Sunday, July 7, 2013

A married couple, or, An eventually married couple, who at the present time are playing two unmarried people

I. Over dinner, he tells a story about his younger brother
and one of his younger brother's friends, named Royal:
as stories do about family, this particular story tends
towards a sort of comedy, knee-slapping, as it were,
and head-knocking in reality: but not wishing to spoil
the moment, he focused on a sound like cartoon
coconuts -- TOH -- or that sound's absence,
instead of the pitiable tears of the two little boys,
and on exactly how it is an older brother uses toys
for his amusement (for example, a Big Wheel race
in the basement, and if anyone falls off -- THUMP --
he, always a certain he, becomes a speed bump).

II. When she laughs, it is like something has preceded conscious thinking--
she laughs like a turtle loves its shell.

What he grasps too late, like a man who is sinking
through the ether: he already fell.

III. ... the secret to eggs for dinner is slow cooking,
and, while eating, not overlooking
what waits between books on computer programming
and outdated theories of human evolution
--as if the vagaries of modern flirtation
and workplace ethics have to do with cave-dwelling,
as if we ever lived in caves, or with stalking
wild game (of course there was no 'unwild game'),
over great stretches of savannah, hunters sweating
and hoping for rain, quietly handtalking
about prey in various senses ...

IV. In the video, what the man in the married couple fixes
is scooters, and she is a bookstore clerk.
Over time, although it might not seem to work,
they see, meet, dance, and sing.

(Begun 1 July 2013, perhaps still in progress even more than most poems are. The immediate inspiration was a video of two dear friends pretending to be other people falling in love with each other; bits and pieces are memories, bookshelves, and the odd creeping in of images on their own.)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

In a photograph, my father

I. In a photograph, my father:
skin red from the sun,

his sky-blue shirt
hangs open, his eyes

wide open and calm.
He looks at the camera

like he can see who sees him:
on and on his eyes

on an ocean of time,
the sinking and his sunburnt


II. A group of kids had found him
for their scavenger hunt:

they laughed and took his picture.
I don’t know --

he doesn’t know, either --
what item they thought him.

He looks through the lens,
like all of us, wondering

how did this happen?
And will the end be just

as surprising?

(Begun 8 June 2005 [!], revised 19 April 2006, revised again on Father's Day 2013. This little ekphrasis really is in response to a photograph, and there really was a scavenger hunt. How a scavenger list predicted or accommodated my father is anyone's guess.)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

An Iowan brown

Brown like the shadowed undersides of overpasses,
they flicker: a flock of birds against clouds
of glistering, oil-barrel ashes, clouds
of poured concrete, still drying, like drops
of water from rusted metal, a post-
industrial leap of muscle and friable
bones from earth and electrical wires
to the sky.
In a seemly rush they are flying
away from the blue and deepening blush
of rain.

(And on the same stiffening wind,
a drift of distant cows: a waft
as faraway warm and soft as each mildering
roadside farm, each squat and sagging
building rotting like an unpicked fruit:
a red body sickly sinking to the ground,
its skin giving way, in the "smokeless burning
of decay" -- of time -- to a fine, compostible brown.)

(Found and finished 9 June 2013 while following I-80 from Chicago to Omaha, first via a lovely Y-shaped flock of birds flying north across the highway ahead of a tremendous cloudburst, then remembering the astonishment of a friend -- who had recently driven across the Midwest for the first time -- at the industrial remains of the 'Rust Belt'. The quotation is from Frost, "The Wood-Pile".)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Four Midwestern views

I. Every so often, an ivyless tree:
they might seem barest for wanting that scaling,
enameling green,

but the birch is fairest to me: its skin,
like yours, my dearest, a papery white
and black pepper into cream.

Or so I believe, for nights like whispering
ivy, nights like obligatory fig leaves,
kept true colors unseen.

II. A tree, trunk split
like a rod for finding water had been planted in the earth
in the shadow of a crystalline cellular tower --
a rigid and uncompromising metal structure --

its branches like languid rivers bridged
in diamonds of darkened ebony and alabaster:
a tree like the evening before, but already

there comes, obscuring
the sun, the morning after.

III. A cloud foregrounded in passing: a dragon,

its massive jaws open, its right nostril smoking

in anticipation of air turned to flame,

back arching and bearing its squamous way down

on a knight -- like a lightning

strike to a tree --

who is found all shaking, his mail gone to flickering 

scales, in the salivary

rain, of leafy


IV. "What you don't see is her riding the dragon."

(Found and finished 1 June 2013, in pieces on a drive from Rochester, NY, to Chicago, across Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. The day had a high albedo -- it was bright but clouded -- and so seemed conducive to reflection. The quotation constituting the fourth 'view' is due, with gratitude, to an astute reader of poetry, with a specialty in such metamorphoses as might take place in [stories about] the heavens and the trees.)