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Category archive for: Poems

The Bluest Evening

“I’m writing titles with two tentacles.”

“Last time I checked, songs were not octopi.”

“Scoff if you like, I’m speaking not of squid

but stretchability; I’m on the prowl

for lyrics looking back and looking forward

so any evening when you sing the tunes

all time is yours, known, captured: In the Still

of the Night and Day; The Way You Look Tonight

Won’t Be Just Any Night; Kind of Blue Moon.

The Café Carlyle’s windows would look out

on scenes from childhood, and on heads of grey!”

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Uneven Love

How to lie was something learned.

It meant love

at the time anyway.

Mine will be a long life

feeling always a little ruined,

deep in a well,

knowing the worst thing

I am capable of

not telling. Once did I see the figment as a man.

One man in particular

and the most unusual I have known.

I knew him in a different city.

He was older but not old

and I lied to save us (him)

from disgrace. He said even

without love there is a story of love.

Even without sex, desire.

It does not matter; I understand the strange logic

by which we lived:

to withhold the truth meant

we could create a new one,

a separate thing

true or not un-true.

It was our arrangement.

from To See the QueenFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Interruptus

There was a lull, a break from bliss

when I turned to face the window

looking for all the world, you said,

“like I was composing a new verse.”

Even on our pleasure barge

there are lapses in understanding,

for this groping for words (I thought but did not say)

is not a gasp for air but a further plunging;

I stroke you with both tangible hands

and feet unstressed or thudding…

but “sorry, love” did seem in order

before the revels resumed. Or continued.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Five Finger Exercise

When things get hot and heavy this weekend or one August

twenty years from now and I start tapping hexameters

up and down the shoulder-blades of my beloved (insert

auspicious, trustworthy-sounding, stolid but fun name here

for I can conjure none), I hope I do it right,

never losing sight of the skin whose golden toughness

allows the counting, never moving my fingers so briskly

that I can’t hear his breathing, and never forgetting, even

in the lonely heights of sublimest inspiration—

What is your substance?… O rose … and grey and full of sleep

to flip the warm flesh over and whisper, It had to be you.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Blood Aubade, 1969

for Fred Hampton & Mark Clark

Chairman’s head

swims a dream, lover

& unborn son: his crown, wing.

How heavy the body

in sleep/death, drag

to vacant doorway, head

a woolen quill, scrawls black

blood @ the hooves of “men.”

Was it by arm, a fist-

full of hair, yank from the rouge

of the pierced bedroom?

If you know a bullet’s wrath—wood splinter,

plaster   )blast( steel drum tap

dance, box spring (catch all) humming

like a hive of bees—you know

the gauge.

In the fury—shots

first, no questions, pigs

(black & white) squeal

@ 4:30 a.m.  false aubade.

The bed:

soft alter,

no offer

to our gods.

from dying in the scarecrow’s armsFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Mum

Call it saving face —

all that time I spent

pumping oxytocin

when I should have sprayed mace

I can’t share with you,

unless nebulous tales

of gashed receding sails

qualify as true.

No one wants to hear

Not until now have I

fallen and been caught by

such wide arms. But we’re

(call it safe to bet)

not in any hurry;

every last sob story

will sail from these lips yet.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Exquisite Corpses

A long day sunk in old ways:

my corpus needs a core, but when

I draw the blinds and strip I find

not pearls, but panic, a voice

telling me for the thousandth time

the sole self drowns in freedom, cries all night.

With what giddy gratitude then

do I hop the A train, descend

to a web of pleasure and duty

where I cannot work alone,

whether watching a double bill or

making exquisite corpses with your son:

he does the head, folds it, passes it,

I trace a torso, he sketches thighs,

I add the feet—and oh my darling

we cannot enter each other’s minds

but our motives hum and work together,

form a whole body when the drawing’s done.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Nightingale

He had forced flowers—thin,

crenulated bells—tied on the naked stunted

trees of his closed court—enticements—

and when withered, replaced.

Taken to his side as he moved from bed

to chair to table on the porcelain floors,

a perch, unused but ready, its crossed

bars laid with seeds and jewels.

He sat arranged in his dragon dress, and his books

came. The slaves and quiet children

in white robes dragged them to his feet

on old carpets and lifted page over page

while he waited all day unspeaking

the evening custom of the valuable bird that,

plainest gray and held only by air

above the falling crown of sunset,

sang to light the heart’s dark lantern.

from Inside Spiders

Copyright © Persea Books 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

After murder,

the complex changes

names. The Flats,

The Villas, pretty gauze

for old wounds. As if

we forgot the bullets,

the children that fell, the angry

boyfriends living w/children

they do not love. I drive by

& try to remember when

pieces fit. A cloud

of cardinals explodes

from a snow drift, the splash

of my tires etching dirt

in the bank. All this flying,

impact, stain. Don’t tell me

you can’t see.

from dying in the scarecrow’s armsFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2018
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

The Radio

At table the children,

allowed the radio,

unaccountably chose opera.

The light steadied under the swung lamp,

the cloth clean and pulled over the center,

the music low but building.

Tableau: the palm-sized players,

magnified behind the water glasses,

minuet round the salt.

Any talk was of costumes,

making and remarking their hats and the king

lovely, all along his robes

of decided red were drawn

noble, resting dogs:

what they saw when they heard.

from Inside Spiders

Copyright © Persea Books 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

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