Skip to content

Collected Poems (2n)

from An Ordinary World: Section, “Normalities”

The Very Secret Hours
of Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin

The candles burning steadily.
He puckers his lips. (No one
will see. The door is firm.)

Inside the quince there hide

the pips. (No one will see.

The paint is firm.) Mouth

open now, he runs his tongue

along his teeth, looks sideways

at the grapes, their balanced

imperfection on the sandstone

shelf. The stone will open

as the grapes are firmed.

Where will the brush next

touch the dearly loved?

(No one will see.) The knife,
the pear, the cup both warm


and cold? His hand still firm,

the quince has turned to stone
beneath the scumbled light.


He sees that nature never dies
while love is firm, while color
burns in oil for all to see.


Country Feedback 2002

* * *

Things

the weight of the snow on the roof
of the poem. the sod on the roof
of the hut. the snow melting heavily
under a balmy gray sky, packing
away from the smoke curling
up from the chip-burning hearth.

the strong posts in the walls
of the poem bear up against
the weight of this melting white.
the sod breathes. a yellow dog
stretches in the doorway of an afternoon.

* * *

A Condominium Weinerdog, Well-Kempt

Too old to pooch upon the grass (frost
littered or on sun begrimed) each day

the dear dog
////////waddles//////
//down the//////////
//////////steps////////
//////to do it

on the finely swept cement.

He squats on thin arthritic legs.
He stretches an aristocratic neck.
He elevates the antique nose
as if… to say:

The ancient have priorities
which antedate proprieties.

And then his mistress bundles him away.

* * *

Un Sonnet Entr’actes des Apôtres

Three Acts. The Saint, bereft of worldly hopes,
and of his youth adrift upon the sands,
rolls all his scruples down the shifty slopes,
and takes up playing banjo to the rhyme
of Blue Grass bands. Act Two (these are but facts):
The Restless Court Magician, for The Judge,
decides a case of bratwurst with an axe.
The Judge has gone offstage to wash his hands.
The One-Eyed Indigene, Act Three, elopes
with two French Popes, the fudge, and finds that life
is so much better with two birds in Cannes.

In Epilogue, the Author curtains down
His Word: He did not want His Son to die,
but was not good at making Himself heard.

(The ticket price, au fait, was just absurd.)

* * *

Subversive Snapshots (taken in an academy)

Here’s Bly discussing sorrow with a grackle.
Walking eye to eye they exchange their fierce wisdoms.
Bly quotes Rilke, Tranströmer, Machado, Lorca.
The grackle tosses another dead leaf into the air.

Creeley hunched before the easy incomes,
khakied in the fluorescent class.

One eye is a searchlight, one a cave.

Mountains and valleys flowing
among us. Snyder’s soft
sweet voice

I came unwittingly
the right way

to the persimmons

And this one of Stafford hiking in
from the Muncie airport, 6 a.m.
That green truck in the background
will give him a lift. It’s driver
is a story, probably true.

[Pages (2m) and (2o). Page CP (1).]

Collected Poems (2m)

from An Ordinary World: Section, “Normalities”

“Suffer the Little Children”

the horror

Here they come.
Crying from the womb
from the breast
out of swaddling cloths
up from their bed their
potty chair high chair
the table from their
mother’s hip from their
father’s arms out of their
door yard out through the
gate out of the
rubble up from the river
out of black rain out
from the vapor crying
the light. It is August
the sweet potatoes ripen
under grass in the fields.
It is morning, they come
suffering unto the Christians
and the Christians say No!
Thou shalt not.
No matter what.


The Flying Island 1995

* * *

Still Life with Riddle (for Sheila Coghill)

There are that resting, rise –Dickinson

It’s something there behind the light blue-bottled
buildings and imperfect fruit. Some spillage
of the red upon the cloth, black in the pinks
igniting up and down the street. It’s in the key of
ai, composed at the piano by the “private” woman
in the room above. We hear her in the distance
at odd hours, qualifying notes, repealing chords.
Like music to be danced on by the blind, while
Uncle Max is telling us again his story: tanks
parked in the wheat field one bright morning.
Sylvie wonders is it war. Paralysis of knowing
any step you take can detonate. The air drips
to a pool of pain, augmented to a faith, inverted
toward itself, despair. She glances toward the door.
At least that’s how we see her. Bandaged fingers
buttoning a scale of words, words pressed upon
her tongue by darkness. Or one afternoon, snow
piled against the garbage bags, all stop.
She feels skies tip, let cities slip, the soldier earth
gone quiet in the din. Those pinks will soon
be lighting up again. She’s at the window.
Buildings pouring blue like stones. A perfect
orange rolling past the edge. She listens
for a bell. Sustains the chord with white. Now
drops the i.


Visiting Emily (anthology, 80 poems written in response to Dickinson’s work) 2001

* * *

Still Life with Spilled Milk

After a grueling breakfast with my babes
I slump with my back to the window.

the sunshine has dried up
the river has gone dark
the jays have lost their leaves
and the trees no longer sass

What shall I say to my wife
if she thinks that I am not a good mother?

