OFF THE ROAD
Side trips, said Lenore, take you off the road
and you end up nowhere you said you were
going when you left me with my nightgown
around my neck and my pussy wet with heat
and frost on the windows, the cats on the bed,
maybe this, maybe that, but silence for certain.
Lenore smoked another Kool. She had a jones
for men who worked with their hands, she liked
to smile. Driving up the perilous mountain path,
eyes shifting from side to side searching for deer,
staring hard into the dark–moonless blackness–
turning into the curve and correcting in time
to stay on asphalt, a man must have his woman
between two arms and two legs and let go . . .
Lenore, you were straight from Poe. Wet rose
of time to be remembered in a solitude of dust
curling in motes up the laddered air in daylight
and with one hand on the door you lean out
breathe in take a step, pitch forward, but catch
your body before it falls the rest of the way
down, and here come the men just in time
with beer and cigarettes and conversation
when the main man, not me or you or any one
she knows, but the one she loves, arrives home.
Lenore, you love the working class, literally.
You could have sold yourself for good money.
Lenore, you had a future and said, Fuck it!
I’m going to do what I want, nobody can stop
me, they all should give up before they start
in on me telling me how to live and how to die.
Up the road to the top, then. And off the road
to reach the house in the woods where Lenore
never left, she had so many beaus, and a friend
who came mornings to act the part of mother.
She leaned over to kiss Lenore on her dry lips,
gussied up the house, talked a while, then left.
Lenore, Lenore, Lenore! Your body was dead
but your words brought them all back to life,
the men of no home, the woman who mothered
and fathered all at once your childhood’s end,
your womanly motherless beginnings without
end . . . and I have said of her what I have said.
COMING UP ON QUITTING TIME
All day at the boiler room door, dreaming fishing must follow,
after the shovelful I’m sending through the door’s fiery maw.
The place at the gravel pit? No, the pond stocked with rainbows.
Use a bluetail fly, there are no worms this time of year, the lure
outwaits any lack of hunger. But I’m still shoveling at the door,
which never opens. You can tell by the absence of everything.
Oxygen. Perfume. Smooth skin’s feel. The opening and closing
of whatever is missing here, which will be found above water
where the red haired high school friend waits with her Healey
running, wondering if I’m coming, wondering if I have money,
hoping I’m thirsty not only for the Paisano but for her body–
or so I think, thinking nothing is to be thought, neither Fear
or Trembling nor its sequel, The Sickness unto Death. Who is
reading Wittgenstein now that Kierkegaard has outlived him.
That’s no question any laborer in the boiling rooms of world
renown would ask. A new language posits a new world. Or does
the proposition in German go the other way around? Most likely,
I lost the verb opening the open mouth of the fire without a word.
A DAY IN THE BOILER ROOM
You know the days are growing short by how little you see inside,
the sun outside nudging aside the clouds inside, how much light
survives divided by the number of dreams you cannot remember,
the spurious sleep, the moment unprepared for, the wild clamber
to the top of the rock where the goats look up, their legs restless
to climb higher but the sea washes against rock and it all erodes.
Machines fail. A being has been, we say. Burial is more humane,
I am told, than the furnace. How do we know? How do you know
it is not? Our human ways conflict, the power rush, the long turn
over, the short sprint now, breath growing shorter, harder to draw,
. . . The word is out: It’s over, the hope, the glory, the American
feeling. Now we settle down to our long night of going backward.
Yet reason keeps on making sense by multiplying the brain waves
intersecting with flesh and bones down there walking a body home.
I would understand, the philosopher says, what is good by goodness
if evil were absent, and that being not the case I gauge evil by loss.
The philosopher walks away to think through a thought like this
and comes back chortling, believing he’s broken through, he’s free
to keep going out and coming back, to making love and dying little
deaths one at a time and with short spaces between bodies touching
and parting and joining again only to spend themselves together,
or do they spin until they stop? Is that what making love was here?
where small creatures appeared near the end of a year to languish
never, so alive were they, the little storms in their body’s cells . . .
