Archive for January, 2012
This is what happens when people stop voting.
“You look like your mother today,” she says,
eyebrows arched. “You’ve cut your hair.
It’s nice enough, but you need poof on top.
We don’t have faces for flat dos. See how
Jimmy combed my hair. I’ve got poof.
And I’m wearing Elizabeth Taylor’s cocktail ring.
Jimmy bought it for me on late night TV.
Jewelry of the Stars. I’m getting Ava Gabor’s
brooch next. Boy, she had a lot of affairs,
but she had great jewelry. Speaking of affairs,
Marie Coleman was having one, three doors
down from us, and nobody knew. I don’t get it.
People could have affairs in here at night.
No one ever comes around to check on us.
We could stop breathing and no one would know.
Necrophiles could neck in here all night long.
Never saw any reason for affairs. Just a bunch of sex.
The jewelry they get would be nice, but boy, is sex
overrated. Just a bunch of fiddling around in the dark.
What’s the big deal? I’d rather go dancing, wear
a mink coat, yeah, white ermine, and diamonds.”
The door to the old cabin’s musty garage
creaks open and in the early light,
a faded twin hull Bayliner perched
on concrete blocks and
enmeshed with silky webs
sighs a stranded note in a minor key
about waves and water skis, Grandpa
Holm’s fishing pole, Adolph’s tackle box,
Fourth of July, excited children
and blue vinyl seats
cracked wide open, exposing
a dusty refrain of yellow foam rubber.
On the way back from the bathroom
Don gets lost,
his one bedroom apartment
his desert, no landmarks in sight.
Two in the morning, lights off,
he sits in the kitchen,
for his wife to miss his warmth in bed.
Sometimes her dreams overcome
the 911 from her body and she sleeps on.
Then he calls out her name
gulping breaths of air like code
between the syllables.
He isn’t old, isn’t senile;
it’s just something
he does since he came back
He set crisp boundaries around his life
like creases on a uniform,
and when sleep wrinkles them,
it’s no longer safe to go forward.
For Bob Hass and Brenda Hillman
The last light of the day drapes over the hills in ochre-colored robes,
One can almost hear the prayer-wheels spinning
As the sun sinks into the Pacific Ocean,
A few birds scatter,
The old farm road lined with cypress grows bright in the shadows of evening,
The sky burns down like campfire cinders,
The pines, determined, holding hands together
Peacefully demonstrating their grievances,
Standing strong with the students of Berkeley,
The College of Humanities.
But this is the season of outrage, the age of violence,
When police use their batons as weapons of mass destruction
On Poet Laureates and their students
Who learned about civil disobedience as an event for change,
But when they exercise their rights
In our Constitution—they’re confronted with the harsh
Reality that Martin Luther King and his people faced,
A whack in the arm and a whack in the chest and a whack in the leg,
For sitting quietly, protesting that which is clearly wrong,
Tuition fees that only the rich can afford,
And the irony is had they been sitting in a circle,
Studying, debating, nothing would have happened,
But the minute they protest government abuse and corporate greed,
Even teachers are severely thrashed.
Moral of the story: you can read about your rights but you can’t exercise them.
After all, this is a government that mutilates and poisons and mercilessly slaughters
All in the name of corporate profits.
The students keep shouting at the cops Shame on You! Shame on You! Shame on You!
Indeed. Can you hear them, Mr. Obama,
Or are you off playing another round of golf?
While you and your advisors plan another massive attack, Iraq, Iran, Libya,…
In a military state, Bob, Brenda—they beat up on teachers and students,
And they throw them in isolated cells for as long as they want,
Compliments of the Patriot Act…
But this too will fail, as P.B. Shelley said: We are Many, they are Few.
When you enter the woods,
look for tall pines,
rocks and moss beside the fading path.
If you dare to go onward,
ignore the sound of the wind
whistling through twilight’s chill.
Near the clearing for the railroad track,
few leaves still cling,
and pieces of coal—
shaken from loaded hoppers—
rest on ballast in front of decaying
Wooden box cars with balloon-letter graffiti.
Each chunk of coal waits near six
rusted oil drums, under the Full Snow Moon.
Poor, gleaning children
come just before dawn
to harvest, to gather for winter warmth.
children guard rocks like diamonds.
Then on, past first-light shadows,
where fire charred tree limbs,
a house—burned-out and abandoned—
slid downhill toward the stream.
A man escaped but later died,
body badly burned, lungs filled
with thick, black smoke.
Was the woman inside—
pregnant and seeking her way out—
the one who struck a match?
Accident or crime? We walked all night
through wooded remnants
of purposeful existence. But without
the authority of history,
how much can we actually know
of the back story? Did the gov’t once
give reason to follow? Is it now
past its prime? Are citizens victims
of the American Dream?
The wiry little carpenter with the pointed beard
Digs into his tool belt for nails, slips
His pencil behind his ear. He’ll work
Sundays if he has too, knowing well
The price of being underbid.
Remodeling costs more per square foot
Than any new spec house
But the old place is a mess. Peter suggests
A triplex. Judas a bulldozer.
As an independent contractor
He’s got to start somewhere, if eventually
He wants to turn water into wine
And to divide the fish and the loaves
Among the hungry. Then there’s the matter
Of the building permit. The city inspector.
The other guy who walks on water.
You would hold hard
The wild horse neck,
Still the swirling down
The long animal throat
In muscular spiral—
But no way will the mare
Quiet her hoof
On the grass and rock
Turning beneath the element
Of her leg. Better
To wrap her mane
In your fingers’ web,
Become breath and cloud,
Water and earth where
Your body meets the velvet hide—
Become a field of poppies,
The running over granite
And leap over rushing creek—
Become the vertigo sky
Streaming through your own hair—
NO TRESPASSING BY ORDER OF LIEN HOLDER!
Subdivision foreclosed by the National Bank
gutted skeletons of tract homes
transparent glass boarded by plywood
overgrown lawn choked by dandelions and wild onions
bags of garbage and abandoned personal property
asphalt pavement broken by intrusion of weeds
vandals produce art on vacant exteriors
concrete barricades block entrance
private security sleeps at gate house
betting that intruders won’t interrupt his slumber
swimming pool empty and playground in pieces
the bank lists all as toxic assets off book
passerby asks, “where did the people go?”