  

His mouth is long and lurid as a croc's.
His tongue lolls listlessly,
Rainy red streamers from a bike handle.
His eyes rave weakly as he darts between cars.
Songbirds on the snowy fence whistle down at him
Uncaringly.

No one here has put out even one raw hamburger patty.

He bounds with the weak lightness
Of a birthday balloon weeks past its date.
His fur knots, clumped glumly, 
And there's a wet patch that defines some ribs.

All his life there had been enough.
He was strong and had his teeth.
Alleys and fields were places to shop for blood,
Until now.

He stops stooping at Mrs. Crenshaw's,
Steals a little left-out cat food, dry.

Crossing his paws in quiet light,
He lays down carefully in a snowbank to dream
And goes running all night long.



LONG GONE SALLY

The stinkbug lay dead in the carpet.
In the middle of the room, in the static white
Afternoon, a dull dear dust brown,--
Scarab-shaped, but not as sacred.

I carried her to the dustbin
Without ceremony.

The house creaked for a long time after that.
I was lonely.



ROADSIDE ADMISSION

Listening is the pits.  Admit it.
But yet
That long stretch of highway
Asks nothing, is always silent--
Asking nothing in the dusty nothingness--
Until the littler kids get out at 3 o'clock.
The white line goes on and on like a dare.
Stumbling with drink, Steevio and me
Switched forsythia whips
And traded hot licks from a paper bag
Back and forth.
We kept kicking
The yellow, distressed row
Of blameless forsythia
Uncharitably, very uncharitably.
Some random car
Had hauled ass through the urine-yellow hedge
Last New Years.  We ducked in
And slipped down the slope jubilant with mud,
Spilling everything.
Our arms were numb and warm
As after a fight.
A delicate old cat skeleton
Emerged like a yeowl
From the black mud bank behind us.
Blank white sockets stared
From where the rear wheel had peeled it up.
Stared
As if we cared.



AT THE LAST SHORE

Having grown up some summers by the beach
I always hear the ocean, wherever I am,
Coming down out of a long tunnel
From far away.

Long mists hang around the gravestones, the even graves' grass,
So much mischief night toilet paper.
I'm here, Dad, can you hear me?
Even the twigs break with a gracious softness underfoot
It is so wet.

The mist is on my face mysteriously.
I am a mirror, here.
My breathing thickens like the blood of a pear
Running a long droplet along the paring knife
Until my finger feels it.

Baumer, Bowen, almost, almost.

It's so wet,
Even the souls of the place must be saturated with it.
Even your soul, Dad.

It's alright, I guess,
Running into you here.  I came all this way
To damned Alabama, and you
Waited.  What else
Are you waiting for
In the flagrant dirt?

At my back, a dull looped booming comes
From the tunnel's other end.



SPEEDING

Flowery Xs flip past the passenger window.

Dan, Mom, Dad, Granddad, almost Geoff

Who breathed suspended
By steel and morphine and coma

For a month in that room alone

With the light boiling through the blinds
Blindly

Until the pain came back.



FINALLY, SOMETHING

Anyway, it's like this, too.

I am getting so old, so long in the tooth,
Morality is finally creeping over me.
What my life should be
Is longer than what my life can be.

Life is like an airport.
Everywhere in the world to get to
But you're stuck where you are--
Chewing peanuts at a neon bar.

Anyway, my heart-meat 
Beats its somnambulist's drum.
Anyway.

I don't want to have to ask permission!

Heaven is like this, see.
A giant empty hanger, walls all windows
Watching the skirl and stop of snows always.
Nobody stays very long,
And no layovers.

I keep wanting to be dead, and I keep
Wanting.

Anyway.



A SHYNESS

Sepulchral Perth Amboy
Rears past the Driscoll bridge
White and final as any heaven.

The Raritan overpass feels so high
Only clouds
Careen off the railings.

Below us in the sky
A shaggy hawk abandons the chemical bay
To play in the updraft.

His wings move like hands
Too excited to ever stop clapping
In loud gratitude.

In the city,
Lights stipple on
Like fine rain across a pond.

Sycamores and rowans
Poke through the sidewalk,
Tearing the concrete with careless ease.

Tentatively, stray commuters
Find homes among
The towers.

There's a shyness there
I don't know how to know how
To understand.

