Special Problems In Vocabulary
There is no single particular noun
for the way a friendship,
stretched over time, grows thin,
then one day snaps with a popping sound.

No verb for accidentally
breaking a thing
while trying to get it open
— a marriage, for example.

No idiomatic phrase for losing a book
in the middle of reading it,
and therefore
never learning the end.

There is no expression — in English, at least
— for avoiding the sight
of your own body in the mirror,
for disliking the touch

of the afternoon sun,
for walking into the long flatland
that stretches out before you
after your adventures are done.

No adjective for gradually speaking less, and less,
because you have stopped being able
to say the one thing that would
break your life loose from its grip.

Certainly no name that one could imagine
for the aspen tree outside,
its spade-shaped leaves

spinning on their stems,
working themselves into
a pale-green, vegetable blur.

No word for waking up one morning
and looking around,
because the mysterious spirit

which drives all things
seems to have returned,
and is on your side again.
It’s hard to write inside an empire.
The air conditioning blows directly in your face.

The waitress stands there right in front of you,
blocking your view,

and just as you are telling her you’ll have the soup
a plane flies overhead, dragging an ad for fast food

towards the nearby football stadium.

There is reggae coming from the kitchen,
where some foreigners are paid to be invisible.

The TV is selling some insidious stuff
to remove hair from your back.

It’s hard to write inside an empire,
because the ink is made from the eyelids of baby mice.

The paper is manufactured by someone
on trial for drinking blood.

All around you, in a circle you can’t see,
young men with guns are facing outwards,

protecting you from interruption

as you go on writing a poem
comparing the courtship of your parents

to beavers building a dam — how they cut
down trees with their powerful teeth

and dragged the willows into place
to make an underwater fortress

with fabulous views
and childproof locks,

to keep the kids from getting out.