poems

24 June 2008

Pantoum

Incredible how we believe ourselves in old age,

Weaving through lambent divides.

Homegrown eyes aside, we don our tank tops

And sleep in sun and jagged brambles.

 

Weaving through lambent divides,

Our eyes close in ugliness, humming

Sleeping in sun, jagged brambles

Rise and fall under winded canyons.

 

Our eyes close in ugliness, hummed

By choirs of bee-stings that swell:

Rising and falling, winded canyons murmur

“Incredible how we believe ourselves in old age,

Symmetrical and sparkling, like Heaven.”

Sestina: The Rest

In some mathematical formulas, order is the brief

insistence of a young person who never lit

his cigarettes ’til after break was over.  It was enough

to ask which he preferred, land or sea, did he prefer water

or the corroded skin of the ground?  And to look nice

was enough in itself – for him to look nice, that is.  To have forests

 

for eyes and soft valleys of mouth is one thing – the forest!

That’s exactly it!  “Have you ever,” I said, “felt the brief

but unshakeable knowledge of trees?”  “Well, you’re crazy, but nice,”

he said then to me, and he a Marine… though it wasn’t too big, it wasn’t lit

up like a candied hotel-boat, afloat on the glittering water.

What he said then: “Let’s not lose perspective; the Sunbelt’s enough.”

 

Because that’s where we were, the famed Sunbelt, though not enough

time had passed – the unsaid grew thick, undisturbed, greener than a forest.

I asked for water then; they brought us water.

That evening he spoke of his sister, how she had the odd, brief

body of a dancer, and how her face had never lit

from within, hardly with any joy when he had been nice

 

enough to march home for a weekend.  “Sure, the guys are all nice

to you now, but it’s ‘cause of your face;” apparently no militant soul ever lit

on fire, or anything close, from his girl’s letter, not even when he’s told that the forest

of her backyard burns honorable for him with flags, crosses, candles in water.

Even with young face and brown body, it both hurts and is never enough

to finish it fast; and with his mean laugh, our drowning was made brief.

 

The laugh was mean but he wasn’t.  The drown was brief

but the way he worked me through it was gentle: it was nice

and it was easy.  They were his hands, and his brown body; I could have said, “Enough.”

Without knowing him, or who his parents were, when he lit

that first cigarette, we had already promised ourselves that knotted forests

were for his sad marching only.  He could go, he said, forever without water.

 

“I never want to, but I could,” he said, “drown you in your own water.”

He was a delight.  On weeknights, he could phone, though the calls would be brief.

Before long, I imagined, I’d wake to less backyard, more patriotic forest;

it never happened, but the thought – crosses, flags, the rest – the thought was nice.

We could have stood together, brown arms knotted, we could have lit

the entirety ablaze, watched hours turn to ash.  And would that have been enough?

 

It never happens that one smells water or a forest and is reminded of him, though wouldn’t that be nice.

So his girl never enshrined his brief and dead uniform; neither did I.  We never lit

out together, or even separately.  Things never happened the way that would, for some people, be enough.