It was a gift, having the dog
run away instead of further considering
abandonment. I was terrified
to take the twice loved canine out
to some long abandoned industrial park
or field and drive back to the house
where we had lived together.
Let’s be clear and acknowledge
this poem is for the plainspoken people
bored of poetry and mistrustful of this poem,
especially a poem without capital letters,
who believe an idea is just an unfinished job.
the hard work is lovely, and the lovely work is rare.
dreams are nonsense, and bills, cancer, death:
those are the enemies.
we must hate the things that kill us,
and we must never abandon family, country, faith.
you might be too clever for your own good, you
who are reading this poem. i’m looking for the
plainspoken people only. the cardboard people, the one-
dimensional, fictional people who could not exist:
the average people, the ordinary americans.
“People we do not love, we hurt and forget.
People we love, we hurt and do not forget.
“We hurt everyone. It is no consolation
Everyone does this, and that, more mysteriously,
“Out of suffering arises meaning.”
Her hands, after speaking,
Climbed on top of each other, as if two cranes
Made of folded paper attempted flight.
It was already evening. I had been listening
For several hours, holding those hands.
It must have been an ecstasy of confusion. He had been shot.
Like the life of a flower shown in time-lapse photography,
His final thought ruminated, then closed. Who knows what.
Nor could we know with what discord or grandeur
From the slumping body that thought was greeted.
Crammed in the penult, as if falling towards
That final thing, the lank body,
Cleaved of its cleverness, now in the simpler grit
Of repose, shushed and dropped
Como un zapato sin pie, como un traje sin hombre.
They hurried him out, more gross than regal,
Under the caving awnings of merriment.
Then – screaming. Then – mayhem.
Already the minutes were swelling to decades.
What nostalgia for life the dying have.
They are the only ones who are certain
That life was lived and not imagined.
Everything less than we had imagined
And less satisfying. Everything
Briefer, lighter, less significant.
Pain, too, and disappointment
Less. Everything less and least,
Coming and leaving, happening once,
And therefore never happening at all.
Those who believe that love
is a descent, like climbing down
the mountain and returning home,
are closer to their happiness.
The way bread tastes, how we know
it to be good, that is how it is
being close to you and being your friend.
Without expectation I am expectant.
The lake begins to ripple, unaware
If doe will stoop to drink from it.
So too have I started loving you
In obdurate silence, without purpose,
As the mockingbird will build its nest
For dead eggs.
Begin swallowing me, piece by piece, as if I were fruit in Hell.
I want nothing more than to be closer to you than all other things.
I want nothing more than to cross the gulf towards your shipyard body.
To find you by instinct, like mosquitoes in the quiet of a marsh.
In your most secret location my home has been calling out to me incessantly
Like a bell drunk with its own ringing. In your most secret location
I will begin my sleep, you will feel my feet inside of you, and I will eat you.
Who among you will claim his manhood?
Who will bore beneath the ice and murder the leviathan?
I stand amidst your fears and womanly longings
Like a soldier atop a slaughtered dog.
What you have considered a triumph I could lick clean
Like sugar or dust from my fingers.
Know this. Only what is embossed, pounded, waled;
Only your feral pain, left to its slow formation,
Like moss choking a rock,
Will prepare you, at last, to bridle power.
Sometimes I find the entire thing stupid,
An art form with no color, sound, or weight,
The poem itself nothing more than a suggestion
Of something to consider or imagine.
The sculpture, covered with bird shit,
In the garden where people drink wine
And give their appropriate lingering looks,
At least kneels on the grass, at least takes its space,
And no two hands can touch it differently.
Knowing that you are still alive fills me with hope.
I have nothing in common with the privacies of your life, which I could never comprehend.
I know as well that your writings are only testaments to your intelligence and imagination and say nothing of who you are,
And that the works themselves are all that interest me, must interest me,
And that were you to die your works would have precisely the same vitality and worth,
And in my own thoughts the manifold aftereffects of your legacy will continue to work their mysterious course,
And even in meeting you would I get no nearer to their source,
And yet, and yet, with all of this understood, the feeling of kinship remains, somehow,
Thinking of who you are, seeing your name entitled on everything you’ve written,
Communicating that somewhere you exist and have the needs of a man,
That you too must have banality and inarticulate expression,
That you are, in your own way, part storyteller and laborer.
I have difficulty sleeping now because of what you have described.
I see clearly my own understanding of your understanding.
It is in turns exhilarating and ineffably frustrating.
The world is as you describe and not as you describe.
Your works are absolutely perfect and absolutely flawed.
You are infinitely close to me and infinitely far.