Horseback Riding in the Jungle
In the incandescent madness of an organic grocer
a figure shadows over the threshold.
Cloister of red kuri squash in penitent rows.
Pine nuts & brown rice. Swiss chard & white
fish under halos of fluorescent palm trees, bamboo
baskets, sesame crickets. He rubs himself
clean of three days beard & the sincere hope
that he’ll be doing something better
come winter. The next round of Jeopardy is Fun
& Games & 3 Is seem too many. You’ll have to buy
a shrimp tempura taco, spin instead of guessing
consonants in the arid wake of vowels,
couples episode – she claps & spins & hands
her cerulean section labeled Vera Beach & under
her breath she thinks the reason we weren’t good
is three parts sympathy, one piece I wouldn’t eat
well in front of her, unless I was drunk & crushing tacos.
The guy at the sushi counter’s a dead-ringer
for the bald boyfriend of that girl who’s friends with
the thick blonde in Divas, a reality show I’ve seen
more than once & I’m sorry. I want to go.
I’m sorry to have this wayward moustache, limp
like I’m just bucked from an Andean pack horse. Raw
from peeling off the shoes I wouldn’t wear to save
a crocus from a blade for my lapel. Now’s the time to say
I’ve never been to the private institution on the hill.
But there’s a cot & a cup of soup there waiting. White
apron spotted with soy sauce. I’ll sell my leather belt.
Else find me purple, moon-eyed in the morning,
swallowed by the incandescent madness of the jungle.
Giraffe on fire, go to sleep, we’ve happenstance in the morning.
Minerva in the Curs
Screams muffled by a blueberry scone
and violins of the corner apartment
smashed to ribbons.
Land shimmers fearfully in the eyes of curs
is something a wise man almost said. In France
a Frenchman died
from too much hexachlorophene
in his talc. A series of Clydesdales
froze that winter. He chipped his right rear
lingual molar on the edge of a silver spoon
stuck in his mouth during the seizure that did not
kill him. The wild music
is mostly string, sky, wanton squandering,
unabridged longing played in the rings
of his soup around the spoon
sorting letters into driftword. There was a bird
made of wool. It was warmer than usual
that winter, before the freeze.
Black hair between his teeth. His shoes were wet,
solemn and wise, having hitherto admired
the seething, snarling mouths
of the curs. The radiator groaned. A young boy
tied his shoes in the hallway, sitting on the step,
musing silently at the world’s
depravity, esteeming those who held their tongues.
Be safe, she said, there is evil
in the alleys of Bayonne. The scent of baking
scones drowning in the mettle
of troubled violins. Passing taxis.
His mother stroked his hair when he was sleeping.
Minor galaxies where the cats play, tonight. Tonight
chilly winds blow the wreath from my door. Time
is never enough to straighten one’s belief, they say
astrology precedes the stars, they taste the same
as memory, or hope. Left Lane Ends 500 feet –
give me something to wait for. Wait for me, I’m in the shower,
conditioning my hair, which is precious. Sometimes I pray
for the days of the Rincon Giant I used to ride, smashing
pumpkins, ringing doorbells & hiding in the bushes
athwart the way. It took years of observation to understand
my own comfort – which seems normal, tonight. Today
was the greatest hay I’ve ever mown – with a scythe
I painted a cow in a field, though it doesn’t sell
as well as a bull at a fence, staring into the eyes of a red
rooster flared. We don’t know where the cats will go, but
they’ve been here, the litter box is ripe. In the land of 1,000
years, ash doesn’t have to follow ash, it could be dust, or sand,
or a candle burning in the fireplace, in place of actual fire. Tonight
I will drink the lake, nibble crustaceans & alewife, beg to be
forgiven. Sadness alongside the awareness that awareness
follows after, like the moon-shaped blister on the palm I held
above the candle as it snuffed. Aware only after what’s gone is
gone. Jesus wasn’t the only one doing his best
to upend time, rearrange the sand of every brackish body
of water, the hour of its tide, breathe heat back into flame.
