The Timid Ones
I know they will not come in.
My house is too vast, runs up the hillside
Through giant rooms. They will stay
By creeks in muslin plaits and braids,
Or take their teachers’ books
Forever into the shade, thinking.
I will lose them as the forests they prefer
Stop standing, birds for friends are gone. I know
It is my blatant use of things they so despise,
My city stances and my spite for
Inept procedures they know nothing of.
I wish I could entice these brothers, sisters
Along. I cannot bow to them so simple but
I want to be their father and chastise
How like animals they remain. Yet I
Keep dogs, own horses, a bristling car
And feel myself purring at times. Then how
I could run with them and finally know
How they see my door as cave to fearful light.
The Lady of Good Counsel
We’ll sit down and be to ourselves here.
The chairs are handmade, I needn’t check
Broadcloth, cherrywood, labels, tuft. I tell
You, pull up the chair to cozen literatures
I bring you. I will keep you as mother would.
Now tell me the part of the story I can use:
Begin with parting waters, when you first met
Her. Don’t say pretty and don’t say dance, but
Only give me the light, for that was how you saw—
That was the saint of her face. You
Knew you could keep her, it was a sign, I
Mean that light, just as it’s golden here
Where we sit. It is not regarding you, it is
Regarding that light. Remember her. She was
The wood, the land, the streams, the birds, everything, then.
The Dark Salon
He sat in a ghost salon.
My restaurant surrounding him, I
Placed a white fish down the cook had braised
For him as he sat looking.
What was I there for? Could he
Uncoil himself from thoughts and say
The thank-you he had in his quiet mouth?
A kiss, a touch…I waited. But too slowly
He took form. Since then I sold
The restaurant and gave out two girls
To my husband, to myself. We are
The happiness we can be, we dwell
On the light air we are given.
There is grass. A neighbor waves. I
Wonder now what dark salon he makes
Of someone else’s restaurant. We owners
Breed these many tired men to feed
And place in houses on thin beds
Where they brood backwards, where
Pen-strokes slowly darken them.
My child calls from the park. Perhaps
In the salon of dream and thought
Where he dims, he can hear her. I hope
She says to him the perfect, the kindly thing.
It kept our hearts mired. In the afternoons
When the twilight went roaming for cover,
Hiding under the bus benches or undressing
In the rear-view mirror, each of us rose
From the nap of warriors, convinced
There was a beginning, a morning, and
A dark sleep waiting for us later, but
Now we had the ecstasy of midday learning,
Now we had these other lives secured to ours
By familiar ropes, entangles, brackets of soft
Flexible despair and longing, and the powdered bluffs
Of some kind of however-broken poetry from
Talented guitars, elite fixations on performance,
Studded cars, blinding us to thinking
Life was here, of all places, here on this posed
Geometry of earth, and all the lines went here,
All the points and centers and angles of enchantment
Bent here at the elbow of love. So we drank
The air, the wine, the gasoline, the ocean’s endless
Taunt, saying this was a prayer that had no uttering,
Only the touch of pressured molecules before
Their drift fell into twilight, and,
Looking in the mirror, we saw society staunch up
Its rough skyscrapers and the curved hip of steel
Bridges, whispering after us the messages from scriptured
Glades, telling us, the animals have gone, the trees
Are bending in, the summer is deciding to
Yield the planet up to dark orbital foreboding, and
For us the time is here to enter porches of cabin silence to
Inaugurate the end, the flies and screen doors emptying the
Bedroom where we in the quiet lay us down,
And say it was humanity, it was the shortest of lives.
The Middle Class
I am afraid for you as tones of religion
Begin to subscribe to something else. Churches always seemed
Like eternally parked cars from which I failed
To see you, ever, emerge in doorways. It is
You I didn’t want to see into death because you
Are a representation I helplessly conceive.
When you disappeared instead into string quartet music,
With well-dressed preparations followed by an empty stage,
I was relieved this come-and-go was so much more pronounced
Than ordinary movements. With your voice confined by the viola,
I forgot how long it took to be reminded
You had lived. So featureless had everything become—the trees—
Who knows how they got there? The ocean—about which
We could do nothing. I should have left messages in
All of nature for you. I had no skill, I wasn’t even
Given love of work to make one. My hands—
They lift coffee, doorknobs dumbly meet them as
I wait for simple openings they make into a
Doorway where you appear—perhaps a church— ready to leave,
Your viola case in hand. I see the
Temperature of your face not meant for me, it is descending
From Brahms, Dvorak. I can smell them—
They wrote messages for you in tempo markings which
I would not understand. You didn’t even show me—
So impatient you were to sing in another land.
The Wrong Path
He went down corporate ways. His tongue
Was frozen but he made copies as though trying
To stutter speech. The gathered white of
Tie-bound men, the laugh of a woman who
Could stand that tired attention, took them all
Home to minds of faded wives. He wondered:
Home? How could it be made here? Could
Binders, clips, wire baskets be
Nest-pieces taken back to fabricated houses?
And could he read these people’s scratches anymore
On papers handed him, their own small words,
Their poems of correction? He would like to hear
A woman laugh; no, hear her silence looking up
From a poem of his, a copy in her eyes,
The only copy worth imagining.