Something in me loves this dark night
And keeps on loving it.  Somehow

Never falling asleep again
Feels right.



TODAY IN HISTORY

Two bees hurtle past me
Toward the pink azaleas.  

Once,
I was mystery enough
To interest them.



GOOD MORNING DOG

Twice before like this:
Dawn talked the wet hills white in Cliffwood.
The catbird said allegiances to the air
From a nailed and narrow balcony.
There's a coolness in the nearby square of grass
Where the exploited moon will wreck itself 
Exhaustedly
Some evening soon.  There, by the busted gutter
Tippy yawning lifts his leg against
And pauses,
And paces past to the gum-gemmed pavement
Black--beyond all knowing black, I swear--
Beneath its apparent glare.



INAUGURATION DAY

Once, I was adrift
On Cezanne's jumble of pastel icebergs,
My feet swallowed in shadow.

Stasis, not stillness, filled me then.
I wasn't awaiting a kiss,
Wet in my yellow slicker beside the empty mailbox.

I didn't know which way to go in those days.
Now I know the answer is Just go.
And the landscape'll follow you like a loyal hound
Licking bacon grease from your open fingers.

The road goes all colors
When you tread it.

Far as I can squint, and past that.

Change grew in me, unnursed,
Like a seed of the sun
Too hot to touch.

Yet I swallowed it whole, sucking my lips,
And it sits in my belly today
Burning.



FAR, FAR AWAY . . . .

Far, far away . . .  the steep mountain path,
Skinny and tricky, 10,000 feet up.

Green lichen inches over boulders and stone bridges;
A waterfall stands suspended in mid-air, a bolt of blue silk.

The moon waits in a deep pool, glittering.

I climb into magnificence.

A single crane will arrive.

--Shide


BORN SOAKING

Born soaking, man lives in the dust,
A bug struggling in a sand bowl.

He jumps up, reaching and scrabbling;
Falling, his mouth fills with sand.

Love comes sudden;  a mist, no more.

Immortality escapes his fingertips,
Hunger and greed flow infinite within him.

Months and years shift fast as a river;
Wet again, he lies lonely and old.

-- Hanshan



OUT OF THE SILENCE

Out of the silence I am coming!
Like a stone that has learned to cough,
A little,--
A little, grey cough
Next to the roaring, pouring roughhouse song
Of the sea.

Yet still, I am coming!

The tambourine attached at my hip
Shivers to be shaken--to be taken up
And touched and whacked on the thigh
Until its silver leaves fall like the forest in autumn:
Each leaf a tinsel bell: vivid, dying, ecstatic!



LAST DRAG ON A MARIJUANA CIGARETTE

There's not enough words to carry
What has to be carried.
Even the birds,
With their sharp mouths full of unbelievable angels,
Can't say anything about it.

Above me, and above them,
The sky.  I can't look at it.
It's bright as the reflection off a discarded can.
A few tendrils of clouds
Hone it to ribbons of razory blue.

This afternoon, floating on the bronze smoke in my lungs,
I lean back against the deep hillbank
And let the grass carry me
A thousand miles dreaming.

A lone red ant
Small as a spit-clean cherry pit,--no, smaller,--
Bites my knuckle, fiercely proud.
I smile indulgently.

And then another language altogether
Crawls along my skin, hair by hair,
Screaming: Wake up!
And, at the same time,
Walks like a water spill across a counter.
There beneath all that blue blaze of sunlight, on that hillside,
It is saying, saying distinctly
As an owl's invisible wingbeat:
Be still.
Still.



WHEN SLEEP COMES

The flies have died off for the most part.
This time of year they lay uneaten
In the small grey tents of their bodies--
Still too solid for the wind
To take them with it.

This time of year
Frost discovers jewels in the unkempt grass.
The spider's web blows unrepaired
Among the ruby hoops of wild raspberries.
All the song of summer is moving south,
And I am moving too.
The robin's nest tilts half-frozen in the storm drain,
Unlamented.

When sleep comes,
Improbably, on my side in the crunching briars
In sunny bare woods growing October cold,
When sleep comes then, I go down

To meet my shadow.
And my shadow,

From whatever burning place it lives its dark life
And seeks release
Comes to me.



