Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Trick

A minor miracle, you rise
from nothingness, the ghostly gray
palm on stage, like Venus did,
stepping into flesh from foam.

We do not perceive the sleeve,
the preparations, the pair of pearl
buttons fastening the glove,
the tall black hat of magic. Our

eyes are fixed on what’s beyond
already, following a flash
and flutter high above: a dove,
like love, or life, gone up in smoke.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Ice Wine

As the light withdraws, I concentrate
on summer, other days, warm memories,
distilling them into clusters of grapes
glistening with frost, like those dark globes,
intentionally left unharvested,

still clinging to the vines. I wonder if
it might be time to let the cold be cold,
and let that sweetness fill my heart also.
I’m no expert in hearts, but I feel
winter might work its magic on me, too.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Haunted House

A skull’s an awful place to find yourself
alone: it’s dark, and damp, and cramped, a-crawl
with thoughts, like insects, busy all the time.

The only time light gets inside is when
the bone is cracked: say, by an accident,
or surgery, or violent attack.

There is this strange impression created by
the eyes—a world outside the cranium.
But this is background noise, the buzz of flies:

a cloud of doubts rubbing hairy hands
together, looking forward to a meal
more substantial than your mind. More real.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Ferryman's Complaint

Let’s look at today’s takings:
one hundred and fifty-five
thousand across, out of a potential
six billion customers. Plus one
roundtrip. That’s you. A poet. Nothing, 
proportionally speaking. No,
business isn’t what it used to be.
Nothing compared to what I used to earn:
smallpox, plague, diphtheria,
tetanus, septicemia—when
spears and swords were all the rage.
Homer was quite kind to me.
His doctors never washed their hands
or bloody instruments. They moved
from gut wound to gut wound like the Fates,
up to their elbows in intestines,
endlessly stitching things
shut. A hush surrounded death
back then. Customs were respected.
A coin deposited beneath
the tongue, two coins covering the eyes,
pennies meant something. That’s
how Alexander came to me, Caesar,
countless others I could name.
I never forget a friendly face.
These were the decencies the family
attempted to observe even if
no money could be found. For me,
the thought always counts. I’m not greedy.
I’m not unsympathetic. But
I do have a staff to support. Liability
insurance. Lawyers. Cripples
and children under twelve pay half.
Pregnant women and infants
ride free. They always will. But
at least Homer and friends made 
an effort. You expect charity. Look.
Don’t take my hand. Just look
at these hideous blisters. Look.
I worked my fingers to the bone:
The Somme, Verdun, Passchendaele,
Influenza, Amritsar,
The Invasion of Manchuria,
Guernica, Nanking, The Blitz,
Buchenwald, Dresden, D-Day,
Hiroshima, Korea, the killing fields
of Cambodia, Rwanda. AIDS. The list
goes on. I don’t do charity work.
I’m not in business for my health,
you know. I slipped a disk
ferrying those mystified millions
across this damned river. For free.
I did my bit at Dunkirk, too.
You look surprised. Don’t be.
I keep very careful accounts.
A miracle is what you owe me.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Wild Strawberries

On either side of the path leading up the hill to our cabins at camp, tuffets of moss relax beside nervous strawberries that tremble and glisten like jelly. I am not normally a berry fancier myself, but I will make an exception in this case and stop.
O how they melt in the mouth! No sugar snowflake, no pearl in acid, no metaphor on earth could do the sensation justice.
You have to try one of these things.
What is the matter with you?
Only to cashews, you say. And needles.
Oh. I see what the problem is. Only an idiot lost on his way to a party and scanning the horizon in a pirate eye-patch would suggest some connection between the succulence of strawbrerries and the proximity of a privy. Honestly. You seem to have lost your sense of depth along with your virginity today. Put down the plastic spyglass. I will take care of your cutlass. See if my eyes—this pair of binoculars—will help.
The outhouse is really on the other side of the hill—somewhere over 40—light years away, you see, past the sunset. This is camp—the eternal present—here and now.
There aren’t very many private epiphanies I am willing to part with. But, since it is you, and our roles are reversed—and you have so conveniently consented to kneel—and I am holding the cutlass to your throat—I am happy to share.
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.

Swallow, scum.