New Year Poem
Let us step outside for a moment
As the sun breaks through clouds
And shines on wet new fallen snow,
And breathe the new air.
So much has died that had to die this year.

We are dying away from things.
It is a necessity—we have to do it
Or we shall be buried under the magazines,
The too many clothes, the too much food.
We have dragged it all around
Like dung beetles
Who drag piles of dung
Behind them on which to feed,
In which to lay their eggs.

Let us step outside for a moment
Among ocean, clouds, a white field,
Islands floating in the distance.
They have always been there.
But we have not been there.

We are going to drive slowly
And see the small poor farms,
The lovely shapes of leafless trees
Their shadows blue on the snow.
We are going to learn the sharp edge
Of perception after a day’s fast.

There is nothing to fear.
About this revolution…
Though it will change our minds.
Aggression, violence, machismo
Are fading from us
Like old photographs
Faintly ridiculous
(Did a man actually step like a goose
To instill fear?
Does a boy have to kill
To become a man?)

Already there are signs.
Young people plant gardens.
Fathers change their babies’ diapers
And are learning to cook.

Let us step outside for a moment.
It is all there
Only we have been slow to arrive
At a way of seeing it.
Unless the gentle inherit the earth
There will be no earth.

Ode to my Sister
I know why they say the heart is in
the heart. When you think about people you love,
you get warm there. I want to thank
my sister for loving me, which taught me
to love. I’m not sure what she loved in me,
besides my love for her — maybe
that I was a copy of her, half-size —
then three-quarters, then size. In the snapshots, you see her
keeping an eye on me, I was a little wild
and I said silly things, and she would laugh her serious
laugh. My sister knew things,
sometimes she knew everything,
as if she’d been born knowing. And I
so did not know — my wonder sent
along with me wherever we’d go,
as if I had it on a tool belt —
I understood almost nothing, and I
loved "pertinding", and I loved to go into the
garden and dance with the flowers, which danced
with me without hardly moving their green
legs, I was like a music box
dropped on my head. And I was bad —
but I don’t think my sister thought I was actually
bad, I was her somewhat smaller
littermate — nor did she need
my badness to establish her goodness. And she
was beautiful, with a moral beauty, she should
glide by, in the hall, like a queen
on a barge on the Nile, she had straight black hair
that moved like a black waterfall, as
one thing, like a black silk skirt.
She was the human. I aspired to her.
And she stood between the god and me.
And her hair ("pertind") was like a wing
of night, and in my dreams she could hold it
over me, and hide me. Of course,
by day, if the god wanted you for something,
she took you. I think if the god had known how to
take my curly hair from my head,
she would have. And I think there was nothing my sister
wanted to take from me. Why would
she want to, she had everything —
in our room she had control of the door,
closed, or open, and the light switch,
dark, or bright. And if anything
had happened to me, I think my sister
would not have known who she was, I was almost
essential to her, as she to me.
If anything had happened to her,
I think I would not be alive today,
and no one would remember me,
as if I had not lived.

Stopped Dead
A squeal of brakes.
Or is it a birth cry?
And here we are, hung out over the dead drop
Uncle, pants factory Fatso, millionaire.
And you out cold beside me in your chair.

The wheels, two rubber grubs, bite their sweet tails.
Is that Spain down there?
Red and yellow, two passionate hot metals
Writhing and sighing, what sort of a scenery is it?
It isn't England, it isn't France, it isn't Ireland.

It's violent. We're here on a visit,
With a goddam baby screaming off somewhere.
There's always a bloody baby in the air.
I'd call it a sunset, but
Whoever heard a sunset yowl like that?

You are sunk in your seven chins, still as a ham.
Who do you think I am,
Uncle, uncle?
Sad Hamlet, with a knife?
Where do you stash your life?

Is it a penny, a pearl—
Your soul, your soul?
I'll carry it off like a rich pretty girl,
Simply open the door and step out of the car
And live in Gibraltar on air, on air.

