ON MY HONOR

ON MY HONOR

I will try.

 

Stand on the moon

and show me a country.

 

Falling rain is real.

Down by the rivers

 

it is killing people.

Fire is real.

 

Show me a country.

Death is real.

 

All over the landscapes 

no borders

 

and the loneliness is real.

Duty has an unpleasant sound,

 

not something I would choose.

And God? 

 

Stand on the moon.

Words again: a Story

tunnel

make 

gasp

pound

wave

turkey

blow

haze

 

A STORY

Our grandchildren found a baby bird 

in the driveway. 

What is it?

Where is its Mommy? 

 

In this hazy time 

when every little sorrow strikes a blow,

when the news pummels and pounds,

what is Daddy to do with this scrap of life

gasping in his hand?

 

The mouth of the dark tunnel

has narrowed again.

So many mommies, daddies,

so many lost, so much is lost,

and what sense can we make?

I used to tell myself I was a poet.

 

It’s a little turkey. 

Let’s put it in the long grass by the brook

where sometimes we see them pass. 

We’ll put some corn around for them to find.

Now wave bye-bye.

One way or another, this will resolve.

 

We saw them the next day

he told me. A parade.

Two hens with six poults

and a tom and a hen with one poult

scurrying between them.

The kids agreed that it all worked out fine.

 

We can tell ourselves stories, can’t we?

They all lived happily. . . 

Can’t we tell ourselves stories like that? 

Words again: Oh, art!

arch

sinew

fiddle

shadow

tremble

dance

one

art

peach

vain

indoors

hurry

Oh, art! 

Art is one—Oh yes. 

We do not dream in vain.

 

Do not hurry. There is no need.

Tune your fiddle to the canvas, 

 

chisel a marble dance.

Dress your singers in peaches,

 

and tremble in the shadow of a word.

The arch is wide; the road is wide.

 

Out doors is all, there is no in.

We who make art bind bone to bone 

 

by sinew after sinew.

We do not dream in vain.

Words again: Identity

—rye

—eclipse

—identity

—fumble

—gravel 

—sunlight

—cake

—please

—eddies

—release

IDENTITY

A child crouches

in a sunlit field.

A fighter pilot’s wife can’t sleep. 

A new mother cannot walk.

 

I am a whirlpool—

an eddy of identity

where a complexity

of currents meet. 

 

I am a layer-cake of scars:

Wry neck and fumbly fingers.

Knees marked with gravel.

Nose repelled by the scent of booze.

 

Nevertheless. 

As the pummeled moon

still glows in our shadow,

I am eclipsed but whole.

 

I am pleasing to topsoil and stones,

to bears and birds and trees.

I have been released 

by every disappointed god.

NEW i.d.

NEW  i.d.

First day on the job alone,

he had to keep calling the sergeant. 

Good-humored, she was,

joking about new machinery 

that made the work harder. 

Typical military we all agreed. 

 

I voted for Bernie.

I’m all about peace, 

and eliminating fossil fuels

and reducing my carbon footprint.

I drive a Prius, for Christ’s sake.

The new fighters they’ve got—

 

we couldn’t believe 

they’d be louder than the F-4s

but they are. We can hear them

all the way from the Adirondacks.

And they’re expensive, useless.

Can’t dogfight, so what’s the point?

 

Three took off. We waited

for the fourth, like clockwork.

Shit, they are noisy suckers. 

But fuck it. I’m a

fighter pilot’s wife.

My man used to fly machines

 

like those. I’ve stood on the flightline,

watched him take off,

seen him loop and hammerhead,

do the Memorial Day flyby.

I gave birth on the eve

of drill weekend, kept house

 

that winter he trained in Witchita

when he was DCM, that ice-storm winter 

our son was in second grade

and we had a funky woodstove.

I watched my pregnant friend

watching the Missing Man

 

formation over her husband’s

grave. What can I say?

What can I say?

I make no apologies

for my life. Love is a funny thing.

So now this new improved i.d.

 

is good another three years. 

We stopped on the way out the gate

to look at the old F-4 

on static display.

Not Miss Piggy, my husband said.

It’s got Rich’s name on the door. 

Some dialogue from a play-in-progress

Some Dialogue from a play-in-progress

BARRIE

Well, I have no idea how my way of being will help because you and I are as different as a pea in a pod and a rhinoceros, but okay. Here goes— I don’t work. I’ve never worked, and I never will work. The day I start to work will be the day they put me in a home. There is absolutely no separation between, among, within, whatever the word is, the art I make and everything else I do. Getting up in the morning is art. Taking a shit is art. Reading while I eat breakfast. Arguing with Jim about whose turn it is to buy groceries. Making dinner with the kids. Walking the dog. Teaching. All of it. It’s all art. It’s all making something out of something, or out of nothing, but usually it’s something. Remaking, unmaking, starting over, turning around. Everything is raw material and everything is already finished before I begin.

MARGARET

Well, okay. I guess that works for sculpture and conceptual stuff, but not for poetry.

BARRIE

Why not? 

MARGARET

It’s words. They have to be right. 

BARRIE

Oh, well. I get that. Finished stuff, sure, like if you want it in a magazine or something. That’s gotta take a little tweaking. But the first burst of a poem, and the second and maybe the third? The energy of it? The way it flits around and settles? Is that work?

Perspective

PERSPECTIVE

Oak and Ash and Birch breathe their gold.

It sifts through their twigs and branches 

over our cars and lawn furniture.

Oaks and ashes and birches think

life is worth continuing. They want

to make acorns and winged seeds

and tiny cones. They want to make

food for turkeys and squirrels and jays.

If they told you the Council of Trees

had decided to fill this year with abundance,

if they told you they had decided

this was a good year to cover the wounded

Earth with their love, to spread their gold;

if they told you that you, too, could participate,

wouldn’t you say Yes? And here you are!

Every sneeze, every dribble, every gasp,

they tell you, is a price you can pay.