All this I was remembering before I ended my shift with a shovel
in the boiler room under the ground floor where all the footfalls
occur all day and all those with white shirts and ties stay above
the fray. I keep motioning to the shadows to spell me, my name
begins disappearing into the mist of sweat and grime. I’m blind
with love. I’m happy to have no appearances to salvage from loss.
If the machine failed it was only to give my heart fresh quickening.
If the seagoat ended on top it was only because rain was turning
rock slick, hooves sliding akimbo, time to stop and breathe the air
for breath itself. And if there were no sky there would be no rain.
And if there were no rain, there would be no water to sate a thirst
impossible to quench forever. And if I could not write what’s to read?
Don’t Faulkner me my Melville. I don’t need a grass-growing mood.
I have Hawthornes everywhere to dedicate my master work to, no
need to keep on incessantly attempting to fill the emptiness of words
when so many speak so well and even learn to think words through.
Else the poet make his story’s stand a stalemate, a moment of crisis
Aristotle may have understood but not Moby Dick or Light in August.
In the car the motor propels us into a heaven of human imagination
where gas is free and speed no factor in how fast we get from here
to there. In the room where we end memory of life in the boiler room
disappears, the shovel leans against one wall, the furnace is consumed
from the outside in, and I have cautioned those I know to go their own
way out or in, or stay and learn to put in a day of work the long way.
THE FIRST AND LAST JOB
I’m completely yours.
I left my shovel home
but I’ll use yours.
I won’t take any time
to eat lunch
or take a break, I’m
having a job at all.
Went downstairs after punching
the time card.
Took off my shirt and vest
my socks, my drawers,
slipped back into pants
and got down to work.
The morning goes fast
by the time a full day is over.
The afternoon is the hardest.
You have to think here
before you scoop and throw
the coal into the boiler.
You have to learn to step back
when the fire flares up.
I want to be the best
I can be.
I want to do this for a living.
It’s good for the body
and pays the bills.
I never planned to do
what I’m doing,
but it’s a job and pays well.
The poetry is in the fire.
The flame is mixed with black
coals and is the color
of Stendhal’s greatest novel
Le Rouge et le noir.
I read it once in late autumn
Everyone in the city was there.
I mean they were Julian
The wife who mistress’d him,
her husband, the fool,
the priests, the jailers,
the soldiers, the judges,
the hangman, they stopped by
to ask what I was reading.
You learn how to do this first
on a ship. That’s why
young men go off to sea very early,
they want the experience
they need, most of them, those
who have their eye on the future.
They learn how to shovel fast.
The ship cuts through waves
in storms, makes good time
in calmer weather,
and I love to feel the roll
when I’m on deck.
It’s what I miss down here,
that shifting footwork you need
to practice to stay upright.
The boiler room away from
the ship, then, is the place
I hunted for work because
Faulkner was a night watchman
when he couldn’t find work
in a brothel.
Like Melville I was a sailor
just to kiss dry land.
This is called, as you can see,
Life in the Boiler Room
but it’s not about me.
It takes up the ordinary and
puts you there. Could be you
digging into the coal pile,
scooping up a shovelful
and arcing it into the boiler
where it gives another heartbeat
of the beast this building is,
no more, no less than the ship.
Melville set pins in a bowling alley
He didn’t stay on dry land long.
He loved the island women.
They loved the white man he was.
I’m straying from my work.
I am getting weary, must go home
directly after punching out,
pass by the saloon
and the taxi dancers’ ballroom
heading home to feed my animal
with her mouth and pussy cat,
and stay in bed to cash in
the sleep I earned.
I think about vacation time
accrued if I don’t take time
to stay home.
I’ll go to work sick if I have to.
I need the long journeys
somewhere I’ve never been,
Tahiti, say, or Natchez, Mississippi.
