RAGWEED PANTOUM

I sat on the bookcase and gave tea to the women who interrupted the poem.
I had to ask a curly-haired girl to brace the piano stool, so I could jump down.
She turned into my son as he was twenty-eight years ago;
when he went to open my parents’ bedroom door, I followed.

I had to ask a curly-haired girl to brace the piano stool, so I could jump down.
Jacques Cousteau was standing there next to me, his elbows resting  on the rail.
When he went to open my parents’ bedroom door, I followed;
there was a strange woman in their bed, pale, dressed in Victorian blue

Jacques Cousteau was standing there next to me, his elbows resting  on the rail.
He said he’d throw cold water on me when it was time for me to go.
There was a strange woman in the bed, pale, dressed in Victorian blue;
it took a hell of a time to wake her.  He told me I could sleep here, she whispered,

he said he’d throw cold water on me when it was time for me to go.
Cautiously I climbed down to the gravel entry of the inevitable gift shop.
It took a hell of a time.  He told me I could sleep here.
Then there were stairs–the creepy kind, with no railings or edges.

Cautiously I climbed down to the gravel entry of the inevitable gift shop.
I took a bottle and a brush from the dresser, began to paint my son’s little face.
Then there were stairs–the creepy kind, with no railings or edges.
I leaned on the fence, looked up at the grassy ski lift where the stairs had been;

I took a bottle and a brush from the dresser, began to paint my son’s little face,
my son as he was twenty-eight years ago.
I leaned on the fence, looked up at the grassy ski lift where the stairs had been,
then sat on the bookcase and gave tea to the women who interrupted this poem.

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SOLUTION

There is no solution.  The great minds struggling
have never found one satisfactory.  Meanwhile,
the air is filled with war.  The sweet dove
has gone to ground again.  Revolution,
disease, burning desert, melting ice.

In the music store, asking for Rutter’s Requiem,
I watched the clerk writing, his left hand cocked
around the pen, his bitten cuticles,
his brown sweater, homemade,
one stitch pulled out at the right shoulder.

I made a sweater once, for my son,
handspun, undyed.  Some woman in the town
he lives in now, perhaps while they wait
in line at a grocery store, might notice
slubs, uneven ribbing at the neck,

and wonder if his mother made it.
She did, you know.  Some mother made
all of it:  sweaters, sheep, the Rutter cello solo,
soloist, pen and cuticles, dove,
desert, air, all those minds.

Make something yourself.
Wind a ball  from a skein, cast on.
Follow the pattern.
Do the best you can.
See how it all comes out.

This was written in 2003, shortly after the war started.

DREAM OF A POETRY READING

for the Spring Street Poets

We did not bring poems on papers.
We brought instead little crystal  bowls,
arranged them in patterns around our feet.
Leaning down, we poured
olive oil into the bowls,
added fragrances drop by drop.
After Karla had poured her oil,
we said Stop.
The smell of green
is enough.

I wrote this in 1998.  It was a real dream I had after my first reading with The Spring St. Poets.

AUTUMN

It was a green unmellow morning
with the dew drying honey on the grass
and the sky eyeblue through air like ice
and the leaves clawclinging to the trees
when I saw Autumn
with the morning wind in his dew honey hair
and the light of the iceblue sky in his eyes,
and laughing, he knelt
and dug his fingers into the earth.

I wrote this in 1971, clearly under the influence of Dylan Thomas and G.M. Hopkins.

HAS EVERYTHING CHANGED?

I still sleep, soundly some nights,
or lie wakeful watching the moon
spread patterns on the bedroom floor.

The coffee I make when I rise
is still black and deep;
I sit early at my desk
and hear the owls call
from tall pines across the way.

And people I love–
here, or there,
letters on the table,
voices on the phone.

Haven’t you always been,
underneath, afraid?
Nothing, life or dying,
is ever forever secure.

We hear the planes
making their scheduled rounds.
Our brothers are imprisoned,
sisters veiled.

Every morning I walk the dog,
and every morning her paws
make their lobed and pointed prints
in mud, or snow.

This was a September 11 poem I wrote in 2002, questioning whether “everything”  Has it?

ODE TO EARLY AUTUMN

Untidy trees faded from green,
fall webworm like cobs in the corners
festoon the baring branches;
the floor is a tangle of seedpod,
brown stalk, berry, fluff.
Starlings, swallows string along wires
above shaggy lawns, gardens gone to seed.
Pumpkins ripen on softening vines,
apples bend the branches low.
Orion, day hunter of summer, teeters
crooked over the horizon in the late dark,
moving in for the long winter ramble,
and brown leaves like skittering squirrels
litter the long road home.

1999