Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rats and Mallards

When the roadway was dug up
for new drainage
and lifted from the bog,
it was summer, rainless,
the rats came from the heat
to our side of the parking lot,
climbing through the
poxy shrubs, where the summer
lawn ran brown into the
brown flower beds, and
I lay in a stupor and
watched them, acrobatic
in their berry-picking, and wondered
where rats live before
all the heavy front loaders
roar, before the by standing trees
heave easily out of the gravel,
before the pond gets
that ugly dust face.

I left before I heard an answer,
sobered up, stopped smoking—
last I saw the devil
he was teaching
the unhappy mallards to sing.

Practice and Back

The board tricks start before kickoff:
worn thin trashband shirts won't flap,
deck shoes, no holes, and jeans I can
goddamn bend in.

Rolling to the ball field hill is an
easy ride, a breeze past the spaniels,
two quick curves and lean into traffic.

I've had too many spills
on the downhill, face plants
getting this trip down fast enough--
wiping in the sand, on the curbs,
just to get momentum past the fire house.

So I show up on stage bloody,
waiting to stand and stare,
eye to eye.
You pop out of a car ride, hop
over the stopped cars on Main Street,
flip your hair off your face, perfect.

I learn my lines,
catch my breath,
sit down with you
forever and slowly
walk home.

Mahler's Third Symphony

Cool days, the pool too cold for a dip,
I am surprised to think that the night
is like a grave, hollow, solidly damp.

I wake up and Mahler is talking to me.
It is quite gibberish, and I wonder
if he is sleep walking.

He is taking forever to get to the point…
trumpeting and straying into old songs.
I sit up when he asks me to sing.

Mahler wants to hear pain and joy,
wants a summer’s relief, flowers
and satyrs’ wine and bread.

I sing for him the sleeping faces
of the children, and the night lightens.
An angel sits with me, no longer Mahler.

The deep cobalt sound of morning,
misterioso and very slowly,
climbs out of my eyes, into my sight.

Mahler Two

There are fingers involved
in the whole process, picking
vellum, penning, pouring
a plop of ink.

So there are hands
to push the piano
into a proper corner.

Did Mahler grab the chair,
abruptly jarring the desk?
Was he jumping up to
fix tea, swill port, pace,
to put off the first movement?

He had to write the beginning --
at some point, say, “I wait
no longer.” He cannot tell now.

My guess is a mind unfocussed
could commence the Resurrection.
One day, in the settling and side-lit
dust, he stirred a quiet fingertip.

Mahler One

This boulder doesn’t have to be
bigger. There are other,
bigger boulders.

There is one Symphony One
by Mahler. There is a Symphony Two,
too, but one One.

There are only four parts to Titan.
No more are called for but four.

And as the rules go around here
There is no more Mahler.
He is dead, and that is perfect.

Seems foolish to want
more Mahler,
and this boulder bigger.

Multnomah Falls

My wedding was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for me.

There were hundreds of dragons in the gorge,
scores of sprites and oriads at the falls,
the way my friends venerate the stupa.

That morning, my wife taught me
that it is holy to eat birthday cake with someone;
holy to go to a homecoming game at the high school.

In perpetual creation, each step is a coming alive.

Events Which Befall Our Yard

I only knew the bat was there
by the dung on the ground.

The borer bees spill wood
dust over the trash cans.

There are branches to clear
before mowing, the sky

bluing where the storm
must have loitered,

shoulders hunched,
leaning into the red maples.

Shredded emerald leaves
float in the pool.

The yard’s shirt is untucked,
its pants rucked and laces untied.


The old women have a ritual for this place:
They go to the well and yell into it
until a breeze blows up.

They will tell you that a woman
years ago
yelled up a gale, houses were
and men were carried off
in the winds.

When seeds flew
into the famined fields,
two women shouted into the well
and rain came.

The well is older than the town.
It gives no water.


I’ve dug myself a hole
in the right thigh,
and poured the concrete
to hold a mail box pole.

I’ve put port windows
over my kidneys,
and let the swallows in
under my chin.

Thumped like a bellows
and belching emptily…
the night asks,
“To whom? To whom?”

The chipmunks won’t come out
from under the lungs
and give up all the closet space
I’ve justly abandoned.