And when I retire I will have
enough laid by to keep warm
even in winter.
There are others who will freeze,
I fear, they are too prodigal
and easy on themselves.
I keep remembering Captain Bligh
like I was Fletcher Christian.
The girls fall into my wahine arms.
They give me pleasure and keep
a little for themselves.
The men smile and go about
their business, what
I will never know. That world
is theirs. The one I live in is mine.
I have the right there to work
for a living.
I want to say
thank you to someone.
The boss is never around.
He must think I can do the work
well by now.
The boiler keeps burning,
I’m not the only one here.
IN THE LAP OF SUMMER
There is more to life than labor,
there is the soul’s need to be a child in old age,
beginning with the wiping of the father’s brow
then the mother’s
as they die from so long attending the fields
and the shadows of the house
where there is no end but death, no, nor for any
one alone does the long cloud arrive.
I put away my shovel when I reached this age.
I closed the door of the boiler room
and returned to the cafeteria and my book of days.
I had saved all there was to save.
The sweat had poured, the body was dry now.
The aches, the pains, the lingering of them.
So this is what those who begat me suffered
gladly. And I was among the lucky.
Here I am, free of the curse of the brow.
I look under her shadow where her breasts fall.
I see where he goes and his hands tremble
for no reason. A child follows behind them.
The food waits under glass. It was meant
to be taken in small bites, not the raven’s
purchase that rends its prey, rather the young,
the loving, the immaculate care the body
gives to a body not its own but of its own flesh.
Not that the nights are over
even if days come easier on the body’s weight,
no, there is the love the thighs encourage,
with which the loins spring forth,
and I do not know if there will be time
remaining to recall the light in her light step,
how he glided with her to the long, wide bed.
Now it’s time. The night has moon to shine
and does, the deer come to the empty streets,
the birds wake when dawn gathers the light,
the streets swept, water drying, the echoing
of voices and footsteps and doors beginning
to open and close, rise and fall, even laughter
among the morning dazed, the jabbering mad,
perhaps words too–these?–to carry them along.
That is when the door is closed to the boiler room.
The boss is back. He was the one you could not see.
He would not look you in the eye. He says nothing
even now. And there is nothing of him to be seen.
You punch in, pick up your shovel, open the door
and feel the great heat enter the pores of flesh
that also open as you scoop and swing the coal
that keeps us warm here, in the lap of summer.
THE BOILER ROOM
Not the one I work in, it opens at midnight
and the horns come to play with the reeds.
And we dance until we are wet with desire.
I put my hands all over her and she is naked
everywhere they go. The crowd presses in
to consume our space and we press back,
nakedly. You see, this is fun, and she is hot
for some sex after her legs are loose enough
to lie down and let me in. I am full of what
she wants. Working and nothing but work
will do that to you: make you horny, make
you glad to see her with her bare legs under
her skirt twirling as she moves with the beat.
The horns keep going and so do the reeds.
They stay on the bandstand as long as night
wears on. At dawn we cup our bodies’ cool
resplendent flesh and go down the street
looking for home, finding it where we lie
in shadows, the sun already starting to rise
and voices all around us asking who we are.
Carimba and brilliance of nostrums
pealing from the altar, the dias of hate
in the old days, when wahine arrived
with their crimes written in the holy
doublespeak of the future we all fear
with the beloved glistening in our arms.
You do not need to hear this rant again
but you listen until more fails to arrive
and so arise in silence looking around
to see who’s looking before you stroll
nonchalantly back to the still-open door
awaiting the arrival of the wind and rain
and here they are, dressed in dark clouds
and trees bowing under the sky’s weight.
You were awaiting the arrival of snakes.
They curl and strike or spit and slither
away. There are no snakes on this island.
So they say, the brilliant ones, tongues
curled to fit their shining teeth and lips
pursed with lovingness. Or so they say.