* * *

The Blue Boat

It was when the blue
boat tipped that the boy
felt the sky rush
out of his throat

It was the cracking voice
from the limb
that told the girl
hang on tight

It was the tug
in the roar of the engine,
the gap at the heart
of motion, the bubble
in the vein, the gasp
in the stream of blood

It was the call
from home. Impossible
to say No, call me
later. To get a new
number, unlisted

It was all so natural. It was
the panic in the ecstasy
of the torturer, so casually
reporting a good night’s sleep

* * *

these mourning

shadows are like wings
of angels resting light
as gauze upon the grass,
and gnarled angel bodies
of the locusts stand
at table, faithful
in the momentary summer
air. one quivers
and a feather falls.
a nuthatch pecks a crevice
in the fibrous flesh.
you lift your hand.
at last the grove remembers,
we are waiting, looks
our way, and whispers,
this this this
this is the body
of a christ

[Pages (2l) and (2n). Page CP (1).]

Collected Poems (2l)

from An Ordinary World: Section, “Normalities”

Scene for Langston:
White Frame House
in Late November Sunshine

This wintry light
brings out the blues
this way.
Colors you don’t see
on a summer day.

Flakes of a chill beauty
you don’t ever
want to be.
Rhymes that you don’t ever
like to say.

This winter light—
it’s just a shadow
of a doubt.
It’s the shadow of white
that brings the blues out.

Windless Orchard 1968

* * *

sitting
empty

wooden
earth bell

shadow
clapper

tolls
nothing

tells
all

* * *

Skiagraphia

Last night I dreamed I lay
with death entwined, as one.

Today I watch this shadow
cast its flower toward the sun.

Yes, Lady of the darkest bed, let
not my dreams but thine be done.

Windfall 1984

* * *

The Smell of Our Sex

in a borrowed bed
in a musty town
that ambles down
the hillsteps
to a southern sea
awakens me
to eyes that wait
like large black grapes
that ripened in the night.
a softness in the morning light
silvers with dream the touch
that they invite.
I rest beside the vines
and want no other world
than sight, until I see
the crescent of your smile.
an orange serpent flutters
in a nearby tree.
a peddler’s song fills,
like my hand, with glowing fruit
from orchards where the air
at noon drips syrup stirred
by bees. The apple dust
collects behind your knees.
the waves of trading folk
flow down to port to meet
the commerce of the tide
that lifts the milkwhite arks
all day and lets them drop,
while I come close to being
woman who need never stop.


Arts Indiana 1991

* * *

So It Happens / As It Happens

Happens you push me away
again. Happens you do. Does it
happen my heart goes to folding
its valves? Happen my face
turns mis-happening blue? Well,
it happens the sun disappears
every night. Happens the dark
of the year. Happens that
spring gets pushed clear
out of sight. Happens the far
getting pushed by the near.
Happens become comes a-
pushing at be. Happens
that time’s pushing all
stop ‘n go out of me.
Happens a bird wing
be pushing the air.
Happen a flea falls!
Happen I care? Happens
the moon goes to pushing
the sea much more often
than you push at me. But
it happens, you push me,
it happens you do. Well then
happen you push just as much
as you must. ‘Cause it happens
that something keeps pushing
me right back at you.


Arts Indiana 1994

[Pages (2k) and (2m). Pages CP (1).]

Collected Poems (2k)

from An Ordinary World: Section, “Normalities”

Red for the Wounded

Muncie IN; Heptonstall, West Yorkshire

We moved into the fall,
weather-proofed all winter
and then Sylvia, risen
on long stems out of pocked

soil, nine plump vials full

and glowing like blown

coals in the glassy air.

(Across the ravine we drove

the narrow roads then walked

beyond a row of weaver
cottages now studios,
a slabbed lawn of a burnt

church, trees through its arches

still wintry against low gray,

and into the walled

New Cemetery. Grimy

disheveled grass. On her

gash of bare soil, dulled

plastic flowers, scattered
flaps of drained skin.)

Now the petals blacken

and scab off. To speak

truth is to spit blood

at death. The diagnosis:

hypersanity of manic-

depressive red, children

like vendors calling

in the night, sun shining

needles in the eyes,

poetry a demarcation

of the doorway, earth

flowing away and then

she’s gone again, a missing

limb or father, half of skull

or personality and we

are fixed in fall, but knowing

of her cauterizing fire.

* * *

Rhymes for a Master of Social Work
Preparing for an Interview on Blind St.

Every man is tasked to make his life. –Thoreau

Abandon hope! Abandon hope!

Abandon soup, salvation, soap!
–street song

The neighborhood is white. The houses
have gone gray and lost some parts.
Her house is empty from the front. No
One will answer when you knock. No cats
will streak across the walk, no dogs
will bark. You must go on around in back
and prove yourself against the window dark.
If she decides to try you she will let

you in and snap the lock. The kitchen

has a table with one chair. You sit.

