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Collected Poems (2p)

August 24, 2018

from An Ordinary World: Section, “Normalities”

Who Dares Not Paint a Face

Who does not paint himself a thousand faces
to hide his sorrow and delight the crowd
which sentences a penny more or less,
to the entertainer it pronounces blest?

Who does not paint himself a face
to ease the crying child of pain,
to tease an anxious love from sighs,
or bid a dying friend good-by?

Who dares not paint a face
to face the painted stares
of fear and doubt which plod
like gods throughout his years?

America Sings: Anthology of College Poetry 1959 Yep, my first poem published outside my own school. Sponsored by some poetry society, as I recall. Hundreds of poems. No entry fee, but of course every author bought a copy. Yes, I think “which” should be “that,” in both instances. Sophomore year, naturally. Inspired by a painting by Roualt.

* * *

for Nina

Woman in White Night Gown Leaning Out from the Veranda into a Glorious Summer Morning, smiling, as you

would guess, but what is she
saying, to the light, to the cosmos
below her, the zinnias and all?
Her gown a light
activity, imagined with
embroidery, she has stepped
out of the darkness within
the white house, leans out
from the slate blue shadow
of the roof, her dark face
glowing like a universe
felt from afar.
In the grass, where we are
walking, the dew surprises us
with its confidence, its
knowledge of music, its cool,
slow dancing, soaking our shoes.
When we look up again, she
is reaching into her pocket.
What might she bring forth?
A saint’s tooth? A stone
with veins that lead us
down the path of someone’s
name across a page? A
trinket, like a star? Yes,
she is smiling at us, and
at the cosmos and all, but
what is she seeing in all that
light? And how shall we
embrace her? What
do you think she might say?

Humpback Barn 1998

* * *

on a bare limb
two blackbirds

sometimes they turn
to look at one another

* * *

You Name It

It’s just gotten dark, and I’m standing at the base of the new lighted cross that hovers above Zanesville beside the interstate. It must be sixty feet up there, at the top of a steel tower, and it’s huge in white lights. I feel depressed; but Jesus dances in a birthday mood, joking with Ferlinghetti about climbing back up onto that one. There’s a steady stream of cars and trucks roaring by, transporting catholics, presbyterians, atheists, agnostics, hindus, vacationers, hippies, buddhists, haulers, joy riders, jews, greeks, baptists, brokers, go-for-brokers, soldiers, scribes, pharisees, philistines, survivors, witnesses, judges, muslims, inventors, adventists, adventurers, deliverers, computors, shoppers, methodists, astronomers, teachers, coffee drinkers, taoists, logicians, losers, snorters, mainliners, operators, plumbers, boxers, butchers, you name it. Siva stands there with his hands in his pockets, looking whimsical. But I’m scared there’s a cave nearby that can swallow us all.

The Flying Island 1999

* * *

We Know When the Gods

are approaching. Glitter of cymbals. Lightning of pipes and high woods. They approach us from hearth and from heart. How can we sing through all these tears and this laughter? They have been with us all along. Showers in the morning sunlight, sunshine on the dripping leaves. Flashes of shadow. The drummer cannot stop dancing.

for Robert Bly

* * *

While I Am Reading Taking the Path of Zen

The sound of your shower stops flowing. Now
the moist, sandy scrip, scrip, scrip of razor
climbs your leg. Sakyamuni exclaimed,
scrip, scrip, “All beings in the universe
are Tathagata
.” Scrip. The lather, blade,
and lovely, larvy stubble in the drain.

The Flying Island1997

* * *

Wolf, a dog

not to be beat
for gentleness.

He was a kindred
spirit. Silver-gray.
Black streak from tip
of nose to tail. Tall
as our two-year-old.

She used to say
“woof-woof” and play
at pulling wolfish hair.
Wolf would lie there
and eye her with benevolent
consent, content
as in his lair,
or else indifferently
stare, somewhere.

He wandered
to our door.
We loved him more
than he loved
freedom, so he thought
he’d stay. Except
that once
or twice a week
he’d have to seek
some place where rabbits run.
Or he could chase the sun.

Five blocks away
A man would say
“Was that your dog?
Wild animals
are not allowed”
where there’s a crowd.

Wren, Kenya, Heidi,
and at last Nicole
agreed that he
would have to be
bound over to authority.
The keeper promised
that Wolf would be freed.
“He will not come to harm.
Some folks who own a farm
will take him.” Please don’t cry.
We wonder
did Wolf die?

We must not
know. We don’t
think so.
We’d rather say
he plays with other
children, like our own.
He likes their home.

They love
him for us
as a gift
from some who gave
that they might have
a Wolf.

He runs their fields—
perhaps he helps
bring in the cow.

We have a taffy
Tammy cocker now.

Ball State University Forum 1974

* * *

[Page (2o). Page CP (1).]

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