Sunday, September 25, 2022

So No One Comes Back

People often write about something
Like, a person-shaped hole in the world,
When they write about struggling with grief,

You know—How could I ever fill in
That person-shaped hole in the world?
It’s an interesting metaphor,

She said, discussing her lost baby
With a friend, while her husband listened
Quietly, trying to glean something

About her state of mind that he felt
Was just beyond him, eluding him.
Then she added, more emphatically,

I don’t think there is any such thing!
Her friend looked startled, and her husband
Leaned in, but she was telling herself.

You can’t fill that hole because the world
Doesn’t ever allow any holes,
Not any real ones. It fills back in.

You don’t get anything you can fill,
No place you can put . . . even the ache,
Even feelings. The world pours right in,

Like the baby you lost never fit,
And you’ve got no place to put your grief,
No space you can hold open for them.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

The Day at the End of the Book

This is one way love works.
The married couple, not
Wholly happy nor not,

Read a book together
A friend recommended
As good, as romantic,

And quite literary.
First one partner likes it,
In the early going,

But the other doesn’t.
Then the one who liked it
Begins to lose interest

As the story gets weird
And then weirder and then
A bit too much like them.

The one who didn’t care
For it at first is hooked,
Finishing it alone.

It is a lot like them,
This story. It does have
A happy outcome for

What currently ails them
But a melancholy
Conclusion anyway.

The first partner feels spared
The gloom, but the second
Carefully notes the way

Things go from there on out,
Suspecting that the day
Will come. And yes, it does.

Friday, September 23, 2022

The Pilot Laugh

This was a long time ago,
If only since it’s over.
Once every event’s over

In your connected story,
And it’s only looking back,
No waiting for the next thing,

No remaining shoes to drop,
Not a penny in the slot,
Then it’s a long time ago,

Count time however you want.
This was, as we were saying,
A long time ago now, done.

The day had opened brightly
With threats of thunderstorms.
You’d been sober for years, but

Sometimes, late summer mornings,
You woke to the memory
Of good gin from the freezer,

The chill and the bite, easing
A little, the way morphine
Eased you often as a boy

Prone to stays in hospitals
Following your surgeries
For multiple broken bones.

A thunderstorm meant the threat
That you couldn’t go swimming
Safely in the deep, green lake.

Jokes are always serious.
The lighthearted don’t tell them.
You rarely ever told them,

And to swim across the lake
Under looming thunderheads
Would be to attempt a joke.

In a bright, lighthearted mood,
You drove out of town instead.
Wind blew the branches up skirts.

Firefighting helicopters
Buzzed buckets into the lake
Like dragonflies drinking sips,

And you longed for a sturgeon
Giant enough to rise up
And swallow one of them whole,

Which, if it could have happened,
Would have been a tragedy,
And you were too lighthearted

For that. You pulled off, high up
At a tiny, higher lake,
As the thunderstorms gathered

And blew down birch leaves in swirls,
And of course you couldn’t swim
Here either, even darker

Joke. So you sat by the shore,
Thinking of nothing that much,
With nothing really do,

Contemplating the stories
Of swimmers you’d read before,
And how none of them concerned

Not swimming, being swimmer
Not swimming, only waiting
For the thunderstorm to start,

The author to show a hand,
The sobering story done
That you wouldn’t have written,

Couldn’t have written, but would
Some day make into a poem,
Which would also end empty.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Above All Forgetfulness

‘Ahmad ibn Yahyā ibn
Jabir al-Balādhuri was

Legendary of memory
And for, allegedly, dying

Of addiction to the marking
Nut he chewed to try to keep it,

For which posterity gave him
His sobriquet, Balādhuri,

The marking nut, semecarpus
Anacardium, up-hearted,

Close relative of the cashew.
Did it, before it killed him, help—

‘Habb al-fahm’, nut of apprehension,
‘Habb al-qalb’, nut shaped as a heart?

With its black, corrosive fluid,
Honey to medieval doctors,

Notorious in its heyday,
Thought to stimulate thought by warmth,

It may have been more like absinthe’s
Green fairy, or magic mushrooms,

Or any muse, of chemical
And/or divine capacity,

Serving no more than derangement,
Fables then cooked up to explain

The strange gifts some persons possess
To remember and to create.

Or maybe it actually worked
And worked well enough to be worth

Its ultimately fatal price.
It’s a nice story anyway,

One of the oldest that remains,
The one in which a human trades

The human core, the human soul,
Their very life, the human heart

In exchange for abilities
That mark them as someone apart.

Story’s the moral of story.
If there were a trade, a bargain,

A deal made with witch or devil,
With a green fairy, with spirits,

A deal made with the marking nut,
Then it’s alright. Then it’s ok.

Yes, that person had some rare gift,
Priceless—that was the deal they made.

Maybe he never chewed the nut—
Smith nor Faustus met the Devil—

Eve never encountered the snake.
Maybe there was no deal to make.

The rare mind’s possessed of rare gifts,
Then, as for all, forgetfulness.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Words Come Unglued from the Dead

Once, when she was a young adult,
She’d been buttonholed by an old

Man who lived a few blocks from her.
He’d spotted her rolling straight through

A yIeld sign on his street corner
And wanted to lecture her not

To do that. She could hit someone
Doing that. She was smart enough.

She ought to know better than that.
And she had been stung, and for years

She’d crept warily when driving
Around that block, always feeling

The old man’s rheumy eyes behind
A pair of black binoculars.

Then one day she’d found out he’d died.
Now she doesn’t know how to drive.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The Boy Who Cried Dog

He would often get delighted
With his own small observations,
Inaccurate as they might be.

He enjoyed regaling poor souls
He captured in conversation
With his lengthy explanations

Of the patterns he thought he’d seen.
Harmless enough, often boring,
But cheerfully pleased with himself.

The best times in life, he observed,
Are often those when you are most
Obviously going nowhere.

Then he would tell a long story,
About his year in a motel
In Birmingham without a car,

Only a small kitchenette and
A clock radio and some books
He’d stayed up half the night reading.

The world was not too difficult
To understand, he suggested,
If one only paid attention.

He watched the stars. He read the news.
He noticed his neighbors’ friendships.
He filled notebooks with equations

Using symbols unique to him.
He found it all satisfying.
Everything explained everything.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Two-Hander in Three Acts

Here’s the story.
A couple walks
Along the shore.

They pause and talk
Beside a log.
Then they walk on.

After a while
They’re gone but not
To them they’re not.