NEAR MIDNIGHT

Near midnight, I get up from bed
Trailing smoky dreams from my pillow
As I head to the toilet.
Just past the open window,

Dull 
With a darkness I do not understand,
Dull 
As the blood in my slippered feet,

Something tangles in the telephone line--
A starling trying to get through perhaps.
It struggles to get free
While I struggle to ignore it.  We both succeed.
. . . .
My dreams are long gone
As if they'd been dead forever.

When I finally turn back toward sleep,
Fragile laughter
Titters in from the windchime.



PASSING A SPRING PUDDLE, I WAVE AT MY REFLECTION

Afraid of falling through too soon,
I do not wait for what
Waves back.


THE ONLY ROAD IS LONELINESS

August comes, hot and open
To our swayback porch, ticking in the afternoon heat.
Even the old pasture horse is too sleepy to whinny
And abandons apples to the bees
Under the solitary tree's silhouette
Dark as an iron filing.

How can I cry when no one is watching?
Who is there left to surrender to
In this heat?
Tears trail tears
Until the only road is loneliness.

And memory, that bitch-bastard,
Is worse than handcuffs,--
A bright pair of water rings
Sloppy on the formica.  The little 
Glittery stars seem trapped there,
And entirely beside the point.

Outside,
The decaying magnolia blossoms
Soften and rot like burnt rubber.
When the wind holds their flayed hands up,
They seem small and useless:
Broken jacks
No little Jill will ever collect.

Suddenly,
A wind jimmies the screen door awake.
And suddenly,
The dirty flowers are everywhere--
In my lap, in my face, in my mouth,--
Crying
Let go, let go.



DREAMING OF SLEEP, THIS IS WHAT I GET INSTEAD

For weeks now,
Every night I go to bed
As to a grave.
My breath, a steam engine all day,
Is knocked out of my body.
My body winds into the sheets,
Sour and heavy.

When the harsh dream comes,
I am crucified on a kite.
Benjamin Franklin's lightning key dangles
From my staked ankle.
I pass over farms the colors of a mellowing bruise.

Fucked-over farmers
Lie stone asleep
In the dainty, starved arms
Of their wives.

Their beards grow long into their pillows.
Their red, heavy hands
Pull at absent tools.
Their breath stales.
No horse looks up.



OVER THE JERSEY SHORE, IT IS SNOWING

We had stopped talking an hour ago.
Had stopped listening 
An hour before that.  You know how it goes.  
With friends, everything is permissible and 
Everything hurts.

We held the winter rail down by Belmar
Hours maybe, 
As the light hail hissed
Into the sand.  
Somehow, we thought,
We can take it if the ocean can.

The ocean was towering over the shore, 
Like it sometimes does, brown foam splitting 
Its pure, curved glass.

No gulls cried on the rocks.  
Water slowly turned 
The color of evening.
Breath chafed our lips, and kept chafing.

2.
The dune grass was too sharp to sleep in, we knew.
Mice curled featly in their nests,
Scenting the airs' raw salts.
The parking lot emptied out,
Whitening as the dark drifted in.

Newspapers, full of yesterday's news, 
Shuffled restlessly about.

I began to feel
How mangy everything human is.
Everything humans touch, everywhere intrude.  

Ice slipped 
Over our eyelashes, and our ears
Filled with little hailstones.

To be honest, I can't tell if I was alone then
Or if I am alone now.

A german shepherd circled back to taste a dead cigarette. 



SHIMMER

Knowing and wanting to know
Are two different things.
I know what I want to know
Is innocence.

No matter how many times my boot with the hole
Goes through the thin shimmer of prismatic ice
Over the mud-tan road-puddle,
I want it to be the first time.

The first broken bone, the first bruise
That blossomed fist-shaped on my face
Blue-black to purple to yellow
Was innocence.

That first day, slides were all surprise.

Clouds slide by dizzyingly
Lying in Billy Costigan's backyard.

The smell of grass and slickness in his sister's pants
Leaves me serious and elated.
Sudden things rush to my ears,

And our tongues click through the ice.



A SECRET

Growing old can be OK,
But you can't like it.  Like stealing.

The grizzled woodchuck behind the house
Is so fat, he rolls downhill
To his hole.

He squeezes in seamlessly
Like water through a narrow neck.
When I hear my daughters scrape home late,
Banging and forgetting the screendoor,
My shoulders ache with kept-back laughter.

Who knew that serried grey whiskers
Looked like snowy pine trees on a round hill
On my chin?

