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

Deuced Pas de Deux

entrée

He:

‘I am alive today, and dancing in the wind
that cools the grass the sun is burning brown
The dunes demur, and gliding gulls rescind …’

She:

‘His splayed legs, in shorts, displayed from calves to toes
are dead ringers for plucked turkey tom cadavers
as far, too far, as epidermis goes.’

 

adagio

stage direction

She makes a wish and writes it on a paper
and seals it inside a bottle with a kiss.

they dance, both singing:

‘We laze upon the littoral and think
we are thinking. Thoughts as thoughtless as the waves
advance and crest and surge onto the sand
in which despite their fecundity nothing grows …’

her variation:

‘A plucked turkey carcass, bled and oven bound
shows better skin tone than the hide that’s found …’

his variation:

‘The deadpan surly words mask how we flirt …’

 

coda

The stake-fried chicken sizzles and goes out
for waffles.

[Shurly chicken-fried steak? Ed.]

Gone Song

I’ve been pushed away so often that I’ve left.
You don’t notice nothing missing. You don’t look.
And I left the music playing and the broken rocker swaying
and my heart there where you pressed it in the book.
The screen door slammed behind me in an off key
and the drums rolled thunder on the radio.
I looked back and saw you reading and I hoped I saw you cry
then I saw you pick the phone up, say, ‘he’s gone.’

Water Bearers Bringing Gin

It was Spring, a time that Grungy Dinah pined
for love. Spring sprang sap-hazardly. Dawns lengthened.
Eves shortened. Adams appled. Fauns were fined
when caught flagrante delicto. Their lusts strengthened

poor Grungy Dinah’s dreaming that her own fate
involved one couple’s coupling, wherein she
was the female actor (actress?), and the ‘he’
was whichever ‘who’ three gins proclaimed her mate.

Not ‘whom?’ she pondered. Days and fortnights passed.
The winds of grammar wound their winding sheets
around her nouns and pronouns. Sap was sassed
till Spring wound down in Gunga Din defeats.

Falls

The poems that I learned as a child
– I’ve forgotten the words –
let rhythms glide by where I stand
on a rock in the creek.

I gaze at the banks where I saw
the black moccasin smile.
That was so long ago. Now I look
way upstream to the falls

remembering Grandfather laughing
while helping me climb
through cool spray and shadow to sun.
Where had we been going?

Guest of Honour

He’s the only stranger here among his family.
He is strangely silent all the time he talks.
The mirrored walls reflect his animation
and he sees that, though he swears he’s sitting still
as the rubber flowers on the hotel’s tables.
A wall of sound wafts by him but he fails
to capture joy or meaning from remarks
of kindness addressed to him. Disappearing
into his cell phone’s menu like it matters
he swipes and taps and wishes he could cry
at reflections from its screen of an old man
so lonely he updates his own Sent Mail.