Hitching a ride, trusting a partner, marrying the same person three times
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Steve Kowit was the author of In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop and seven poetry collections. A critically acclaimed poet, he died in April 2015 at the age of seventy-six. His most recent posthumous collection is Poems That Speak to Us.
Out there, in the dark, they could have been / anyone: refugees from Rwanda, slaves pushing north. / Palestinians, Romani, Armenians, Jews. . . . / The lights of Tijuana, that yellow haze to the west, /could have been Melos, Cracow, Quang Ngai. . . .
Steve Kowit was a gifted poet and a compassionate human being. He was enthusiastic and outspoken, both on and off the page. . . . Kowit once said that he wanted to “move the reader with memorable tales that celebrate the whole inexplicable business — this strange, unspeakably marvelous life,” and that is exactly what he did.
At the Paso Picacho Campground just after dusk, I walk past a big Mexican / family picnic: everyone chatting & laughing around a long plank table littered / with paper plates & plastic cups & half-empty bottles of Fanta.
Those kids who age prematurely: / at seven already sclerotic & gray. / & I too!
— from “I Stand in the Doorway” | Sometimes when you say goodbye you know it’s goodbye for keeps. / You touch your lips to her cheek, or you squeeze his hand & walk off. / What else can you do?
When he noticed four teenage kids from the Mission School / lugging boxes out of her house, he phoned her / — his neighbor just up the road — & she told him / that escrow had closed a week early: she’d be gone / by late afternoon.
Graduation was awful. When I handed Jholie her diploma, / that idiotic, oversized black mortarboard slid down my forehead / & covered my eyes & out in the stands everyone started to laugh
One afternoon years back, in a distant city, I found myself staring / into the window display of a toy store that some ingenious window / designer & puppet maker had fashioned of cardboard and papier-mâché / & painted to look like the very street I was on
The workshop was just about to get started when somebody noticed / that Leah looked glum & distracted & asked what was wrong, / & Leah told us her daughter had called from Iraq that morning, / hysterical, screaming & weeping.
Jesus comes back like he said he would: a stand-up kind of guy, / reticent to a fault but rock solid. The shy type everyone likes / but no one thinks much about one way or the other, / until one evening
It was late, & Mary, I thought, was already asleep when I figured to / make another stab at cleaning that insufferably cluttered desk / where I write my poems before turning in for the night.
— from “A Prayer” | If it weren’t for Mary, who knows all too well my oblivious nature, / I’d never have noticed those tiny, crepuscular creatures / floating around in the dogs’ water bowls.