The calendar fritters its paper numerals away
In a time-lapse wind tunnel.
There's a sound inside the house of echoes.
Echoes move sounds around inside the house.

Something strong
Pulls a weighty object from my grasp. . . .
The discontinuity seems friendly and appropriate,
Like the popemobile.

Days are lemony sun-moments,
Nights harbor hours of whispery self-talk.

So much has already happened!

So many times already
I've rolled down this same hill. 



THE USUAL

My country is lurching into another slick mistake.

As usual, my country is making sex sounds 
	as it does it:
Oh, bam! ah.


LAST NIGHT

Last night a poet slept in my living room.

His hair was long as a river.

His eyes made the corners light up
Like a theater usher's probe light.
No shadows lived there.

It's as if a wild dog has slept here. 



CUT ONCE

If you want to live in a civilization,
You have to put the pieces together yourself.
Every day.

If the steeple leans, don't blame the wind.

Hey, getting your hands dirty isn't the only part.
Afterward, there's singing.



THE FALCON WAITING

My friend Dan's a ghost now since Christmas.
In this mist 

There's only a green line of fence
Last night's rain did not dissolve.

Then the falcon is there,
Snowy in the humid morning warmth.
He lets his silken shoulders shake.
His compact head moves like a ball
Rolling in your palm.

His face is all severe eye,
And one closed hook.  
When he stares my way, I can't guess what he sees.

There is no time in him,
Only flight that has not yet 
Risen to his wingtips.

When he goes from the wet fence
To the barn's peak,

It's like watching an old man shuffle
All his belongings in one gunny sack.

Looking back in paler air, I have
No memory of what we carry with us.

No weight keeps me on the ground.
There's almost nobody here.



HUMILIATION IN A GREEN MEADOW

The sky crowds my shoulders
As I kick the stubborn tufts of grass in the field.
It's too blue, or something.  I don't like
Living inside an eyeball.

It's going to take a very great person
To just stand there and love me.

Across the grass,
A gray squirrel emits its chuk-chuk challenge
At a dog, head down on the ash trunk
Darkened by night rains.

The unmolested grass is long and wet.

I consider how the horses
Will come stand here all day,
And all night
And just take it.



HEADING NORTH

Taking the Garden State Parkway north
To a dentist appointment in Brooklyn,
I notice the cauldron of fogs at Cheesequake
Is all colors.

The mist makes my glasses cry.
I curse stubbornly,
Wiping them clean at the filling station
On the ratty, untucked hem of my shirt.

The ugly gears in my car
Wail and whine
Like rabbis at a smoky wall.
Somehow today, every day is too long to endure.

It's only later I remember, falling asleep
Under the pink floodlights of my apartment,
How this awkward swan,
Beating slowly, rose from the marsh
Out of the soft fogs, his dawn wings

Flashing sharply.



INVADING HEAVEN, PRETTY FAR BEHIND THE FREEHOLD WATERTOWER

Come closer.  Say nothing about this,
Especially to the cops.
Follow me following the stray dog track
Through the close woods behind the undeveloped pastures of Freehold. . . .
Nevermind the pine resin getting on your windbreaker,
There's more, and worse, ahead.
Wait a sec.  There, over there.
Stop a minute by this overloaded honeysuckle,
And shut-up already. Can you hear that?

For a moment, we are almost 
Silent.  We wait.

The dirt waits.

Pearl globes pulse, on-off, through the forest awning.
Duck down.  Here, through here.

Gathering sweetnesses in my bare arms,
I make a benediction of taking your hand.

There's a secret waterfall near here,
Big with rain runoff like a pregnant deer
Pattering through summer brambles.
This is where all prayers eventually arrive,
Flushing with ejaculatory force out of the black tar paper tube
And splashing, frisky and sheeny, over jammed slate
Until the light, and the light,
Is beaten out of it.

You say no good will come of this.
And nothing does.



FOR THE NEXT 1,000 MILES

Stand on this wing with me.
Hold my marred arm
Until the scars feel like fingertips.
The wind is in our faces so hard
My eyes go dry with tears,
And your smile runs like paint
Behind a propeller.

Is this what it feels like to be a bird?
Deaf with the engines
As the Earth veers off weightless and blue?

Alone in our greatness together,
We close our eyes.

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