I don’t think they’ll find the new weaving
anywhere finer than truth.
I’ve tried to sift a truth finer than salt
from my mouth. It matters: I get up
or I do not. The books can wait, leaves
burn themselves these days, and the day
begins or it does not. Now wingless,
a wasp masquerading as the sun crawls—
a harmless razor—across the backlit
curtain. No city trembles on the verge
of the sea. No stupid bird threatens
to dissolve me if I forget my species
in the official questionnaire. I could
put my ten bureaucrats to their task.
The dusting and polishing. There’s a point,
a mirror for me to enumerate my teeth.
Beyond these walls, there’s only the snowed-in
field, an egg just opened but empty.
The black Mercedes
with the Ayn Rand
the glass bus stop
and came to rest
among a bakery’s
In the stunned silence,
fat pigeons descended
to the wreckage
and pecked at
bread and cake.
The driver slept,
head to the wheel.
The pigeons grew
rich with crumbs.
The broken glass winked.
Between the train’s long slide and the sun
ricocheting off the sea, anyone
would have fallen silent in those words,
the language of age in her face, the birds
cawing over the broken earth, gathering near its stones
and chapel doors. In the marina, the sea and its bones
have grown smaller. Though the tide is out,
it is not the tide nor the feathers nor the cat
that jumps into the street, the dust
lifting with each wing and disappearing. The rust-
colored sheets that wrap the sails of ships,
I don’t know their name nor the way to say lips
of water in Italian and mean this: an old woman
stood by the tracks until his hand stopped waving.
Some believe there’s somewhere in the brain
that senses minor fluctuations in the Earth’s
magnetic field and uses a sort of memory
of that to travel the same route year after year
over thousands of miles, over open ocean
on moonless, clouded nights, and a built-in clock
that, save for weather’s influence, tells
when it’s time to go. But they utter nothing
of thwarted dreams in birds’ brains, how
a few cubic feet near the ground, however
well-kept and lighted, however large it seems
around a small bright bird, is like a fist
closed tight on feather and bone, how, certain times
of year, the bird’s heart races as if to power flight.
In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.
I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.
And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?
Let’s not forget the General
Shuffling out in his gray slippers
To feed the pigeons in Logan Square.
He wore a battered White Sox cap
And a heavy woolen scarf tossed
Over his shoulder, even in summer.
I remember how he muttered to himself
And coughed into his newspaper
And complained about his gout
To the other Latvian exiles,
The physicist who lived on Gogol Street
In Riga, my grandfather’s hometown,
The auxiliary policeman from Daugavpils,
And the chemical engineer,
Who always gave me hard candy,
Though grandfather spit
And grandmother hurried me away
When she saw them coming.
Because I am not married, I have the skin of an orange
that has spent its life in the dark. Inside the orange
I am blind. I cannot tell when a hand reaches in
and breaks the atoms of the blood. Sometimes
a blackbird will bring the wind into my hair.
Or the yellow clouds falling on the cold floor are animals
beginning to fight each other out of their drifting misery.
All the women I have known have been ruined by fog
and the deer crossing the field at night.