These days that arrived with missionaries
will never leave. We must accommodate
the heathens. They have no shame. Love
is a word in their minds but unembodied.
I wish I could tell you all they came for,
but how would I know, I who welcomed
no one. The dark-souled one. The one
who was already two, then three, whose
woman was with child once more
and trees bending now with weight
of bounty, soft and lush as her body
and fields always waiting for harvest.
Then the snakes appeared on schedule.
The prophecy was fulfilled and hatred
invaded the sea-crowded earth we had
adored as though we were its children.
I don’t mean to hog the limelight, you too
have your woes. Work is not a man’s world
anymore. You tell me it’s better now than then.
You can choose to work when you’re free, you say.
You had this man, wouldn’t take no for an answer.
You loved him as much as you’d ever loved anyone.
He said he knew a way for you to make money . . .
Dear reader, need I go on? You’ve already sensed
where this is heading. So now we are going back
to the boiler room, the real one not the night club.
I’m growing lazy in my old age, don’t know how long
I can keep rising at dawn, arriving just after sunrise,
working all day and going homeward after it’s dark
outside. It’s dark in here all the time. I wish you too
worked here, you could keep me entertained as long
as the work stayed hard. But no, I am reading books
on the job now, something I used to do for a living
when I was young inspecting corn along the river
valley, drinking home brew with the Swedish farmers
and making a special trip into town to be seen eating
a long lunch. Sometimes my boss came out to find me
and always did, even though I walked to the middle
of the field, sat down and read, then moved on to pick
ears of corn to take back for inspection to see how ripe
and ready to pick they were and going in for a late lunch
with the boss and his colleague, another boss, at the Barn
Burgers and Shakes outside the remote city of Grandview
where my father died many years later, long before you
worked for your man but only after saying he could never
marry you, you were white and his family would never
accept you. But learn how to do this and we can be the next
best thing. If you wind up in jail you’ll have yourself
a subject to write about. I was night manager of a motel
during the world’s fair and the woman who worked with me
said, Come down to Lake Union and visit me in my houseboat.
She also lived on Queen Anne Hill. Your mother could see
the ships from there before your father lost his job and had
to move to the remote city where much later you were born.
I knew a girl in your town went to bed to pay for a hit of speed
and got pregnant, had an abortion before Roe, got married
to a poet who started drinking with the people in his seminars
as he glided toward a master’s he thought would get him hired
and she left him but it took weeks, months, years for him to dry
out. You had no bidet, it took you longer to get to sleep nights
you took the night’s take to his place and divided it with him
and he showed you the rest of what he knew one night at a time.
But it isn’t my business. I have taken to reading books between
half hour periods before each blaze begins to die down and here
I am happy, as happy as a man can be lucky to have you for wife.
But don’t get me wrong, I love you more than I’ve loved any lass
who loves me back and well after she’s prayed to God to take
her needs away and give her the strength to be chaste and happy
sleeping in a separate bed on another floor but giving me fellatio.
You want to know what language fellatio
are. Why am I the only man you asked.
The rest were too busy making love
with you in the ways such words intend.
I can understand. There were women
I had to ask more than once
if they knew the Latin for cocksucking,
cuntlicking, . . . that’s the trouble
being a working stiff. You grow coarse
with vocabulary unbefitting a minor poet
in the making, or so my ambition tells me
makes me rise each day with an erection
and newfound energy at age seventy-one
In memory I can’t find any place
but yours to go. You live in a house
on a hill called The Citadel. You keep
a small apartment there, the door opens
and closes from early till late at night,
the phone keeps ringing and then stops
and you are alone but with one last stop
to make before sleep. No need to go
into that. You were sad all seven years.
Women came around and asked to stay
"just a little while till I find my own place"
and I said no. There was one from a town
I was from. She took over from the woman
I stole from the mathematician, the one
Betty Ruth knew and called me to ask
if I would file for the divorce. And I did.
