“Your gang’s done gone away.”
—The 119th Calypso, Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Something seems to have gnawed that walnut leaf.
You face your wrinkles, daily, in the mirror.
But the wrinkles are so slimming, they rather flatter.
Revel in the squat luck of that unhappy tree,
who can’t take a mate from among the oaks or gums.
Ah, but if I could I would, the mirror version says,
because he speaks to you. He is your truer self
all dopey in the glass. He wouldn’t stand alone
for hours, without at least a feel for the gall of oaks,
the gum tree bud caps, the sweet gum’s prickly balls.
Oh, he’s a caution, that reflection man.
He’s made himself a study in the trees.
You is a strewn shattered leaf I’d step on, he says.
Do whatever it is you’d like to do. Be quick.
Wake up, even Monday the cup’s still full,
lettuce rosette-ing up between sandstone scraps
by back steps where ladybugs swarm in
to die or lay eggs, some say, death-march
or birth-march looking about the same.
The rust of barn-sides: different chemical effect
than rust of oak-copse, burning with late fervor
beyond reaped cornfields.
I whispered, “I am too young,”
And then, “I am old enough”;
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
“Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair,”
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.
Oh, love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away,
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.
More by W. B. Yeats:
The Young Man’s Song,
by W. B. Yeats
Sailing to Byzantium,
by W. B. Yeats
I went to the worst of bars
hoping to get
but all I could do was to
worse, the bar patrons even
there I was trying to get
pushed over the dark
and I ended up with
while somewhere else
son-of-a-bitch was in a hospital
tubes sticking out all over
as he fought like hell
nobody would help me
the drinks kept
as the next day
waited for me
with its steel clamps,
death doesn’t always
when you call
not even if you
from a shining
or from an ocean liner
or from the best bar
on earth (or the
only makes the gods
ask me: I’m
He winds through the party like wind, one of the just
who live alone in black and white, bewildered
by the eden of his body. (You, you talk like winter
rain.) He’s the meaning of almost-morning walking home
at five A.M., the difference a night makes
turning over into day, simple birds staking claims
on no sleep. Whatever they call those particular birds.
He’s the age of sensibility at seventeen, he isn’t worth
the time of afternoon it takes to write this down.
He’s the friend that lightning makes, raking
the naked tree, thunder that waits for weeks to arrive;
he’s the certainty of torrents in September, harvest time
and powerlines down for miles. He doesn’t even know
his name. In his body he’s one with air, white as a sky
rinsed with rain. It’s cold there, it’s hard to breathe,
and drowning is somewhere to be after a month of drought.
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions
back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you
with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is
my mother pushed my sister out of the apartment door with an empty
suitcase because she kept threatening to run away my sister was sick of me
getting the best of everything the bathrobe with the pink stripes instead of
the red the soft middle piece of bread while she got the crust I was sick with
asthma and she thought this made me a favorite
I wanted to be like the girl in the made-for-tv movie Maybe I’ll Come Home
in the Spring which was supposed to make you not want to run away but it
looked pretty fun especially all of the agony it put your parents through and
the girl was in California or someplace warm with a boyfriend and they
always found good food in the dumpsters at least they could eat pizza and
candy and not meat loaf the runaway actress was Sally Field or at least
someone who looked like Sally Field as a teenager the Flying Nun propelled
by the huge wings on the sides of her wimple Arnold the Pig getting drafted
in Green Acres my understanding then of Vietnam I read Go Ask Alice and
The Peter Pan Bag books that were designed to keep a young girl home but
there were the sex scenes and if anything this made me want to cut my hair
with scissors in front of the mirror while I was high on marijuana but I
couldn’t inhale because of my lungs my sister was the one to pass out
behind the church for both of us rum and angel dust
and that’s how it was my sister standing at the top of all those stairs that
lead up to the apartment and she pushed down the empty suitcase that
banged the banister and wall as it tumbled and I was crying on the other side
of the door because I was sure it was my sister who fell all ketchup blood and
stuck out bones my mother wouldn’t let me open the door to let my sister
back in I don’t know if she knew it was just the suitcase or not she was cold
rubbing her sleeves a mug of coffee in her hand and I had to decide she said I
had to decide right then