And there’s a sink with running water

in a steady leak, white metal cabinets,

chipped stove, blank Frigidaire. There are

no tile or carpet, breakfast bar or chopping

block on wheels with cutlery, no radio,

electric mixer, popper, opener, no decorator

towels, no hanging pans and baskets, macrame,

embroidered sentiments, imported canisters;

no continental cook book, antique crock. No

window shade. No garbage sack. An empty can

long dry waits on the sink. She has a knack

for finding one more place to stack

the rubbish and the cold. As still as lard

her baby on the table keeps away the ceiling

with a look that is unmoving and unmoved.
You ask about the father. He’s out hunting

work and won’t be back. What other questions

will you ask? Where is she from? Who

are her folks? How quickly can they come

to fetch her home? What are the facts, the

stats? What is her age? What will she tell

to one who has not drunk with her in hell?
You try again. Will she come to your office,

for intake–if only for the form’s sweet sake?

Go to a clinic? Attend group? What will

she do to make it easier for you to help?

Must you enforce a rule? Who takes her out

to dance and drink? Who spends her check,

her stamps? Are those his clothes? Who buys

her soup, her soap, her dope? Where does

he sleep? Who owns that battered pick-up

truck out back? Who does she fuck? Who

does she think can change her shitty luck?

What will she do to make it easier for you

to help? Will she acknowledge guilt? How
often, and how slyly does she cheat? Caught

in the Presidential Safety Net, has she no sense

of shame? Does she not smell the stink, the

mold, ammonia, and rot? When does she bathe?

Or does she not? Does she not see the way

the nation will deteriorate? Does she believe

the fetus has a soul? Does she sometimes

abort? When will she learn to exercise

the proper self-control? Does she

acknowledge guilt? What will she do?
Does she not know the cost of those who

never sow, but reap and reap and reap?

The welfare of a modern nation is not cheap?

What will she do to make it easier for you?
She’ll give you half her stare, as if

almost remembering that you are there.

Her face will be an empty stage. Her

eyes two empty pages missed somewhere

in a misprinted book. Look, if you

dare, back to the table, under the chair.

Nothing will be hiding there. Nothing

will move and nothing will speak. Nothing

will puzzle. Nothing will mock. Nothing

acknowledges that it is real. Nothing

concerns itself whether it’s true. Now you

have risen. She twists back the lock.

Hopwell Review, 1995

* * *

Rhyming by Dreamlight

1
a Great Sheep
is tearing the flock

that’s no wolf
in disguise—

a man’s eyes

2
through dew-soaked morning
the Tao goes walking

what more do i see

a child is sitting
with a dog in a tree

when the Tao and the dew walk away
the child and the dog climb higher in the day

* * *

roses are red

violets too

grass

glass

sidewalks

dew

[Pages (2j) and (2l). Page CP (1).]

Collected Poems (1a)

Contents of “Normalities,” by Poem Titles

Page (2a)
A Face of Winter
A Fortunate View
A Garland for the ERA
A Guy in a Red Seed Cap . . .

Page (2b)
A Live Oak
An Asian Woman in a Billowy, Flower-Print Dress. . .
A Portrait of the Artist As Aspiring Young Male Virgin
April 1
Awake Unto Me
Bombing on Christmas, 1945

Page (2c)
A Starbucks Translation of Fragment A316c
A Quiet Life
At a Crossroads
A Vampire Love Song
Bright Bird
broken-hearted

(2d)
Dawn Prayer to Hermes
Departure
Etheridge

Page (2e)
Fantasy on a Film by Disney
Fast Talking

Page (2f)
For Godspeed
Form Is Emptiness
from a letter, Sarajevo, 14 Dec 1993
Golden Arches

Page (2g)
Immortal Psyche
Salve Sepino
In Such a Light
It’s Nothing, Really

Page (2h)
Just Starting Out
K I A
Large and Floppy
Leonard Bluefox Talks About the Return of Black Foot
Lyrics by

Page (2i)
Les Fauves Aimables
mon coeur qui bat
Old Woods
One thing

Page (2j)
On the Dark Bed
Over and Over Again
Pine Cones Ripening
Report of an Expedition
Rain

Page (2k)
Red for the Wounded
Rhymes for a Master of Social Work / Preparing for an Interview on Blind St.
Rhyming by Dreamlight
roses are red

Page (2l)
Scene for Langston: / White Frame House / in Late November Sunshine
sitting / empty
Skiagraphia
The Smell of Our Sex
So It Happens/As It Happens

Page (2m)
Suffer the Little Children
Still Life with Riddle
Still Life with Spilled Milk
The Blue Boat
these mourning

Page (2n)
The Very Secret Hours / of Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin
Things
A Condominium Weinerdog, Well-Kempt
Un Sonnet Entr’actes des Apôtres
Subversive Snapshots (taken in an academy)

[There are maybe a dozen “normalities” yet to be posted.]

[Page CP (1). Pages (2) and (2a).]

Collected Poems (7) Chicory Suite

One of my favorite mauvaises herbes, as I hope the poems celebrate.

I’ll come back to this page and say more about them, after I’ve posted and re-read the whole collection, and reflected.

[Pages (7a) and CP (1).]

 

Collected Poems (6) Charmed

This section was published independently as a chap book.

I’ll come back to this page and say more about these poems, after I’ve posted and re-read the whole collection, and reflected.

[Pages (6a) and CP (1).]