And the woman eloped with an old flame
from Honolulu, with or without a mumu,
I did not see her again until one stoplight
in Sunnyside was red and she crossed
the crosswalk holding a little boy’s hand.
She looked up, I stared back. She went on
to the sidewalk and did not look back.
I should have put my head out the window
and asked for my Bible back. You were
in the seat beside me. I didn’t bother.
But I’ve got my chronology all wrong.
It was then you went to The Citadel,
and only later did I find out why
it was not because you needed privacy.
I could tell you stories you never knew
I knew. Who told me? You, sleeping.
That’s not true. I was born in a city
with a reputation. No, not New Orleans
but Fort Smith, I had folks in my past
who frequented The Row by the river.
I knew lots of stories. They talked back
to me when you left for The Citadel
and one man’s long experience selling it.
As it is, we’ve both had two years Latin.
We have no excuse for staying home
save I’m too old to walk far, and you
are not happy staying home. I pick up
Virgil, Catullus, Juvenal and go back
to the boiler room, where I belong.
ROOTS OF A TREE DEAD AT THE TOP
What dies at the top is already dead at the root.
Little wonder people I meet on the street turn
away when I tell them where I came from,
why I’m here. There is a photograph: mother
leads son by one hand, she’s wearing glasses,
walking Fort Smith’s main street, Garrison,
he’s dressed like a little man, they said then,
it’s a week day and we’re in town to shop
and this guy with a camera caught us on film.
He didn’t know where the one surviving son
of this woman came from, it wasn’t her fault
he had no older brother to hold her other hand.
We both came from down there by the river
originally. You could see it that way. You had
to hear me tell it, now all the others are dead.
I could gussy it up, give it rein, get a laugh
where those before me wept in church aisles
to hear such stuff as your mama used to whore,
your papa had his own, you’ll never know who
you are. All I knew was my family tree died
long before I was born. The poisoned roots
killed my brother Bobby, sure as he was born
and died before the year was out and I, born
three hours before another year ended, lived.
No, it didn’t happen so neatly you could say
we were a doomed family because one root
died and poisoned the tree entirely. No, can’t
you see how a story can sway history one way
–happiness after the many years of struggle–
before time’s passed and the truth comes out.
Walking with my mother along Garrison Street
–or was it, is it, Boulevard?–I had little idea
I would be writing this one day in dour silence.
Yes, dour. I am no happier than you to know
instinct used to be greater than reason but now
hardly exists at all–up here, I mean, where men
and women gather and send old codes across
–across what? the room that is no longer there?
two sides of the same street? from one car
to the other also waiting for the light to change?
–call them ancient habits of the human animal,
they are never for sale save in the past’s brothels,
they are innocent as lambs, courageous as lions,
wise as grandfolks, and they have never sinned.
Still, there are stories my father’s mother’s father
gallivanted along The Row by the Arkansas
where on the other side lies Oklahoma, red earth
it translates. And his mother took up with a man
who rode a horse across country to sell his songs
by passing the hat, growing so famous his name
my grandmother gave my father, and in the South
it’s your first and middle name you are known by.
On the other side, my mother’s mother’s mother
opened an establishment over there, in Oklahoma,
up the river and a little west of here, east of Tulsa,
where nothing was established, it was all on view
but who had time to look with all those lovely
lovelies loving or looking to give love for pleasure.
That’s another story. My father’s mother’s father's
gone to whores and his wife, the Cherokee, is in town,
one much smaller than Fort Smith, her daughter
playing in the plaza while her mother, fully wooed,
lies down in the hotel bed under Manuel Romain
conceiving a son who will be stillborn and she will
bleed to death and they will be buried together
in a common grave, the widower too poor to buy
a second casket let alone pay for the one lowered
into the shoveled grave, he’s given it all to whores.
Or so say the righteous, the irredeemably saved.
Saved from what? from themselves, from us . . .
