Poem To The Cutover Woods
O rock me in wicker arms. I am your son from tarpaper castles. We had no light, the outside world too expensive to mingle with our culture. A lean-to arrangement with rough hand-hewn poems that smelled of dung and hay, across the mountains a city of freshly-washed maidens and banjo music, of churches and wineshops. You should have known I would stray from your bosom, my Weekly Reader tattered and worn, reminding me of the comfort of cities, of maidens prancing nude throughout the land. But I didn’t count on leasing the world’s evil, a clean and private place with Black Widow spiders, a vague form of sanity.
The cold, an old church with a bomb threat, moving to Liberty Mountain, liquidating the family, the midnight oil. Fill up the busses. Waves of music wash across your face. For austerity the sweet faces of lost friends. How are the heavens this year, their sterile wares? Calling an underground taxi, the newsprint of morning yellow and twisted, mad architects designing evil eyes on the mossy bank of a river that doesn’t move. The silence of the dark between houses. So many other things that have been, the sickening perfume of time flowing onward.
Poem For Mama
You followed your wandering jew through bitter ages, wasted years, piano music, a Confederate grandchild infected with bruised fingers, thick oaths to a New York husband resurrected from the slums. O how you drew water from the earth, wrapped me in a little kingdom, dark and sachet-scented, a short hop to the honeysuckles, a woman’s lips quivering in pain, the doctor dreaming by the oil lamp. Now they cover you with morbid tiger skin, dark green hoodlums driving shiny black limousines across your belly on a day when the cypress widows seem to gather the beady-eyed vultures peering in. A gold star sucking up the night, moving on through a chrome door to somewhere, in the garden another beautiful season, an old stiff maiden burying her wedding gown.
Let him go. He has reached too far, his hands filled with authentic holes, broken spells, the beauty of the moment distorted, without hope. O graceful mistress, inserting a sharp knife in my brain. It is good to die by beauty’s lingering innocence, unraveling your sweet misery until each part combines into a desolate whole of complete death. For I ask nothing of you. Bury me by the swaying palms of Florida, by the sea I never saw, in a lagoon where slow boats mercifully glide through the night. Liberty with a diamond in her navel, and I join her screeching, her glory, her aisles packed with friends, a man with flowing sad eyes in the center of the ring with a lashing whip.
The End Of August
It is a river we all have to cross one by one, the current faster than any we’ve ever known before. Our toes shall churn the mud and we shall become actors in a human drama with real gold teeth that glow at night. A minor event? Leaving for the fish our flesh and bones, wallets filled with worthless papers. Settling for floating in the open, the root of a tree, the body of a dog, the life of an angel. Shriveling like grass fires into a crib of slimy reptiles, the shore we need a world away. Ebbing with the tide, moving on, silently watching and waiting for the stars to sing.
O deep furrow with no name. Are you childhood? Are you earth? Or that old familiar holding place? Look at the proud stalks of summer corn. Look at the white-oaks, the honeysuckles, the lilacs, the yellow sunflowers pouting in the rain. This old world filled with buried trinkets, stamping the tenants as good at the end of the line, inserting them in metal envelopes wrapped in concrete. Their voices seeping out late at night when all the trains have passed and gone.