Evening: the nervous suburbs levitate.
Height does us no harm, now we are high above the mineral pools,
above the flash hotel whose only use is treachery.
Someone knocks on a door and you crouch behind the bed.
Down in the bar, the small girls toast their parents,
the brother breaks a large bone for its marrow.
I’m thinking of a challenge for us all. The star in the sky
has traveled all the way from home. Now follow that!
we drank in the remains
of ruined buildings
and we sat in a cave or
wrecked houses on farms given back to the bank
listening to men who’d been raised
in ways that were lost
and we strained to make out
the use of their news
they were crazy or passed out
speed notched with a cross
they drank from the flask and the mouth
they came in and shook off the rain
inflamed and dismayed
calm and arcane
the least one seethed chanting whitman for hours
then wept at the dregs of the fire
foam formed at the edge of their lips
we drank and waited for something to drop
you and I looking and sifting
for signs written in wax
we were young we knew how to die
but not how to last
a small man who claimed he was blake raged
all night and probably he was
he had god in his sights
white crosses shone in our eyes or acid mandalic
in the ruins the men talked:
seraphic and broken
glowing with gnosis and rubbish
we sorted their mad sacred words
these dog-headed guides to the life after
and the life after that
In Africa the wine is cheap, and it is
on St. Mark's Place too, beneath a white moon.
I'll go there tomorrow, dark bulk hooded
against what is hurled down at me in my no hat
which is weather: the tall pretty girl in the print dress
under the fur collar of her cloth coat will be standing
by the wire fence where the wild flowers grow not too tall
her eyes will be deep brown and her hair styled 1941 American
will be too; but
I'll be shattered by then
But now I'm not and can also picture white clouds
impossibly high in blue sky over small boy heartbroken
to be dressed in black knickers, black coat, white shirt,
buster-brown collar, flowing black bow-tie
her hand lightly fallen on his shoulder, faded sunlight falling
across the picture, mother & son, 33 & 7, First Communion Day, 1941—
I'll go out for a drink with one of my demons tonight
they are dry in Colorado 1980 spring snow.
I cannot wait for fall parties.
The invitations have begun to roll in.
I used to think I loved summer parties
until they got this year so sweaty and sad,
the whole world away at the shore,
sunk in sweet and salt.
you were supposed to save us
from spring but everyone just slumped
into you, sad sacks
pulling the shade down on an afternoon
of a few too many rounds.
Well, I won’t have another.
I’ll have fall. The fall of parties
for no reason, of shivering rooftops,
scuffed boots, scarves with cigarette holes.
I’ll warm your house.
I’ll snort your mulling spices.
I’ll stay too late, I’ll go on a beer run,
I’ll do anything
to stay in your dimly lit rooms
scrubbed clean of all their pity.
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
Yardley, Pennsylvania, an expensive dump
and the van seats shake their broken bones.
Duty-free liquor and cigarettes,
the refineries and the harbor’s cranes.
The moon digs its way out of the dirt.
The branches of an evergreen sway.
the woman you don’t love.
She kisses you hard and often
holding your face in her big hands.