Her favorite objects are also her favorite
subjects, so she has learned them well:
box, birdie, fish, and bubble;
shoe, hat, apple and ball.
She bounces the box and unlaces the bubble,
wears the fish and chirps at the apple,
picks the birdie from a tree,
watches the hat swim in the sea,
bursts the shoe with a poking finger
closes the ball at the sign of danger—
she needs better words or a different world;
I can't tell which, because I'm old.
Her favorite subjects must renew
themselves in objects like clothes or clocks:
ball, hat, apple, and shoe,
bubble, fish, birdie, and box.
The Humans on Hallowe’en
We light three candles, put a bad face on
our lunkhead pumpkin, scoop out his brains
right back into his skull
with the clumsy end of our carving skill...
Ready to take the easy way out
before the tricksters expected at eight,
treating them to a handful of what-
ever chocolates they want to grab,
we’re scary good at playing the really
hospitable couple; we spring at the shuffle
of feet on the doorstep, chuckle at greed
and tolerate ingratitude.
In the lull between each demand
for candy, we sit around at loose ends,
emptying pockets of Snickers and change,
watching the street for the lurching return
of goblins, demons, pro wrestling fans...
We’re lonely for ghosts, peering out at the moon,
and our greatest fear is that no one will come
to haunt this undisguised night we call home...
Icarus, from the Breakfast Nook
Light stays aloft, but illuminated
objects fall to us to be known.
A leaf is briefly sustained, on its slow,
erratic flight, as if flaming with grace
on its way to the damned. So we come to grief—
ablaze with amazement, weighed down by the looks
of expectant mourners and envious mothers
who see in their children’s bright eyes the distant
reflections of suns that desired and died
in a life-giving moment, afire, unaware.
The Fighting Horses
One, embraced by the other, nips
a throatlatch taut, its stifles flexed
with fetlocks cocked at pointed hips
and straining neck. The movement vexed,
the horses part and prance, rear back
on hock and tendon, spring from croup
to cannon, curvet to outflank
the other barreling beast. Hooves scrape
on shoulders, pummel pasterns stretched
with whinnying, flail to winnow blown manes
bravely, fight free. Forever unhitched,
they canter back blamelessly, limping and game,
to live together beyond human terms,
their bodies gone awkward: hostile yet disarmed.
Puppies scrambled across your face—
I couldn’t stop them, though I was close
and clinging still more tightly to you.
The brush of our hands, considered truly,
contained a kiss; there was holy urgency
in our touches in the back of a car.
We were first thrown together as others drove
that dreadful and delightful road
to the merciful meadow. We lay in grooved
oblivion—your dark hair in my lungs
waiting for those to whom we owed
our love to forgive that debt and leave.
And then the tiny, almost fluttering
earthbound butterflies—the puppies, caressing
your absent face with faint paws—velvet
vermin cuckolding me before
I had ever known such open air,
such an unexpected, dreamlike lark
whose wings folded up even as they took flight.
(Fire away, Doctor Freud.)