Still Life with Frigidaire, East Rockaway, N.Y.
Inspired by the static spaces
between channels, she learns
the message of white noise:
Magnetic fields are where old cars
gather among long grasses to rust,
as magnetic waves are what draws
land bound creatures to the sea.
That you will see the secrets of other
worlds comes from the currents
that are carried in wires and similar
transmitters revealed by test patterns
affixed to certain channels.
Seeing the soft electric glow
of snow that follows transmissions,
she is drawn to dark arctic wastes
contained by Frigidaire.
Staring inside, she feels the sudden
chill of absolute zero, numbing her
frost bitten eyes, closing inside
an endless night, this all enveloping
You never stand still
Everything is black
You have mistaken
for a stone
and put an arrow
Though its heart
The chromatic sunrise
has been left alone
and the peach-headed
Gannets are diving
and no one
Monotonies of Winters
The eight o'clock door thuds are tight and measured. Wrapped in a tea towel I open the door. It is not the mailman.
"Excuse me, let me get undressed." I glide into the bedroom, pull the sheet off my bed, and drape it over my shoulders. "How can I help you?"
"I am very sorry, Miss," the man taps his fresh-shaven chin. Pieces of toilet paper are pasted to three bleeding cuts -- three maroon pistols, white petals fluffed up by his fast breathing. "I hear you are expecting the mailman."
"I will leave then."
I lock the door behind him and stare at the top of his head through the peep hole. He has rusty wild hair with snowflakes in it.
Susanna and Phyllis come over for tea. They perch on the sofa and chirp, and loop the air with their pinkies.
"We heard you were expecting the mailman today."
"Yes. At around eight o'clock."
"What's in your tea?" They wipe their foreheads with tea towels.
"I added wild berries, some red and some blue."
The gray hardened snow banks have grown since last week. They press into me as I squeeze between them. Someone has painted ice patches with beet juice. The door to the post office is locked.
Even the Earth keeps its clouds
on the move though you have forgotten
all gestures begin with a train
setting out --you expect change
and the constant far-off glow
still trying to connect the nights
with nights once caves and distant herds
--you know how it goes, the grass
was always greener so you sit
let a million years slowly recede
till the ice carries you back
where tracks had already taken root
in silt beginning first as a creek
then trickling toward another
--you can hear the hooves
and along the gravel bed --be sure to wave
touch nothing! let your still cold breath
lie down beside you on its way for water.
And step by step this cane
scratching the way the dead
plant their scepter in the darkness
--they never forget which end
takes hold so you limp along a path
or perhaps your shadow overflowing again
--they rule the ground, commanding it
to rise slowly, let you lag behind
while their castles drag you on
--even here there are nights
warmed by walls and longing
and one knee is always colder
--you make yourself lame
are helped into the turn
years ago pulled down to make room
for the rain that no longer falls for you
only these stones that have the speed
are always in front, taking you back.
Letter to Grangitano a Few Years Later
Dear Michael: I'm writing to apologize for having
a large blown-up photograph of your face printed
on the pinata they filled with candy and money
on my 65th birthday. I did my best to smash it.
I figured I had earned the booty. Nothing I did
broke the damn thing open. Not even David
Shurter, a much younger man than I, could crack
open your skull so the candy and money would
spill to the floor. Retired General Jim Murphy
(his wife Rita was once a greeter at our church)
was unable to smash the papier-mache globe of
booty that hung from the living room ceiling,
and he's had the best military training available.
In the end, it was a nun, the head of the local
Gandhi Peace Foundation, who cracked the pinata
open. When I asked her how an old lady like
her ended up with more muscle than the rest of
us, she said, "Honey, you can't hit knuckles with
a ruler for twenty-five years in the classroom
without developing some pretty worthy biceps."
She finally turned to a life of peace. I sat in
rapture the night she took me to listen to Gandhi's
grandson talk about his life as a child with the
great man. It was his talk that helped me under-
stand it was time for me to forgive the money
changers and return to the temple. I went back
ready and willing to forgive any of the trouble
makers still on the property. To my amazement,
I didn't have to forgive anyone that day. They
were all gone. I went to a burning-bowl ceremony
anyway. Instead of writing each of their names
on a piece of paper, I just wrote, "Lord, forgive all
those assholes, and help me do the same someday."
it be possible to write over the
sketch, the ink covering
first his drawing, then my
scribbles, Twombly-esque or
far from it, real words with
spelled meanings, caffeine-
emotion served over a puree
of cocoa and egg yolk, vertical
lines carving ahead of time,
curlicues added after
the burst stamen, the golden
pistol, the implement goddam-
mit, of the spirit?
(Sounds of garbage trucks,)
Sounds of garbage trucks,
pneumatic hoses screeching
and blowing off steam
Smells of Plaza horses,
Those rifling through black plastic bags
huddles on street curbs
for cans, uneaten bread heels,
potato, orange, banana peels,
the unused butt-ends of moldy lettuce heads