Losing them, fixing them, forgetting to put them in
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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.
an old church with a bomb threat,
moving to Liberty Mountain, liquidating
the family, the midnight oil.
Fill up the buses.
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.
of the dark between houses.
So many other things that have been,
the sickening perfume of time
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
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.
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
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.