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Category archive for: Michael Waters

Green Ash, Red Maple, Black Gum

How often the names of trees consoled me,

how I would repeat to myself green ash

while the marriage smoldered in the not-talking,

red maple when the less-than-tenderness flashed,

then black gum, black gum as I lay next to you

in the not-sleeping, in the not-lovemaking.

Those days I tramped the morass of the preserve,

ancient ash smudging shadows on stagnant pools,

the few wintry souls skulking abandoned wharves.

In my notebook I copied plaques

screwed to bark, sketching the trunks’ scission,

a minor Audubon bearing loneliness like a rucksack.

And did the trees assume a deeper silence?

Did their gravity and burl and centuries-old patience

dignify this country, our sorrow?

So as I lay there, the roof bursting with invisible

branches, the darkness doubling in their shade,

the accusations turning truths in the not-loving,

green ash, red maple, black gum, I prayed,

in the never-been-faithful, in the don’t-touch-me,

in the can’t-bear-it-any-longer,

black gum, black gum, black gum.

from Parthenopi: New and Selected PoemsFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2000
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Eddie’s Parrot

As he jiggled the key in the lock

each evening he returned home from work,

his cued, quick parrot began to squawk,

Where’s Eddie? Where’s Eddie? Where’s Eddie?

til my uncle barreled through the door—

Honey, I’m home! (his vaudevillian’s joke)—

to let that straight man chew one knuckle.

Then Eddie died, and Aunt Anna swore

that chatterbox screeched rote rhetoric

every time she trudged back from the store,

creating a tenth circle of hell,

Where’s Eddie? never allowing her

a moment’s respite from grief, though she

told that feathery philosopher

He’s dead. Eddie’s dead. But such a swell-

educated Hegel couldn’t quit—

Where’s Eddie? Where’s Eddie? Where’s Eddie?

and Anna, grown foulmouthed, psychotic,

He’s dead, he’s goddamned dead!—til one dusk

she snapped and stormed that Catskill comic’s

stage, rattling bars till the stunned parrot

sprawled from his spotlit plank, his scrambled

brain dumb now among split seeds, carrot

shreds, such sad confetti!—the silence

sweet, my prankster uncle gone for good.

from Darling VulgarityFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2006
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

The Inarticulate

Touching your face, I am like a boy

who bags groceries, mindless on a Saturday,

jumbling cans of wax beans and condensed milk

among frozen meats, the ribboned beef

and chops like maps of continental drift,

extremes of weather and hemisphere,

egg carton perched like a Napoleonic hat,

til he touches something awakened by water,

a soothing skin, eggplant or melon or cool snow pea,

and he pauses, turning it in his hand,

this announcement of color, purple or green,

the raucous rills of the aisles overflowing,

and by now the shopper is staring

when the check-out lady turns and says

“Jimmy is anything the matter?”

Touching your face, I am like that boy

brought back to his body, steeped

in the moment, fulfilled but unable to speak.

from Parthenopi: New and Selected PoemsFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2000
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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