Telephoned Report 1:
A strange cat, gray, striped, invaded
The balcony, climbed in between the bars
And battled through glass and hair-tongued
Hisses our domestic beast.
The girl cried and the mother
Guarded and policed and investigated
A paw scatter through snow and seed.
Telephoned Report 2:
Six hours apart, dark here,
A sister's plain recital:
Mom split the other sister's ear
With a flung cookie tray.
Stitches! I never liked
That sister anyway.
But mom is nuts. Imagine.
Telephoned Report 3:
We need bread.
Don't be late.
She planted goblins in our garden,
Turned out all the lights in the house and
Stomped and moaned through
The breathing living room.
Invisible, infecting our dreams,
Frightening us into bed.
Then she made tea and read.
The false meaningness of poetry
Plumps my words: when nothing
Means nothing, words slump into
Words, clutch one another, drunk.
Christmas under tight security:
I pity anybody born today.
On Christmas day's eve
At the only open bar,
Two German fishermen,
Four Italian travelers,
An American living there,
And two natives years out
From home and looking in,
Surrounded the beautiful
Bartendress and forced her
To work and gawped at
Sprung lips showing teeth
And imagined her breath
That maddening woman
Rattled with talk of talk
Spread through her hair
And cotton and rustling
In the undergrowth.
A leaf to consider:
Even stars move.
Imagine yourself not here.
Each chancing mitochondrial
Burst is a word that
Cannot be unsaid,
A breath exhaled.
The coil of one outwraps the coil of the other,
And both collapse, grammarless, phonetic.
Bark on bough, bough on trunk,
Trunk from root running through the ground.
There are songbirds in Cairo
And a tree that will not die.
All breathe from a clear blue sky
Over the homes of Cairo.
The talk when foreigners
Perch at the bar and
Cackle among themselves
While alcohol baubles their brains
In engraved ivory casings
Is unignorable. I lower a line
Into it and bring up nothing but
Laughter and teeth and
Hands reaching through the surface,
Clutching at me.
The forest fills all summer
With growth on growth
And from within, and at last,
Collapse, stillness, airlessness.
In autumn, out come families,
Embarrassed in Slav skin,
To pick among the ruins,
Pluck the stalks
Of dusking mushrooms
From the mold,
And string them together,
Hang them to dry in kitchens
Above boiling pots of steam-fed
Summer spoil, parasols.
I am skeleton
Wrapped up in skin,
Muscle and gristle
And piss within.
Are simple of sin.
I am skeleton
Wrapped up in skin.
Fear for the beast
In the freeze
Stoking a pulsing furnace.
The burning is brief.
The rising hackle,
Gooseflesh grafted to you,
The dread of darkness,
The jump and shiver
Received from within:
The spine is history
Carved in curling bone.
An old-time ambulance, red spinning lights on a
White rounded body, in the dark, in our driveway,
And men coming in the front door with a stretcher
And going out the front door with my father while
We crouched under a blanket on the couch. That's
What I remember. My mother must have dialed
Round clacking zero and called for help and pushed
Her children somewhere safe and immediate and
Waited for someone to save his heart.
My first bicycle had hard plastic wheels falling to bits,
A castoff from a cousin. We lived on a hill. My
Mother, between sips of tea on the back green,
Launched me down the grass slope alone and watched
Me disappear into bushes below. My second bicycle
Came some March, for my birthday, blue on inflated
Rubber and rolling on the drive between last snowflakes
Wobbling figure eights and emphatically not going
Out on the road. My third bicycle was an English
Racer only in that it had the horns of a goat and
The machinery of a counterfeit Swiss circular saw.
And so I ratcheted up the hill to America.
The girl remembers when we sang crazy words
Instead of the right words to the old Disney tape.
When I carried her out after bedtime, she in
Pajamas, warm after her bath, wrapped in a
Blanket and sitting on my shoulders, just
To take the garbage out on a nippy evening.
The night we walked in the dark woods and
I had no idea where we were and she led us
Out the other side on to an unknown street
With an ice cream truck parked and waiting.
