Love Poem #9:
3/18/99, 3 AM
My hands still shake when I smoke, my dear, and here
on the chapel steps my fingers move faster: waiting, spelling, shifting,
carefully contoured. Thereís nothing beneath my coat but my shirt.
Thereís nothing moving through my pen but ink. For two years
I forgot about balconies, drive-in movies, and sentimental snail mail.
The cars pass quickly here. The arch of my back presses against
the chapelís monolithic concealing concrete. In several hours,
parishioners will enter to find pews facing forward, illuminated
by colored light, sacred texts, and ardent voices. I imagine
you singing, the gestures of your face, lips meeting and parting . My hands
shake when I remember the exact spelling of your name, the absurdity of
late night phone calls. This pen was yours, and I hold it still, at 3 AM.
From across this harrowed land,
flapping in rhythmic gusts of dust,
she flies. No time-imbedded creature
she has not the sense of a carrier pigeon.
"Come," I whisper, "Take." And no amount
will disenchant her glory,
that black and furious potency
coupled with a storybook grace. Come,
most gentle and consuming earth-mother,
walk me along as if we walk schoolbound;
guide me to a park at nightfall.
If a heart can beat in tone,
in the gasping smile of a fantastic hue,
it can through her alone.
"Welcome," I call, "Taste what you might."
And she might, full of flavor,
with color to distinguish fire
from shadow; with warmth,
to extingush the sun at morning.
My eyes scan the skies,
the horizon moves for hours,
The light that lights her
will be vivid, a carnival relaxing
the brow of the swain,
and the hands of the timid.
Despite the promise of her rosy blaze,
and the anticipation of fabulous
the planted standing of my
grows no less difficult.
Photographs of farmland
From fatherís days in grade school
Remind me of books
by John Steinbeck. The paper
feels so delicate, so close.
My favorite flavor of Campbellís soup
is Chicken and Stars,
those hundreds of tiny stars
in a microwave bowl, on a wooden tray
above the blue carpet, on a Saturday night.
Jeremy tries to annoy with his slurp-slurping
of the starry spoon, but I just laugh with a grilled cheese chuckle.
Itís either the MSG, the flickering TV,
or that brotherly bond tonight renewed
against a common babysitter.
She sits on a stool in the kitchen.
into the telephone with an excited voice
to someone old, probably a boyfriend.
Some of the thin broth
splashes onto the carpet.
I let Jeremy change the channels;
he says I can finish the rest
of his soup.
Snow slowed everything,
today, on street strips and train trails.
The Weather Man
says it could pile up to two feet
(but I hope for four)
because slow and steady wins the race.
Everyone knows that.
The administration cancelled all
classes after two o'clock:
some administered this decision
out of a fear
(that cars and feet and pencils
wouln't care to move at University Speed),
but most, I think, were confident that
no Tortoise could ever be wrong.
It takes all kinds, somebody said
(not me, never being pithy)
but who could help noticing
all the rabbits and mad
cap hatters racing home,
(for that mid-race rest)
non-stop but noble.
And sunk in all of it, on
a train tortoising towards
the wise-capped Professor Hill sat,
looking down, glancing up
(then right, to a face)
then fro, through the pop-out glass screen.
His gaze leading his mouth,
then all at once, his thoughts
repositioning his head, sliding his stare
(seldom at me, standing)
back and forth, to the dripping rabbits, to the
empty seat, to the dirty plastic puddles.
And all at once, dodging my
study, his eyes flew back through the
window, struggling to count
falling flakes, wanting
to word great white war poems,
his neck beating with a pulse
half the speed of mine.
At stop he stepped down
(fingers grazing the railing)
off the train, which
swiftly sped up, and I
turned, to assume his seat,
but I would not move slow enough.
The Ballade of Midnight
The nightís events were left out on the oak floor:
A deck of cards, one wineglass cracked full through
By careless feet passing quickly toward the door,
For this winter night was warm. The tipsy two
Followed sidewalk and train-tracks and found a few
Topics to talk on: their plans for next year.
Craig felt concerned, but Peter had no fear,
Saying, "Letís head back home, to finish our wine.
I know that I have all the answers right here,
Well stored in my head." These words rang divine.
Young Icarus told men of how he would soar
Away from rocky hills, to air bright blue
With the power of height. "Thatís quite a chore,"
The men said. "Make sure that you use strong glue,
For Iíd have respect for a mortal who flew!"
Icarus waxed prophetic, seemed not to hear;
He spoke about physics with the voice of a seer.
"No wings will generate such lift as mine,
No bird will have my grace!" And it was clear,
His lips smiled pride. Icarus was not divine.
Like Icarus, Peter would let his thoughts roam
As Craig tried to keep his friendís mind near the ground.
Midnight had passed, so the friends returned home,
Poured two more glasses, and dealt one more round.
Peter told jokes, and Craig laughed at the sound
Of his friendís drunken voice. Once the game was done,
Peter smiled pride, though the other had won,
And said, "Come what may, my life will be fine."
His companion feared that the heat of the sun
Would melt Peterís wings. They were men, not divine.
The most responsible path he could choose
Led Craig forward through a life of great worth.
Peter gave no thought to the glue he would use.
Icarus fell to the surface of earth.
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