Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Heterochromia (Mengele's Dogs)

Now he is an old man
For demons never age
On a bench in the sun
In a place too warm to be home
Playing fetch with the strays
The way others toss kernels and crusts
To the pigeons and swans

They come to him when he calls
With happy tails and shrill yelps and eager
As free as gypsies and no better fed
And he pats them and feeds them and is
    withal so kind
In his old man's soul and panama hat
That only a hard heart could fail to be moved by it

Each day he comes
For each one of them he has
   a name
Some affectionate diminutive
Though none of them will ever
    amount to anything
Even their sexual indiscrimination
    pleases him
Though as refutation or proof no
    one can say

When they are sick or hurt he
    treats them
With tinctures and salves he prepares
    at home
And carries in a black physicians' bag
For the mange maybe
Or their various bites and scrapes
And always a little special something
For the bitches
When they are pregnant

How do you know it is him?
How can you be sure?
How can you be sure it is not?
Is  that all there is?
Is it more frightening like this, or less?
Which way do you see him?
It depends which eye you
     look out from
What strange permutations and infinity
    of combinations there are

Hard Labor

At this late date, I am a peasant
Without land, no history but in the family
Who committed my sins for me
Engaged in recording that which the act
    distances me from
And discerning shapes amidst shadows
In the leafless, lifeless forest
With the sun going down

I once knew of a man who said:
"I'll tell you this much ---
When you tell somebody your dreams
    and hopes
You better make sure they love you
    like a brother
Or your dreams and hopes probably
    won't come true."
I wonder what, he would say
Is the penalty for telling the dream of another?
I flatter myself

Hair Dye

Blonde turned red and shorter
Only whets my appetite
But I'll probably never know
Oh, for just a taste

Diaspora (A Brief History of Time)

So long it's been since I've been
    able to ride
Watch, and remember my generation
Death brings such shame to those
    it so selects
As if in payment for settling all debts
Who would not be, given such flattery
As the newspaper's tones and
   acquaintances' recollections
The closest grief always the most
And none of the dead are vain, not at all
For all the vain die way too soon, of envy
The dead learn much more than the living
With no way to use it and nothing to impart
Left are the ones glad to let go their claims
Entitled, as they still are, to their names
Places where they are called and honored
Clouds on the horizon, pussywillows
Bare trees in a marsh not that desolate
In time the beauty of women becomes
Heartbreaking, or are they all just girls now?
These days you know I must measure my beer
In smaller cups, so I may drink the more
The light coming low in the afternoon
High on the hills and not in the valley
Night before Thanksgiving, someone dying
I could say he was my friend, but what would
It matter; I could visit and it's been
A bright and spectacular November
If he made it, who would call him hero?
He followed his path just as surely
Both sides of the river, we die the same
Too tired to travel means you've arrived
I ride with strangers and stars that never were
Mexicans and old women and the gone
Many were exiled, some were redeemed


Pissing in the dark
Missing the mark
Just a little age

Dreams Will Come

Cold as ice
It was cold as ice out there
The wind came from the west
Clouds rolled over the emaciated hills
Over the skeletal, wintry hills
And as it was getting dark it started to snow

It seemed overnight winter had come, I said to myself
And pinned me where I stood
Pinned me right where I stood
Hiding at a filthy, frozen window
Watching the snow fall more gently
Against the darkening trees

Does your lover clench her fist as she sleeps
Like a child clutching a coin
I touch her, she wakes with a purr
Feel the fire in the kiss
Once I will wake up cold
And find morning turned to rain


Call it morbid curiosity
Or a kind of courage
Emerson looked

Mary Girvan's Grave

What is it that beckons to me
From these country graveyards?
Peace, please, I laugh
Unless you think them selfish
The dead do not sleep
Whether it be some God or me that raises them
Can we suppose them unconcerned?
Would you have them less virtuous in death than they were in life?
Have they never visited you?
Have you never called on them?
Silence and shade, no
I do not think the dead know more of these than I
Death is no darker than life
There are none more restless than those alone with
      their thoughts in a small place
Antiquity, no, again
Death is no older than tomorrow
It has no time
Order, the solace of resolution
Death has no reason
Other than that we begin
Ghosts, it is true
I am accustomed to their presence
Am more consoled than haunted by them
But I need not travel so far for their company
Need not even die to become one
One is born a ghost, after all
And death can do nothing to alter that
Any more than it changes the way
     one has lived
Did it have this power, why mourn?
Compassion? No, I do not forgive
   them, and I sense
   their resentment
What matters most to the dead is that
    they are dead
What matters most to us is that
    we live
Or should
I think I come for the names, and the
   certainty that God is not there
Any more than that they are with him
The absence of churches, abandoned and finally
    removed as the land rose in value
That the dead themselves have not yet been plowed
    further under testimony not to honorable memory,
        but fear and sanctimony as atavistic as greed
One honors the dead with the way one lives, and that evidence
    is all around them, crowding in on their little domain as the
       wires on our solitude
I come for the names, each separate one, and that
Which encompasses and distinguishes them all
And could not spoken of at home even as it surrounded us
And left me frightened not so much by its fact
As by its unspeakability, its trembling and silence
Wherefore then would I pray, if God's name could be pronounced?
What righteous awe could I feel for one so casually addressed?
So I turned myself rightside out to learn whether it was within, and where
And stared at it as if into a mirror, blinked but never turned away
Until now, in time; and never have I been to war, and never will I go
And never need you go, the one with your name, alone
No matter what all the others may do, no matter
   their gifts of riches and persuasion
Every taking is an act of war, every profit, every purchase, every crime,
   even against the criminal, each ownership, all speculation
         every manifestation of power
For you, the one with your name, alone
No matter what all the others may do, no matter
   their gifts of riches and persuasion
Death is supreme, yet it can be bought, money does its work
Life cannot, not yet, not ever, it can only be given
And taken for itself, it need be nor cost anything mor
And you are alive, and so am I
And for this some great Thanksgiving is owed
That I have been far too long in pronouncing
In the graveyard death has so many names, all of them different
And you can read them and speak them aloud and honor them
And when you do they are not so much diminished
And in pronouncing them it is defeated
Beneath her humble wooden cross Mary Girvan is four years old
Were her people too poor to afford a stone?
Too proud to ask their church for help?
Was it the Spanish flu that carried her away?
Her years are right, as etched on the whitewashed cross,
    and surely the epidemic struck hardest among children
Imagine a time when such things were possible
Where have you seen death?
On CNN or in a stock market report?
Do you pity the poor immigrant  or hound him
     from your streetcorners?
Would you condemn too young a man
    for his act of fathomless despair,
    or pray instead that the death he made be the last one?
To labor for its creation is all we will ever know of paradise
Where is your life recorded?  In a vault?  In the scratchings made by
    cats on cherrywood tabletops, restored, once lustrous antiques?
Do you have wrinkles around your eyes?  Did you laugh a lot,
    or stand too long in the sun?
One is always more than many
Else history is nothing more than a cemetery
And the doings of great men
Each time I leave her flowers, and behold

Argument with Myself

Well, you know, it all depends what you mean by it, of course
But if you mean what I think you mean
Then no
Do you know how long you've been asking this
There is no such thing as evil
Only us, ourselves, alone