The man gave her a free popsicle, and she
Led us back through the woods to home.
Do you remember, she asked and laughed,
And I didn't, but she did.
If a god had really been born tonight
From out some virgin cunt
You'd think it would have done some good,
But sumus, estis, sunt.
Watch the waitress fix her skirt
And scan each head and table for a sign.
She forms a bubble of words in her mouth
For floating and popping over tables,
And recreates the famous trick of the
Balancing plates, and bobbles chiming
Tumblers back to home. The bones of
Her hips push her legs aside the gap
Between nyloned thighs. She comes down
Rolling, and braces herself at the bar.
Around a corner
I am a car
Black on black
Out crouching down.
Angels light on
(There's a star)
And smile at the
Cult of knowing.
Along the curve of the sea
One ship passed from left to right,
One from right to left,
And no one gave a seagull's
I hate the zoo, the red-
Arsed baboons screaming
Eat the keepers.
Volcanic teenaged skin
Taut on the bone
Erupts and sinks a
Continent of lust.
One in a million
Is 275 identical
Pairs of shoes
On 275 identical
Pairs of feet
Going to 275
On a smear of
And back at night
To 275 identical homes
And 275 identical mates
Or 275 identical reasons
For not having one.
Even one in a billion
Leaves you sharing the planet
With five circling clones.
Would be able to pluck
One soul from another
If it bothered to lift the stone
And peer into the mass.
One Sumerian summer
That baked clay,
The birds set down
On old lake beds
There are no books along the walls,
The only insulation is the straw
Stuffed into bricks between the falls,
Uncertain interruption of the law.
I am the dog
You let out at night
I scratch the door
And trade your left for right
The songs retrieved
From shower water
Are old and warm
And make us totter.
Sucked my blood;
I knew I was
Pale for a reason.
When we portray
We pop from traps
Up into skin
And strain through
To see the thing within
A cat believes
Itself to be
Fur, tail, and clutches,
A love a second,
The rest is fabulous,
The stuff of tales.
A Christmas Truce
On either side we re-assembled
To renew something endless, and
Took up opposing lines.
Matched uncle to uncle,
Aunt to aunt, the smell of
Powder filled the air.
An uncle called in cousins
And the commotion of boots
Stamping scattered new recruits.
Now memory outmatches memory;
No one could know all of what came
Only the remains remain.
Bones and bits of cooling skin,
A vast evisceration, abandoned, ribbed,
Red wine stains soaking through white linen
Mark where we were, face to face,
Grappling hand to hand to settle
Old disputes and start disputes anew.
But someone, of the youngest, rolled a delicate
Glass ball, a toy of the times, across the line
And someone caught it. And smiled.
In the kitchen, a
Dead flesh for
Remains of the
Beast in it.
My mother remembers
Nothing this Christmas.
What do you give the
Woman who has nothing?
I read the books she
Loved when she could,
Feed cold birds and
Feel life into them,
Let no one hurt one
Spider's lovely legs,
Watch old stars rise in
Let our cat lie on
Pages of books
And look at me,
One to another.
The nipple thickens
To warmth or to cold,
Either, a raspberry
She fell in love with
The boat. The
In the murk.
She never noticed
Their clipped wings.
Ladies, pinch zits,
Fluff tits, glue lips,
At the starting line.
Gentlemen, let your
Balls rise in prickly
The heron knows grass
With long yellow bill
On neck spring and
Snatches a squealer
In fur and pours into life.
Out on the sand,
They fire at ghost camels,
A dozen red laser spots
Painted on panicked fur,
And find nothing in the morning.
In hundreds of caves, gaps
In the earth, crawlways too
Narrow to turn in, long-legged
Spider nests, snake mouths,
Something waits for he who comes.
All flowers, all flowers,
Smell like daisies
To the dark gardener.
And they're out there
Standing on sand.
