Categories
Poetry

Xavier

The young man is pleased with his haircut
and the new blue shirt bought special
for the day—its fabric smooth, heavy
for nearly summer. The collar folds
loose at the neck, even with the top button
buttoned. One shirttail turns out to show
          its thin white hem.
He’s clasped his hands behind his back
—composes himself swell-chested, proud.
Still, something of his smile is complicated
as if there wells in him an awareness
more than he can bear—where he has been
—where he is going —there is just too much
—too much —more than he can bear.

Categories
Poetry

The dead

They can wander in forgetting, confused—
I suppose it’s me. I’m the one confused
—time folds so strangely.
Often the talk is of trivialities:

some household chore I ought to attend to,
sports or politics.
My father and I sit at that kitchen table as we did
and tell the same stories to each other

we always told, pretending them new each time.
Dad has that one about Carl Yastrzemski,
how after a bogus called third strike Yaz calmly bent down
and covered home plate with dirt and walked away,

never turning to acknowledge the enraged umpire
ejecting him from the game.
We laugh, smile sharing that moment again.
And then I try to tell him about 2004,

how I’d thought it might be the sweet gesture
when I brought the sports pages and an old Sox cap
to the graveside the morning after they’d finally won it all.

You’d have loved to see it, Dad.

I looked out across the cemetery hill. Hundreds of others
had done the same —baseball caps, pennants, mylar balloons,
catching the clear, tired light of October morning
—all so sweetly telling the dead.

Categories
Poetry

Then and there

As poets ran long, I’d resigned
to not reading at all. Time was short.
Others needed the borrowed space at a fixed time.

It’s in this confusion, perhaps, some aspect of my defense
left mistakenly and waited outside
in the parking lot, leaned against the car
smoking hand-rolled cigarettes
—some such ghost, gone.
                                          And this other
spirit arrived to catch the words
in my throat.

I heard my own voice
sound that last warped note
like you hear from a broken guitar string.

I did not weep.
I promise you that much, my brother,
but you were in that room.
And something so suddenly, achingly
was said
then and there

though, I doubt I managed
an intelligible word.

Categories
Poetry

Good King

You match his stride
as best you can—
your arms outstretched
for balance,

leaping slightly
from one footprint
in deep, damp snow
to the next.

The year’s ending
and tradition’s
just beginning
to wear thin.

It’s always been
that we place these
lamps in the yard,
light the house.


Viewed from the street
by passers-by,
It’s lovely still,
the quaint scene—

wreath on the door
scant glimpse of tree
—artificial,
ornaments.

One lamp bracket
breaks as he stabs
at hardened ground.
He stops, sighs.

He is hurried,
gone at all this
distractedly—
mind elsewhere.

You’re there to help
you remind him.
It starts raining—
cold, heavy.

He sends you in
—this last work his
—to finish it
this last time.


from April: 30 Poems

Categories
Poetry

Absence singing

There in the touch of amber light
and its fluid color upon sentinel trees
at the wooded edge by still water and
an opening to the sky

—there stirring from among the moss
and fallen leaves
—stirring and setting out to disappear

—the mist glow of branches fallen soft, unharkened,
their disappointed limbs accepted into the earth
without notice, without mind or eye to witness

—still facts of being once.

With each such breath of imaginary song
there is this gorgeous and entire quiet

—your absence singing.








From
Absence singing.

Categories
Poetry

Always love

And which of you comes to meet me
at that table by a window I imagined

having promised myself that person would be
a comfort to me? I would want the old friend

who was always a comfort to me. But then
I remember how that version would complain—

old bones, your past beauty, your sweetest days long gone.
You’d want to be that grinning girl instead, laughing

to realize her silly vanity in a cousin’s photograph
or the small, shy child who does not yet know

her brother’s suffering, who holds his hand,
obedient and adoring his handsome, undamaged face.

Or would you arrive in the company of your shining
son, Soldier Achilles never gone to his war?

I know you would want to be your father’s daughter
—you might finally have the breath to dance to his music.

What tune would turn your terrible, delicate heart?
Would you be the woman who took my father’s hand,

led him that day toward the house as it had begun to rain
falling so very hard upon the dry, bare earth?

Categories
Poetry

Witnessed

Snow bends the bare tangle
of branches, the tree of a type
I cannot name just now
recalling its small purple fruit
and the thick screen of leaves
that hides me here
from my neighbors —all summer.
I’ve never bothered with curtains.
Now, even the snow falls away.

Categories
Poetry

Always a river

There is always a river
in those dreams more than
mere dreams
though sleep restores us
we are carried to a destination

where there is always a river
the rogue general encamps
at a level place by the banks,
beside the ancient bridge
and outside the useless city walls.

There is always a river
consummate expression
of its watershed, writhed
and veined, turning in the basin
of a sensate creature land.

There is always a river
taking, delivering sending
its signals through stony flesh,
embodied, ambled past
ignoring our presence or blind.

There is always a river and
weary of its journey here
it breaches what had seemed
a boundary. We cup our hands
and drink, drink the clear water.

Categories
Poetry Uncategorized

Jeremiah

Is there praise to be sung
for the quiet hours he let anger pass
alone, unspeaking, for what he managed
not to break or curse, for the long walk north
famous in family lore
for each step, for what he carried into wilderness,
into cold distance, into his pale-skied absence?

Suppose one could share his story, and offer
some telling detail, so free to imagine
tall pine each side of the old logging roads
he travelled; places he stopped along the way,
creatures that watched him from the woods,
his long, long walk,
narrow heaven above.

What he came upon at last was
his history unknown and none to presume
fill his silence with what they thought they knew,
a place where he would neither be reminded
nor asked to forget the sweet face that became his grief.

He might finally have disappeared there completely
when we gave his name to our son.