The street photographer was not called an artist,
he sold his pictures for money. No Polaroids yet,
he took your name and address and printed up
a picture from the negative and send it to you
and you sent him his money back. In those days
people trusted one another it’s no surprise sin
was scarce in the streets of Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Just ask anyone where I come from, they’ll say
in a kind of historical chorus, We have no idea.
He said who sent him. She told him to come in.
The room was warm and full of a good smell.
She was wearing a see-through negligee.
Her feet were tucked in fuck-me shoes he’d heard
her man call them, said he’d be turned on pronto,
using the Wild West vernacular of the place.
He knew she was wearing a wig and he knew why.
You didn’t have to tell him everything, not at all.
He grew up on the other side of the tracks,
after all. He asked what he owed her. He knew
she like all of them would ask for it up front.
She asked what he wanted, he told her the usual,
and she said, Fifty. He put five tens in her hand
and she asked if he’d like a drink, would he like
to smoke a joint, and he took the drink, bourbon
and soda. She excused herself and left him alone
with his glass, closing the bathroom door behind
her. She changed her ankle-length negligee for
one barely reaching her thighs and returned.
He let her bring him up slowly with her mouth.
He made sounds he could not help but make.
When she could feel the sap rising she rolled
over and guided him on top of her and on in.
Soon he was flaccid and dressed and sat a while
at her invitation getting to know her, her him,
though she knew they would never meet again.
At least she’d met him first at her man’s house,
where she went now as soon as she could get away.
She kept three tens and he two. He took her in bed
all the ways she loved and next morning added
some she had not yet known but he was nothing
if not versatile. She was pleased she gave pleasure
to one who seemed so appreciative. She took off
her wig, finally. Her man asked her if she knew
how much he loved her and said it all over again
when he realized she was taking a minute to think.
She would do this every night the rest of the month.
He’d sit at the Marriott bar and give her a call
when he’d found a man to send up for her to love.
She went on living the life she had lived before.
Sure, she loved him. She knew he didn’t love her.
Extra ordinary imp erious mys ter y
and the spaces between letters are also words
from another language, the one
as emblematic of a newly discovered wor ld.
If she dons her underthings she’s ready
to go party and smoke a j and drink vino
& screw, like an ampersand their bodies
in the back bedroom where the host says Go
and you went with him who has the long one.
Nietzsche raving mad on the bluff above
the town full of wolves and claws aloft
with wings in her it ed from the Bijou
we entered under exit lights at each end
when everyone was watching Spellbound
Seven years old and now seventy-one,
this wunderkind has Austria written on
his forehead. The mark of Cain or beast,
who knows trundles the wagon on down
the road. I want to live as long as I have to
to get my work done and being asked, What
is your work? silence follows, better to do
than to say, to show than to reveal, to be
than to have been, that way the war ends
inside the heart and the heart comes home.
So he takes it out and puts it in her, his love.
She lets him. She moves around and around
and he lets her. Pretty soon the trailer park
is ablaze with ecstasy, the residents fast asleep
and Marin on notice: the resurgence on its way
LIVING THE LIFE INSIDE AND BEYOND THE SKIN, WITH ECSTATIC KINDNESS
It so happens
when I wake
I touch life
at its root
and am happy
the body is
In such straits the horses come quickly from the other side of the fence where the grass grows highest when they do not need to stand under the shed and out of the rain even when it snows. The hired man has his eye on the wife in the largest cabin on the downward slope. She makes motions toward returning next summer. He appears pleased since his smile widens like thunder in the distance with rain streaking the horizon. Rainwalking it’s called. He has had no pleasure in many years. He had hoped the coyotes behind the house would thrive, but no, they are dying one after the other from sheer grief, unable to get through the wire surrounding them ever since they were uprooted from the wild and brought here as cubs.
