Monthly Archives: August 2020

Godzilla’s revenge, or, self-portrait on a t-shirt

file (2)

Godzilla’s revenge, or, self-portrait on a t-shirt

Morning after a rain, baby crickets fling themselves out of the grass,
like someone told them they have to jump upstream

recklessly to spawn. I’m sure placing my lame dog
on the grass to pee that I have crushed thousands of them.

I always felt Godzilla had no burden of guilt for the sweep
of his tail when trying to get around in the city. The crickets

can be so loud in the back yard that when I lay awake
at 1 a.m. trying to sleep I can barely hear the two churches

compete to toll the hour through the open second floor window.
We live on a hill. When the rain came last night I ran outside

and pointed my phone’s flashlight along the edge of the road.
It takes a few minutes in a hard rain but the water flow that starts

at the top of the hill winds its way to my street and passes
my house, first as a trickle, then a rivulet, then river then

a torrent that leaps the sidewalk and takes up a third
of the street. I like to see that first movement of water

before I go back inside. In the morning dozens
of businesses have been flooded. A police car floating like a lily

in the intersection by the bakery. It’s a hot and dry day.
Gravel and dirt are spread over the streets like the

footprints of a giant monster with no memory it was here.

Get lost

Get lost

1.

We live in the spaces between trees.
No matter how many we cut down

There is always space between one
And the next and that is where we are

But as the lines get longer it is harder
To breathe.

2.

Heat is selfish. Cold is impersonal.
Weather is activating. Love is not

A verb or a noun but an adjective.
So what is love?

3.

It’s okay to be lost. Being lost
Doesn’t change your position

In the world. It’s easier to be
Found if you’re not in the usual places.

Nobody but you will be the recipient
Of your rescue. I prefer to stay lost

And at least know where I am.

Decision tree

Decision tree

After the incident in the city I found the decision tree.
It spread towards heaven and hell from its trunk

in the yard of my grandmother’s house before her stroke.
Who goes there, she said, laughing. My grandmother

never said stuff like that. Who goes there? It’s me,
Grandma. I’m trying to figure out what to do.

You haven’t done the lawn in 39 years, she said,
standing in the driveway. The house’s current owners

drove through her ghost and parked. Can I help you,
asked the driver as he got out. I could have told him

Yes, you actually can help me, that’s what I came here
for, but you just ran through my grandmother and now

I’m a little confused. They’re all gone, she said, standing
by my side. Do you remember how your sister would

give me hard candies when I lived with you all, she said.
She’s gone. No she’s not, I said, she’s still here, she

has two daughters, they’re in college, she married Ernie
don’t you remember Ernie? Oh, she’s long gone said

my grandmother. They all are. She was walking away
back toward the house. Do you remember when we

surprised you at the Cape and brought you and Peg
ice cream from the Ice Cream Smuggler, I called

to her. Is that all gone, too? Am I gone? She kept walking,
through the man and his car and his two children still sitting

in the car, and they all sneezed. Then I felt her hand
on my shoulder. You go on, her voice said. You don’t

need a tree to tell you that. It was a maple, that tree
and one night even lightning couldn’t kill it.

Chimney song

Chimney song

The brick broke close to cleanly
and lay in a wheel rut its two pieces

within half an inch of each other after
the dark tumble from the next door

neighbor’s chimney down its roof
and in air across the shared dirt driveway

between houses where it banked off
the screen of our kitchen window

just below our bedroom then fell
its final six feet to the muddy tire

tracks and divided itself almost
neatly like a last piece of cake

being shared between the past
and a future without houses

The shadow of a doubt

The shadow of a doubt

So much bigger than doubt itself
cast into the future or back on the past

where it seems more solidly something
else. I crept up on it once

to see if it recognized me
After all it had led me so far

forward and back
but I could not find its eyes

The King of Frederick Street

Note: As the Yankees and Red Sox square off for the first time this endless pandemic summer, I’m reminded of a poem from my 2013 book 20 Poems & Other Translations from the English, which is about my father’s last visit to Virginia. He was afraid to leave his wife, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, for too long, but he spent a week with us and it was wonderful. It was also the last time we watched a Yankees game together until the month he would die, last July. So just a nod to my dad that I’m still watching.

The King of Frederick Street

Almost eighty, my father is surrounded
by my children, their dogs and cats
while wrestling a Solitaire game whose battery

will not seem to die. We set a folding chair
on our elevated patch of lawn
where the maple’s shadow slows and slurs

across his feet, sliding up the grass
to the house like an instant replay
of a baserunner sliding past him safely home.

It takes an hour, but now he rests in the sun.
The King of Frederick Street, we call him,
sitting on a lawn above car level on the high

side of this crooked hill, watching cars
go by, too fast, he notes, for a street
with children. Seven hundred

miles to the north his wife does not remember
most of while she’s loved. Still, him she loves
and recognizes four times a week,

musses his hair and strokes his nose and laughs,
and now does not beg to be released.
From love and parenthood there’s no escape,

also no home safe to slide past and drag
a hand across the plate just beneath
Death’s late tag. Though I can see him

try to calculate the odds, the angry focus
like leading off third, game on the line.
Pop–the Yankees are on at eight. He’ll come

Then, pick up that infernal Solitaire game
and we’ll play it side by side on the couch,
stand for the anthem and work the count

as innings race by in slow motion.
I glance across the thirty year gap
And know the years will thin;

Meanwhile, we sit, and compete
at who’s best at being alone.
He wins and wins.

Reclusion (2)

Note: When I revise a poem at all, it usually works like this: I write a poem, I walk away from it for a bit, then reading it again I take the bottom 2/3 off it, or the top 2/3 off, and find my poem sitting somewhere in the middle. In this case, I wrote “Reclusion” exactly as it was in those eight lines and felt it was done. I published it here, and then went back to my working document to write something else. I found my mind wanted to keep playing with the lines and the words of “Reclusion,” though. I added two sections of diminishing length that used the same language from the first eight lines. I got up and walked away. I came back.  I slept on it. I tinkered with stuff in the basement and back yard. I came back inside. I read it again. I felt like this longer version is the actual poem. Although Melissa Crowe of Beloit Poetry Journal might laugh reading what I’m about to write, I don’t often think the longer version is better.  But in this case… I dunno… So, not to get in the way of the first published version, I will let that one stand on its own. But here’s a different look at “Reclusion.” Feel free to tell me where I should have stopped. Or, should I keep going?…

Reclusion

Give me three words then sleep.
Like three mountains I’ll have

To climb before you wake.
Or like time I’ll wear them down

To level with me in the hollow
Quandary time between dreams.

The heart like a quiet piano
In a room the moon doesn’t reach.

*

In a room the moon doesn’t reach
To level with me: in the three hollow

Words sleep climbed before I woke:
Or like the time you wore them, down

In the heart’s quiet piano, notes
Like three mountains I can still see.

*

In the hollow piano
In the room before I woke

The moon dreams of mountains