& I still believe that I can’t understand. Days of wonder
at icicles skulking from the gutter like a cave, winter’s fragile
cane. Cats play the same game, tonight, belching feathers.
This Item Withdrawn from the Library
RememberingMay 15, 2007
Blue pen borrowed from Walker Brothers
Pancake House, reading about the ocean of trash
beneath the city. Reading The Big Sleep with sleep
still thick between my eyes. Hand Jive
on the radio, early light cascades through stained
glass, gently deploying its nimble young fingers
like a child with crayons on a placemat, connecting dots
with radiant turquoise, ochre, brilliant cherry red
on the other booths. My parents are the types that drink
2% milk… I mean, who does that? I drank whole last night
watching the Mayweather/De La Hoya fight when the ring
announcer said “Are you ready?” I nodded to no one
& the treadmill this morning said “Are you ready?” I’m not
convinced I’ve felt this way before, morning of the death
of Jerry Falwell, abortionist
of individual rights & liberties. I draw a pattern in the ring
my coffee’s left on a napkin & try to remember 9/11.
Jerry said it’s God’s punishment: divorce rates & the damned
purple Teletubby are poison. MLK said “If you can’t
walk, then crawl. Whatever you do, you have to keep
moving forward.” Jerry said disease is “God’s punishment
for the society that tolerates homosexuals.” I don’t want to be
dramatic, or Mancow myself (that is, proffer goat-getting
nonsense) so I focus on the American Taxi idling outside
in the mentioned young light. I remember drawing pictures
of cabs & cars & fire engine trucks
in crayon, as a boy, under the table, behind the skirt
before dinner was served – drawing pictures of cowboys
& Indians taking birds from the sky – the thrill of an arrow
in the sun’s soft belly. Like crucifixion. Like everything
making perfect sense, for an instant, that child-
like understanding. Like the reverend who refused the kit
after he was bit by a spirit-tame rattlesnake. Black rot crept
up his arm before he died. I leave my pen for the waiter. I roll
honey eucalyptus lozenges in the mouth of my mind & knock
my boots against the rail before entering the cab.
The driver, who’s been waiting, says, “Where to?”
but means, “Are you ready?” I’ve been waiting for you.
Take me to the mountaintop, I said, with a Styrofoam container
& the better half of an apple pancake warming my lap.
In my pack, a book withdrawn from the library,
written in a language I’m inventing, open like a grave
in the shadow of a kingdom burned into a story –
I must be Marlowe’s only knight, tasked with understanding.
She prefers a private life. Hiding
in the hedgerow, shadow of a Horn-
beam, nest lined with lichen and down.
She prefers her discretions, tucked
under rufous wings, praising mistletoe
berries. For fourteen days she offers
her body to the hatch, till morning touches
fledging beaks. Two things are said
of the mistle thrush: her storm providence,
for one, is uncanny: high upon the Hornbeam,
barking warnings in the face of rushing gale.
And two, she’ll do anything to protect her eggs.
Should you come upon a hidden mistle
thrush, she’ll rise up like the devil and beat
her wings, rise high and dive bomb
until she claims her space. In the corner
booth of Clarke’s Diner, the good gossip
is on a woman from Leeds, who heard a loud
noise while rinsing a colander of currants
in the sink. Two children asleep
in the next room, the woman drew a steak
knife from its block, put it fifteen times
into the intruder’s neck, back, and gut.
Sitting at the kitchen table, reporting her morning
to two tweed-coat detectives, she spooned
oats into the mouth of the child on her lap,
clear-eyed, said what else would you
have liked me to do? as a crew from the local
hospital hoisted the gray-pale intruder
onto a gurney from the lawn and covered him
with a sheet. On a wire beside the mistle
toe tree at the property’s north gate, the
rattling praise of a provident thrush.