Harps and Violent Inns

The hearts and violins they’re passing out
don’t hold a candle to the ones we burned.
The fountain has cracked. Red rust leaks from the spout
beside the pool where once our bodies turned
as one creating underwater sun.
The courtyard where we danced is sharply paved
with broken glasses. We broke everyone.
The vineyard where in spring we misbehaved
has been cut down. I find the blackbird’s nest.
The broken glass reflects the empty shells.
I try to smile, pretending it is best
that you’re not here to hear the muffled bells
that toll the march of autumn through the plain
as the shells give up their colours to the rain.

presented June 2001 in The New Formalist ISSN:1532-558X

The Gardens near Waterwall Edge

Sometimes sounds soar up from earth through space
to the edge of Heaven that God has water-walled.
This morning’s listeners heard an old disgrace:
‘Kill a commie for Christ!’ fanatics bawled,
and Christ, for all His years, was still, appalled.
‘I preached and lived and died for peace and love
but people still graft talons on my dove.’

Shapes shifted in the gardens where He walked.
While some gave witness, others shied away,
too overcome by how raw evil stalked
this Christ who’d died for everyone one day
and everyday thereafter; saw him sway,
beseech some One, get answers that they lacked
the grace to hear yet. Watched His straightened back.

When He walked on, they started a debate.
For some this was Valhalla. One of them
suggested lightning should disintegrate
the criminals whose creeds brought pain to Him.
A painful silence. Finally the dim
as well as all the brighter understood
why He must suffer fools and knaves for good.

Evening Star

He knew then that he had lost it,
couldn’t recall the name of the star
even when looking at the familiar face
on the screen.
            Remembered to come in on time,
turn on the TV to the remembered channel,
recording the film he remembered would start then.

‘Sun Dance And Billy The Kid?’ ‘Bob Newhart?’

He had sat in the star’s car in Westport,
a Porsche Spyder disguised in a Beetle body.
He’d talked twice with the star’s wife at parties
in the loose rhythms hip people affected,
all playing their bits, their parts,
getting down
in alligator shirts with long tails
and Madras Bermudas that really ran
when washed.
            Watched the star (‘Robert?’)
get his fingers broken with a pool cue by Fat Jack,
in those black-and-white films they called
‘movies’ then — there, in Fairfield County
where small planes flew low on weekends
and sprayed the big houses and lawns
with Beefeater London Distilled Dry Gin.
            ‘Don’t mix, stir twice,’
some bonding idiocy (‘James?’)

Drinking nine bone-dry martinis,
then crashing the road-closed signs
in what seemed a slow and controlled drift,
one toppled concrete signpost spearing
the roadster’s floor plate but missing
his star-crossed foot. Sparing him.

Know a good lawyer? Have the name yet?

‘Paul’ something. Sounds ecumenical. The
good pope, sort of human (‘John?’) hadn’t lived
long in office. Nor had the Camelot king
who ruled for the best and the brightest.

Twenty minutes into the film, and he still
can’t recall it: the name of that Star.

A White Russian Christmas

I know, when I see the white cattle egrets
tending the late December fields,
grazing like guinea fowl, gyring like gulls.

I know, when the rains drive straight across,
rinsing blood from the memories,
drenching the log where I cut back thorns
to sit and watch the birds and rains.

Behind the cattle egrets, red broad cows
stand down the horizon,
russet frames for miniatures
of empty portraits in the sky.

Portraits as troubling and graciously vague
as those of long-dead grandsons made
on future daughters by drunken soldiers
killed before next payday.

I know, but know a little rinsing
will irritate me more than cure:
the welcome of an opened door
spoiled by anxious questions.

The red cows turn their horns toward me.
Thorns fragile enough to break
on my finger’s bone, but not before,
slash back at my knife and hand.

– – + + + – – –

I let myself inside the field.
The grass, felt-pressed by sheep,
springs up around my ancient boots
mimicking marches I remember.

Marches like those being made
in Grozny on this Boxing Day
where the only wholly silence is
that of the usually vocal West.

The evil empire bombs soldiers
drunk on ‘kill the infidel,’
a draught drunk in our daughters’ blood
for so many aeons that we are glad

when an empire somewhere draws the line,
then bombs those transfixed on that line flat.
Recording both sides’ transgressions,
gods wish each side good genocide.

I walk the fields the sheep have grazed
and clean my boots in welcome rain.
I thank the gods for Gore-Tex
and pretend to hunt the cattle egrets.

Morning Glory

He climbed the wall to see the stars
a strategy that failed.

He could go out, he knew he could,
though doing so entailed

exposure to a giant gnu and an
agnostic goose that sailed

the atmosphere emitting drear
and gnomic honks.    He railed

against his fate and went out late.
By then the stars had paled.