The road out front is all torn up and has remained that way for a long time. One day they tractor-pulled the trunk of a fallen tree, its roots undone by the doings. Saw crews came in and buzzed for days like a disturbed hive. I could not save the flowers. Pyramids of pipe plastic appeared overnight. Rats, unsettled, bounced across the lawns, appalling the cats. All's ditches, trenches, ruts and pits. A week before the phones went dead, the sand trucks jilted their loads, shovels clanged, someone shouted Ho! ho! ho! like an unjollied Santa. Yellow cones mark off the area like quarantine. Red lights flash night and day. Goodness! The whole country detours around us. Each morning a colony of hardhats I observe from my upstairs window, handkerchief held to my nose, my ears stoppered with cotton and wax. Today, they were burning debris and circled the fire prodding like scouts. I regret I cannot make the ceremony, but clearly this is a major public project with extensive resources at its disposal and certain to benefit enormous numbers. It must be. I pray the food will last and look forward to vast and permanent improvement.
Of course it was a disaster.
The unbearable, dearest secret
has always been a disaster.
The danger when we try to leave.
Going over and over afterward
what we should have done
instead of what we did.
But for those short times
we seemed to be alive. Misled,
misused, lied to and cheated,
certainly. Still, for that
little while, we visited
our possible life.
How lovely it is not to go. To suddenly take ill.
Not seriously ill, just a little under the weather.
To feel slightly peaked, indisposed. Plagued by
a vague ache, or a slight inexplicable chill.
Perhaps such pleasures are denied
to those who never feel obliged. If there are such.
How pleasant to convey your regrets. To feel sincerely
sorry, but secretly pleased to send them on their way
without you. To entrust your good wishes to others.
To spare the equivocal its inevitable rise.
How nice not to hope that something will happen,
but to lie on the couch with a book, hoping that
nothing will. To hear the wood creak and to think.
It is lovely to stay without wanting to leave.
How delicious not to care how you look,
clean and uncombed in the sheets. To sip
brisk mineral water, to take small bites
off crisp Saltines. To leave some on the plate.
To fear no repercussions. Nor dodge
the unkind person you bug.
Even the caretaker has gone to the party.
If you want something you will have to
get it yourself. The blue of the room seduces.
The cars of the occupied sound the wet road.
You indulge in a moment of sadness, make
a frown at the notion you won’t be missed.
This is what it is. You have opted to be
forgotten so that your thoughts might live.
Once you saw a drove of young pigs
crossing the highway. One of them
pulling his body by the front feet,
the hind legs dragging flat.
you called the Humane Society.
They came with a net and went for him.
They were matter of fact, uniformed;
there were two of them,
their truck ominous, with a cage.
He was hiding in the weeds. It was then
you saw his eyes. He understood.
He was trembling.
After they took him, you began to suffer regret.
Years later, you remember his misfit body
scrambling to reach the others.
Even at this moment, your heart
is going too fast; your hands sweat.
1. Caught on a side street in heavy traffic, I said to the cabbie, I should have walked. He replied, I should have been a doctor. 2. When can I get on the 11:33 I ask the guy in the information booth at the Atlantic Avenue Station. When they open the doors, he says. I am home among my people.
Four Poems for Robin, by Gary Snyder
Siwashing It Out Once in Suislaw Forest
by Gary Snyder
I slept under rhododendron
All night blossoms fell
Shivering on a sheet of cardboard
Feet stuck in my pack
Hands deep in my pockets
Barely able to sleep.
I remembered when we were in school
Sleeping together in a big warm bed
We were the youngest lovers
When we broke up we were still nineteen
Now our friends are married
You teach school back east
I dont mind living this way
Green hills the long blue beach
But sometimes sleeping in the open
I think back when I had you.
A Spring Night in Shokoku-ji
by Gary Snyder
Eight years ago this May
We walked under cherry blossoms
At night in an orchard in Oregon.
All that I wanted then
Is forgotten now, but you.
Here in the night
In a garden of the old capital
I feel the trembling ghost of Yugao
I remember your cool body
Naked under a summer cotton dress.
An Autumn Morning in Shokoku-ji
by Gary Snyder
Last night watching the Pleiades,
Breath smoking in the moonlight,
Bitter memory like vomit
Choked my throat.
I unrolled a sleeping bag
On mats on the porch
Under thick autumn stars.
In dream you appeared
(Three times in nine years)
Wild, cold, and accusing.
I woke shamed and angry:
The pointless wars of the heart.
Almost dawn. Venus and Jupiter.
The first time I have
Ever seen them close.
December at Yase
by Gary Snyder
You said, that October,
In the tall dry grass by the orchard
When you chose to be free,
“Again someday, maybe ten years.”
After college I saw you
One time. You were strange.
And I was obsessed with a plan.
Now ten years and more have
Gone by: I’ve always known
where you were—
I might have gone to you
Hoping to win your love back.
You still are single.
I thought I must make it alone. I
Have done that.
Only in dream, like this dawn,
Does the grave, awed intensity
Of our young love
Return to my mind, to my flesh.
We had what the others
All crave and seek for;
We left it behind at nineteen.
I feel ancient, as though I had
Lived many lives.
And may never now know
If I am a fool
Or have done what my