Monday, September 1, 2008

Paul Guest


Waiting For The Mail

I say my name to the mailbox. Then yours. Hers.
Even her name and still nothing is there,
no stern accounting of debts, no date when
the penalties will come again, no credit
offered in seriousness understood by machines.
Mouth of air. Mine and the box,
strung with vines, a hidden thing, vines
going up from the ground on nothing,
you’d think. Red flag I never raise
when there is something required of me
and the check is scrawled late
or the letter signed, pen in mouth
and heart in throat a few times every year.
To be fair, not so often. Brokenness
never lasting all that long. Even in your name
and her name, in the absence
by which we’re taught best, no totem
is found. In the road, so soft
in the heat it’s pliable, the cars berth
wider than I could ever need,
rolling past in the other ditch almost.
Some stop, offer help, help
they’ve not even decided is needed,
shown by their rattled way
back into the car. Away with words and miles.
Sometimes I wait a long while
beside the mail not there
and imagine even more of it,
its spill, its rustle like water rolling
from one’s hands. When
something comes with its dead
postage, embossed by cancellation,
I lean my face to its mouth
almost to kiss it, almost to thank its purpose,
and with my lips carry itdown and in. The same pens
which spill my names
lit each envelope open I’ve pulped soft
with my tongue.Blue threads through
whatever words accordion forth.
Sometimes a letter. Places I’ve been
and remember. Places I’m unlikely ever to see.
Strange children. Minor injuries.
The freight of the body
in motion. Once all petals. Once only seeds.


Faith

Meaning, I am separate. The speakers lurch
music I can’t love, I can’t tell you
I love you. The window is obvious
and cold and the climate’s breath
fogs it up, the world outside hindered.
I think that is the word I want
but it may be that I come
to you in the inconvenient darkness
saying I have not meant
myself for a very long time. It may be
that I stub my life black
and nearly weep, limping
away. It will be funny one day,
wait and see. This wound
and the next made nothing
at all by time’s mad gush of speed.
We’ll laugh, though now all
there is the slush filling
the gutter up with inconstant diamonds.
I owed you something,
once, and you were good
enough to bear me
forgetting you. Your hands
older than you were,
even in the night, graspsome, close.
Outside, the world is
stupid with whiteness
and cloud wet. I can’t think
of numbers meant
to identify me or cities by which I’m ruled.
I can’t think of this
effect my breath makes
of the air butby it I can tell
you that I am not dead,
or that I’ve stumbled into the cold,
thinking of thisdream.


Invitation

Paul Guest, I am looking forward to your birthday
and the long chain of fitful celebrations
which will follow and be broken
by something like inconsiderate death
or the envelope of oblivion. Paul Guest,
I'm looking forward to your arrival,
your flight, your train, your steamer rocking
in on a lucky wave. When will you
be here, Paul Guest, with your combs
and pockets and mad fits of despair?
Paul Guest, when will you ever be happy?
When will you sign treaties
and agreements and accords
and truces tied up with ribbon,
when will you decide to live peaceably
with yourself, Paul Guest?
When will you open cans of soup
that would have kept forever,
forever in their vacuums of salt,
and stir them on to a fire
and think yourself at last
an imposter under the grave stars
no more? When will you fall
asleep and be full and not long
for a distant woman, your words
no signposts for the way back to wherever
you were, Paul Guest?
What will you say, Paul Guest?
No one knows. No one ever has
spoken the right thing
or walked away not hating
his mouth for the sake of the air
that was in it, that wouldn’t
take shape, keep it, or at least fall into quiet,
which is an endless water.
Paul Guest, you have tried
to vanish, a thousand times, Paul Guest.


Permission

Solicitous weeks now I’ve winked at the doorknob,
my exit and return a pattern speaking
of some secret I shared with the world
only by entering into it, declaring myself
the cargo of airlines and buses,
practicing rope knots and reciting
alien slang, dyeing my hair
until I was the kin of woodland creatures,
Romulus gone wrong, Remus unaccounted for,
and Rome nowhere beneath me,
through the twill of clouds
decaying by the day. Gumdrop,
I called you when you slept
or when you wrestled
with duvets, giggling like a wild bell,
impossible not to love,
a factual seduction. And all that while,
I said I knew pokerfaces but all I knew
was how I swam to you
in the mirror or how the ducks by the lake
bristled and were doubled
over the water, in flight,
no fan of the names I lent them
or the crusts of bread I balled up for them.
All I knew were dish towels
and every remittance of breath
I paid to the air in apology
for your absence. As though I had that right.
But, still I did, and do,
and every cloud I swear
is consolation. Every cloud
and half-tended garden
and nook of odd darkness
and every syllable of praise
and even the rare sweet meal
or song which served the minutes well.
Listen: I’m singing.


Poem Written To Replace Another

There was a long sentence I wanted to say
in the dream, about life in America,
about the literature of apocalypse
or living in caves, or living within earshot
of trains. Which is to say I don’t
recall a thing that I dreamed last night,
the color of anything, the tenebrous custard of clouds,
the water that fell in shapes
from the elm trees. Really, what I’m thinking
tonight is there is nothing
in all the flat world which would satisfy me.
Not food and not love and no
Epicurean kink involving both
and in this I am trying to feel only
a little sad. Slightly broken.
Returnable, still, even to the ones I loved,
their darling, imperious airs,
their hair in careless garlands
announcing one more morning or one last.
They went about in the immediacy
of dreams. They said, or did not
say, I am the tacit light of the stars.
A long time it took meto make sense of that
and longer still their absences,
which felt like nothing
of the sort, though through them I could hear
trains warning the miles
of their torturous approach.
It seems beautiful,
to think now of that sound
which is all immensity and inevitability
and other abstractions
which only call to mind
everything that is too easy to be forgotten:
that winter is not endless
or without charm,
at least for those who find it charming,
and I am not one,
hovering beside the thermostat
with a safecracker’s impenetrable intent.
Love, it is cold out there,
is not what I mean
with every adjustment of the worn dial,
but I might say it,
were you to ask,
stranger who doesn’t know me at all.

-all poems from his blog, Almost I Rushed From Home To Tell You This

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