Quick rhyme on chimney sweeps:
The sweeps ride in on bicycles
In black from hat to rolling tire
Wheel in on frost and heaving steam
To find the source of family fire
Lost mothers coming home with bread
Bright daughters shopping through the glass
Clutch buttons in their gloves for luck
As winter's fire tenders pass
Old women in from chicken feeding
Smile and take top hats in hand
Receive their work deep in the family
And breath as ancient lungs expand
Overlooking the Quad
There is no point worth running on
About these cracking boards;
The voice that spat and turned a phrase
Is lost among the hordes.
It's all veneer and blackened nails
And eyes in knots of wood.
The bird that quavered "This must be"
Has traded ought for good.
Put on the rocks,
We patiently surmise
Which is the end
And which the doctor's eyes.
Slick simian, put away your toys,
You urban cruisers, you knock-off boys,
Forget your gadgets patent-ready
Whisk all your big plans off to beddy
Settle for real work from hands
Once used for selling monkey glands
That summer you enjoyed before
Has turned to frost, and you the hoar.
The duck presents a bill
We give it bread
It takes payment to the wings
We leave our thanks unsaid
They pussyfoot and camel toe
About what they're about
And sleep in fitful snatches
They spin the mirror ball about
With one foot out and two for all
And six inches past the latches
If Elizabeth climbed out of bed at two
Of a Monday morning for a royal wee
And hoisted her gown about once fruitful loins
And dropped her pants over fluffy slippers
And stared at eternity in a burnished knob
For a moment, then wiped the blessed spot;
If then she stood and flushed and tottered back
Into the dark, and stubbed a swollen toe
On her space heater, I dream that she might say
"Oh, fuck us!" and kick a corgi in the ribs.
The ghost is metaphysics born and bled
Upon the stage. It voices fright of doom
And, worse, the fear of endless doomlessness
And graying to the smudge of untimed loss.
The actor apes the monkey sprung from trees
That, looking round to find no place to rest
And no bough low enough to gain re-entrance
Into the upper leafy sun-smiled crown,
Lets loose the howl of wind across the caves
Abandoned to the planetary gap.
In dark caves, they presume,
The enemy lives,
For the enemy must be base,
And goodness come in the
Shape of wings in shadow.
But the enemy lives, too,
In red night vision and in
Earthquakes sprung like traps.
The beast is the man
With his newspaper spread
Who declares that it must be so.
In England we climbed through
A bunker out on the beach
It's a sandy hole in a cliff
Unused to be but a monument
And monumental and unused
They said from the bottom of a well at noon
You can see the stars spin over
But here I am, and I can't see the sun
It's summer here
And we've got good tans
And it's greener here than you know
And the nights are painted
With whirling lights
It's the Eskimo who has
Forty words for snow
I never noticed hands until mine
Became little wrinkled monkey clutches
Fit for making gloves or manufacturing papyrus.
At night, in fog smoke night,
Neat chimneys wipe coal
Up against the night
From brickwork houses.
When I am sick, I am sick, I am sick,
And everything hurts from something
Here. Something bursting, fucking here.
Ballad of the Bus - notes
Bus stop, cold, dark, dick-shrinking, alone
Schedule torn off, glass kicked in
Bus not coming, another guy standing,
Wary of each other
Bus comes, stops past us, catch up and get on.
Sit where I can, cold plastic -- what color? -- dull yellow light.
Engine and tires whirr and roar and whine
And shift through gear box, progression and regression,
Blowing unfitting windows, driver smoking cigarettes
Six retards and their handler get on. One rocks in his seat,
Bearded but lost, there but for the gray-stuff god.
Try to read but not showily; no one reads, at least
Not my language. The guy ahead of me smells of
Unwashed shirt and skin gone very old.
Maybe there's no bus song here.
When we were born out from the waters
Coughing the brine from our throats
And hoping for help, wet-eyed and blind
Under the lights, we shit and screamed.
Mrs Captain Lane constructed a room for her daughter
With a vanity table, with curtained legs and a large mirror,
And a bottle of something for every spot. And on the
Wall was what I was told was a Princess Phone,
A thing I had never seen. But the captain had a
Calculator and, in the next room, one brother had
A dozen drugs and another had a thousand knives.
