American Lullaby (poem)

1

There is no such thing as barrels of oil. No heavy crude
Drowning the world, no saccharin lighter grades so sweet
It drives mild men wild.
Go to bed my darling, there is no such thing as barrels of oil.
There are only cars made of chrome and polish, flash and speed.
One for every man woman and child
Who dreams of the open road.

2

There is no such thing as global warming.
Or for that matter old growth forests
Whose canopies could shelter a hundred, a thousand Statues of Liberty.
There is no such thing as habitat loss or endangered species
The world is good and unchanging, my child.
In our forests and lakes and mountains and deserts
Is life beyond counting and reason.

3

There is no such thing as war
No ancient hatreds or blood at the boiling point.
We’re one world, whole and indivisible.
So sleep tight in your own soft bed.
And every morning awake in your own bright room.
There has always been enough for everyone
And you will never be asked to do without.

Published in MARGIE: The American Journal of Poetry
Volume Three / 2004.

American Lullaby (poem)

Trompe L’Oeui

Walls
Everywhere.
Locked doors.
Shuttered windows.

What is to be done?
What does it matter?
Everything that appears
And everything that refuses
Does so by permission of the artist.

From: AMERICAN LULLABY

Trompe L’Oeui

Fallen 2

A man on fire
A woman shrunken as a dying cat.
A child beating his arms like a bird.
“Cockadoddledo.”

They emerge like hornets from behind a wall.
Each one inhuman.
Each one more monstrous than the last.

I could say, “Isn’t it just like a pageant?”
But we both know better than that.
Only a fool sees beauty in them.
Only a liar sings their praise.

Can a person really be transparent
Or a woman turn to stone?
When a people are exhausted
Anything is possible.
Watch as one man spontaneously combusts
While another blossoms into allegory.


From: AMERICAN LULLABY

Fallen 2

Daniel Pearl Got His Story

What is conceived and shaped and held by light
What comes to life in the light
These things don’t exist in the dark.

The dark isn’t what you think.
Or what you imagine in the light
The dark to be.

I wanted to illuminate the dark
And see for myself its different heart.
And give it a voice.

I assumed such tricks could be turned.
I was wrong.
The dark can’t be penetrated by light.

You can not know the dark without living in the dark.

 

Published in Program for “Discovery”/The Nation Poetry Contest
May 5, 2003.

Daniel Pearl Got His Story

Hong Kong Harbor

On this side of the window
A shower of chrysanthemum.
Outside, torrential rain.

From this distance the world appears mute.
But if somewhere someone is singing
It’s because someone somewhere is listening.

If this were the last day of my life, would I know it?
And if I did
Would I pretend otherwise?

 

Published in The Nation, November 13, 2006.

Hong Kong Harbor

How I Know She’s Coming Home

For Jodi Lister

Her apricot soap French milled and expensive
Is wrapped in violet tissue paper
And hidden in the medicine cabinet.
In the dish on the sink she left behind
A bar of Ivory.

Plain and substantial as a baseball
That’s for me.
Five thousand miles away
And she does not want me to use her soap.

I unwrap it and hold it as carefully
As an antique netsuke. Its perfume
Rises like a summer morning
Reaching through a screen door.

When she’s here I receive strict instruction
Not to use her creams, shampoos or powders.
Although I may touch any part of her body I please
Her beauty products are taboo.

Yesterday, it removed bus exhaust and sweat
Leaving her face soft and damp,
So when I kissed her it was like touching moss.

Today, I run water, make a lather and inhale.
Although it’s my face that looks back from the mirror
It is her scent that slips into the room
Like a secret hushed from the lips that held it.

 

Published in Meridian: Best New Poets 2007
Fall/2007.

How I Know She’s Coming Home

My Life Runs From Me To You Like A Spooked Horse

1

The world is ice.
The world is thorn.
It doesn’t matter how often you ask
No one will ever love you
The way you want to be loved.

2

They won’t, not for a moment,
Put down their forks. Won’t
Lean on their shovels
Or hang up the phone,
No matter how beautifully you sigh.

3

The days turn over, one by one,
Like the cards in a game of stud poker.
Hands, cock, hair.
One is closed.
One is limp.
The other thins.

4

Wind, moon. heart.
One you can’t see.
One is vain as pastry.
The last is hollow, hollow, hollow.

5

Enamored with the rough edges of the world
I dream of friction and of the sparks
That fly from your flesh
When it’s scraping mine.

My Life Runs From Me To You Like A Spooked Horse

Donald Sawyer’s Dead or The Last of the Gray Flanneled Men

“Buffalo Bill’s defunct”
— e.e. cummings

 

Donald Sawyer’s dead.
Who used to stay at the Hilton, Sheraton, Palace, Plaza, St. Regis
And ate at the Palm, Sparks, Gallagher’s, the Mandarin and Four Seasons.
Who wore worsted, twill and gabardine in solids
Pinstripes, glen plaid and herring bone.

The man liked blondes, brunettes and redheads
Tall slender church-going women
Exotic voluptuaries who charged by the hour.
Housewife, coed, salesgirl, brand manager
Chic or raw, it was all the same to him.

He dreamed and kept his dreams to himself.

The man worked, built, gambled, won, lost, began again
And again made it and again threw it away.
He sang for his supper, picked a few pockets
Boasted, bragged, betrayed, and betrayed
In the end, alone, paid the devil his due.

Donald Sawyer’s dead
Who walked in Church’s, Florsheim, Gucci and Bally
Who flew on PanAm, Delta, American and United
And drove a red Triumph, a black
Lincoln, a white Mercedes, and when I saw him last.
A borrowed sapphire Jaguar.

He dreamed and kept his dreams to himself.

Published in MARGIE: The American Journal of Poetry
Volume Three/ 2004.

Donald Sawyer’s Dead or The Last of the Gray Flanneled Men

Enameled Twilight

This place, so real, it appears artificial
Like the painted backdrop
Of some Technicolor musical
Where real was simply not good enough.
Here too are colors too true —
Blue without a drop
Of anything that isn’t blue.

The sky, sapphire
And the gently rolling spaces
Enameled with a hard ice shell
The blue of a weak gas flame.

And these trees too are blue.
Bereft of song and sway
They tremble against a transparent sky
Like hands reaching for a moment
More of life.

The park’s enameled.
Above it, nothing flies,
Across it, nothing moves
Except for this polished ribboned path
And my own darting brown eyes.

Published in The Nation Magazine, May 2003.

Enameled Twilight

Fallen (On Broadway)

“I wish I understood the beauty
in leaves falling. To whom
are we beautiful
as we go?”

David Ignatow
From “Three In Transition”

 

Will I end up like him, oblivious to time and place
Furiously scratching at a small square of paper?
Better him than the woman squatting between parked cars.
Or like that tiny man, who having misplaced everything else
Decided his shoes were dispensable, too.

It’s hard to be part of another’s fall.
Fall is the only word for it.
Even from a distance it’s unnerving. Isn’t it?
And aren’t we ashamed of our response to it?
How we wish they’d go away, bad dreams and all.

Still, it’s hard to see so many falling.
Hard to imagine how anyone can be so alone
Here in a world that sings of little else but love.

Published in MARGIE: The American Journal of Poetry
Volume Five/ 2006.

Fallen (On Broadway)