In the middle
of the pasture
she sheds bra
and her man,
the one with her,
puts her on film
If I touch life at the root I have no other way to love a woman save through the avenues of my eyes. Such is the plaint of the widower. The man of whom I speak is unaware I am taking his measure. He will want to live longer now. He will live on and become a hundred, I hope. The young nurse loves him. He is the love of her life. He is fifty years older. I think a time machine has its uses. He has to have his sex, she says. She makes love on her knees, and he lives once more as he did in the days when he was free of children and too young for old age. He likes to be up early in deep winter to see the snow fall on the weeds that have taken the place of flowers. She will be here soon. He touches himself until he stays touched.
What if I slept
with you there
and did not wake
until my body
flooding our skin
You know what it will be like on the other side because you have so many loved ones living there, they must be happy, you never hear from them anymore where once their letters arrived one after the other as quickly as I could write one from this side and expect it to be delivered, and I was never wrong how I knew they would welcome my very ancient words,
those one read like a soliloquy, the kind we grew up hearing, the Guild Theatre mausoleum London no longer uses the way the graves support New Orleans by floating on the watery beds where the French sold their citizens to the Spanish who sold themselves, both men and women, to the Americans, who buy and sell the earth once the world approves their loan.
I don’t have an answer for you, she said through the speaker in the door.
On the other side she could see her dark brown nipples through the sheer
slip she was wearing in the mirror. They’d been closed, like she said, a year
and a half, adding, in her best familiar, "boys." She was getting out now
and didn’t want any more stirring the pot occurring, but she didn’t know
where they could go to get what they said they were looking for, a throw
of hips around their own until the love one bed could make would be over and the speaker’s friend, the callow one, she knew, would be through . . .
We’re here for business, he knew he said, no question but what an answer:
said she was ready, but she didn’t have a girl in the house working for her
so coming out of retirement would be the personification of her familiar
that would never let on she might be as dark brown up here as down there
and that’s way back when this fishing port's working women still had hair
uncut on their heads, unshaved between their legs. Who knows but there
were other reasons men went to whores to get what ordinarily was never
where you lived to weasel out of those vows you take when you marry . . .
Aberdeen, Washington, was not far from Seattle. Both were fishing towns
though Seattle was a city by then, the population increasing exponentially
daily, monthly, yearly, decadely (like we say now wearing bags of Liptons
under hats respectfully never worn until someone said, Let’s have a party
of our own! saying it with alarm mixed with surprise, you know how life is
when it seems nobody’s listening), and the fishing industry is all but ended,
so you can go into rock and roll but forget the sex, and drugs were always
illegal. All the fun had gone south of here to the City not in but by the Sea,
yet in the West, as Poe said. Women there bedded you for next to nothing.
Someone still reads that poem when they can’t sleep and nothing’s on TV.
Or they pace all night, the boat going this way and that and how you stay
upright is up to you, you have to think about the words old age can’t see
without glasses you can’t afford on the social security they'll take away,
their leaders say and will if they can this time it'll all go sailing off to Wall
in lower Manhattan where Arabs took down the two symbols of security
one fall day that started all this going to hell by putting a hole in the sky.
You know damn well there are still speakers in doors women, even men
now the world’s changed for us all, are on the other side of the same door.
You can hear, can’t you? Barely, the voice replies. The birds are gulls still
and the totem poles sport birds who were their ancestors before Seattle
became big enough to have garbage dumps. You know in Mexico people
outside the only city that is the world’s largest now live among debris where they have rooms in the very place federales find murdered women
who sell themselves once they get here, it’s the only so-called job around.
All this started out as a dithyramb in waking up to what would have been
Tuesday, but days seem all the same now that the whorehouses shut down
in your youth. You don’t so much miss the action as you miss the first thrill
down there, birds coming in when the boats return and the sky’s so blue
you hear the music in your head turn back in time to saints marching in
a closer walk to thee, O yes the church is there, but priests die more than
ever, after all their vows deter them from loving life as much as other men
save you who keep pacing, thinking, turning memory into the big words.