Do you sometimes drink alone?
Have you ever woken up the next morning
after a night of heavy drinking?
Does your cat wander through the house
meowing inconsolably,
despite having fresh food and water?
Hunger, thirst, friendship, love.
Green Bee, Russian Quaalude, Redheaded Slut:
IEDs on the supply route to pleasure.
There's a gala in your hypothalamus,
helium balloons rising to the rafters,
the fizzy ricochet of laughter.
There's a stumblebum in your cerebellum.
That empty feeling crawling toward you--
should you kill it with a wadded paper towel
or trap it in a jar and shake it out
and send it flying into the grass?
Is your head full of frozen tamales
and a vodka bottle curled on its side?
How do you get through the interminable evenings?
Are they really interminable?
Have you considered the alternative?
Now get out of your car,
stand by the side of the road
and take a step. Now recite
The Waste Land, backwards,
beginning with that sexy Sanskrit word.

Noon Concert
These frail, white widows
who get their hair done weekly
in tight curls,
like little flowers,
bend their heads
until the applause
says it’s time
to be brave again.

Christmas Card to Grace Hartigan
There’s no holly, but there is
the glass and granite towers
and the white stone lions
and the pale violet clouds. And
the great tree of balls in
Rockefeller Plaza is public.

Christmas is green and general
like all great works of the
imagination, swelling from minute
private sentiments in the desert,
a wreath around our intimacy
like children’s voices in a park.

For red there is our blood
which, like your smile, must be
protected from spilling into
generality by secret meanings,
the lipstick of life hidden
in a handbag against violations.

Christmas is the time of cold air
and loud parties and big expense,
but in our hearts flames flicker
answeringly, as on old-fashioned
trees. I would rather the house
burn down than our flames go out.

The Gardener
Have I lived enough?
Have I loved enough?
Have I considered Right Action enough, have I come to any conclusion?
Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?
Have I endured loneliness with grace?

I say this, or perhaps I'm just thinking it.
Actually I probably think too much.

Then I step out into the garden,
where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man,
is tending his children, the roses.

soul sucker
pasty angel
little god

may you wake me up in the night with
your big head on
white and nasty
may you remind me that the hot creepy sweat
of my body means nothing
that I am marble cool down in my insides
where it matters

smile moonface
I am going to hold your beautiful self to me even in daylight
a sneaky curse against mediocre things

I am going to remain complicated and disgusting
skirt hitched up into the band of my tights
ugly and angry           luminous           untouched

hey moonface
stay right here my baby
maybe I don’t have to be in love
or change           or heal
or stop my dirty mouth

maybe I can just wheel around under your bright strange light
disturbed and happy and      bad      bad      bad

In Late December
The man using the pay phone on Wall Street,
His back to you, is using it as a urinal,
And urinating – only logical!
Our degradation is complete.

The young woman, a crazy smile pickled in brine,
Cross-legged on the sidewalk in a T-shirt that says TOMORROW,
Holds a sign telling her sad story.
She’s reading a paperback of Lolita, stealthily, behind the sign.

She could be you –
Stranger things have turned out to be true.
He could be me –
Don’t rule out the possibility.

This shirtsleeves Christmas weather is lovely
And seriously weird.
El Niño is how Jesus was –
Both changed the climate.

Everyone will have a home. Everyone
Is safe and warm.
The homeless sleep on a bed of roses and sip ice-wine (German Eiswein).
They spend their time deciding where they want to dine.

They spend the rest of their time thinking about the sublime
And exhuming corpses
So they don’t have to beg for a living
From the living.

They bring back billions of bodies
And pile them in the apartment building lobbies
And repopulate the financial world with the dead
Like a dog bringing back a stick.

The stick is what was underground
Back in sunlight.
Cadavers and cremains hump on walkers down Wall Street
And a homeless hand reaches out to them for baksheesh.

She could be you!
Stranger things have turned out to be true.
He could be me –
I don’t discount the possibility.

Jews, Christians, Muslims, others – it’s Christmas morn.
Aloha, amici, Christ is born!
Flowers are fooled into thinking it’s spring.
The little city birds sing.

The Immortals
None of us have felt good this year:
pus around the eyes,
sores that come and go with no explanation.
But we still believe we will come through it!
I signal this news
by lifting a little finger.


Log in