And the girl in this pale family would have a curtained
Vanity and a Princess Phone.
On the beach one bare night
All my stars came back to me,
And were there in the ships, only lights.
And sleeping-bag people, walrus men,
Moved out near the cliff while we
Pushed our boots through the surf.
In dark summer we stepped through
A thousand frogs (or toads? bring me a biologist)
And laughed and tip-booted along the path
And loved every found little flashlighted beast
Leg-stretching and wet in our plague.
I forget where we were going.
The Christmas tree is delicate
And sharp, and slung with bombs
And traps, and baited.
(Sabotage? Give catnipped ornaments
To cat-burdened folk. Hang chocolates
High on the light side of every
Child-owning friend's tree.)
It's green in winter, unnaturally so --
And so a good friend -- and bearer of false snow,
When putting it on for you is right.
It's frosty in the lot, and never perfect,
And carries an atmosphere too cold to fiddle with.
You fight a bit of forest through the furniture
And balance and adjust, and take to the bottle and saw,
And bind it with rope to the rafters and curtain rods.
It's heavier and bigger and sappier
Than you imagined it to be, and smaller and
A bit more lopsided than you paid for.
And in February or so, it's the last guest,
Asleep in the corner, so you're in socked feet
Lugging Christmas to the door, weaving and boring
And knocking over glasses, and leaving you
Sweeping up afterwards.
In the pub tonight,
Men roll water over stone
Bubble up from enduring,
Covered all day but now
Out from somewhere
-- between matches and cigarettes,
smoke exhaled, and then --
Women tipple color and follow
And follow one another through
Long, supple lengths of
Love out of kilter
And men huddle down
Below shoulders and looks.
Ornamental Observances 1, 2, 3, 4
On my birthday
Pools of thick
Spread on bad
Sweet and congealed.
Thick orange pumpkin hull
Knifed to look ugly
But soft candle slipped
And light hovering
In brittle Christmas white
And black bushes, two hundred
Blinking lights, each interdependent
On one hundred and ninety-nine
Other connections, wait for the
Click of impatience.
We lit rockets tonight
And set sparklers
And kissed in
Now and then.
There was a cemetery on the slope above the river town.
After the dam, a year after water filled the valley,
One hard rain brought the hill and its inhabitants
Down. Most were dust by now, silt for the river,
Though some of the sturdier folk trundled downhill
With all their belongings, on knobby femurs, with
Aching craniums, and settled back into their homes.
The chief executive of the newly incorporated
Town of Meadow Groves, from his office
Just off the turnpike, declared fishing off-limits.
When a small bird lands on the aluminum window ledge
In the sun and scratches along, with its head cocked,
Scanning the glass for flies,
We stop working, stop speaking, and watch,
Two ghosts on the other side,
Afraid we'll frighten it away.
I thought he was a lovely bugger
Though I hardly knew the bastard.
Then there he was, laid out
Sober as a corpse, but
A smirk sewn into his lips
And a tie that would only loosen.
Let him down with the fobs,
No glittering now, but down,
And hear down into the earth
Something bustling in the bush.
If he came bloody, screaming, slick, agape
Two thousand years before, in different times;
If he looked up, with gray beclouded eyes,
Connected by this cord of flesh, blood-swollen,
Before old teeth bit through, or rough knife tore,
His dream infusion of pure blood, forced breathing:
Imagine all the world come in on wings,
Come in on breath of heaving thick-furred camels,
On dirt-brown goats and cattle born to die,
On yellow gathered eggs and fruit fermented:
This was the conversation and conversion of the gods.
On the balcony,
Seed scattered and cold hard,
Two finches watch each other,
Raise sharp beaks,
Grasp bent bars with
And stuff fuel into
Inside, warm lapped,
Couched and feet up
Popping potato chips
Before a television,
The beast waits.
And an egg descends.
That railway always appearing in tales of loneliness
Is no mistake.
Stand on the tracks, as I did today,
Alone, and look down converging cold lines
of iron at nothing ahead and feel that bastard
Heidegger nudge your ribs from behind.