Something Like Courage
Find a storm, find resolve, draw
On its raw quality; express free
From absolute objects, reserve
Right of the object, objectively sub-
Jective (not part of the poem’s ob-
Jective, more acutely [full of rights], full
Of lights. Oh yes, an old man on a merry-go-round!),
Agile flight—vibrant, ringed in gold
And umber, sunsoaked like an effervescent
Chemical reaction or some form of transport.
A variable species.
Insects winging toward day, not taut
Or pretentious, excessively sensitive—
And, Dear Lad, stinging. (I mean no offense.)
A forever burrowing into subterranean airports.
Mostly offensive less offending.
As if we had been stray bullets, or indeed,
Pieces of buckshot as if the side-
Walk cafes and their steaming frappuccinos,
As if all the Frenchmen in the world might
Play the fiddle.
Easy to say: et ceterea et ceterea.
Let us find a consonant without easy listening,
With a full wingspan, and to our surprise
This extremely small, slightly resistant
Sparrow—more than a tramp—a kind Chaplinesque bird,
But particularly the sparrow, that bundle
Of good intention, holds its head well.
An opening gambit.
I have written several masterpieces
With several tragic actors. Let’s call it
“Estimated,” let’s call it “unfledged.”
Concerning the matter of the rereading, well
It all has to do with balance and flight,
Not the progress of science: what we want
To describe—a process of nothing—the quality
Of each thing and a recompense on canvas.
I think I’ve discovered my wings.
The ferryboat smells of something approximating
Sulfur and crude oil. We stand on the jetty.
There’s a gentle knocking as if the earth
Were trying to hold still. Frayed plastic bags
Float in the dockyards. I can read a few:
Bonus, Max Best, Indran’s Dollar Emporium,
Cash Corner, Sanigore’s Choicest Cheapest.
The stones have faces here—each of them
Minor gods cemented in, observing the mess
Of foam, spill, vegetable stalks and plastic.
The skipper draws back his mouth in an uneven
Smile, a crate of small fish in his lumbering
Hands. A red snapper stares straight through us.
On a day like this, everything keeps moving,
Everything piled under a watchful eye.
At dusk, the garbagemen pick up the remains,
Living or dead, wrapped in newsprint or cell-
Ophane, in a sheen of grease or a quiet dust
Strangely, there’s no defiant struggle, not
Even an sound. You’d expect the swell
Of angry voices, you expect the ground
To break beneath your soles, but the weight rolls
Effortlessly into larger plastic containers
Where they become the food of the future.
There’s no precedence to buy and buy things
To throw into the mouth of empty space.
Someone’s always dreaming of fast profits—
From the mineshafts of the Transvaal
To the sandstone quarries of the Szechuan—
Each of them digging deeper into forgetfulness.
Later, up in the mountains, the blue sea
Catches up with the night sky.
A Modern Prometheus
“There is something at work in my soul, Which I do not understand.”—Mary Shelly
There was a therapeutic plan, yet at the École
You were more affected than ceremonial.
You were lavished, comfort-seeking, only
Here-and-now, and those murmurs along
The boardwalk When you sought your arti-
Ficial sleep, diving into coral reefs,
Wreathed in garlands of seaweed. Those
Were the murmurs of old beards, homage
To the ancient world tainted by carhorns.
Yes, you shouldered the planet. Miraculous
Really! So how does one create you?
You sat there in the Piazza, by the fountain
Feeding pigeons yesterday’s bread, boys
Were leapfrogging, girls hopskotching, and
You in your head with King Lear and Cordelia.
You stared skyward thinking tragedy and
Everything dissolved into smoke and ash. Trifles
Really (but not like your Grandma made
With lots and lots of sherry and cheeries). I know
You’re thinking of providing the stimulus
Package they need. If only the canal
Were less parallel we might not talk
About fantasies, instead we obey all orders,
Our noses pressed to the plateglass.
The years, if we had any, are working against us.
Or perhaps you can die twice?