Your dying was a difficult enterprise.
First, petty things took up your energies,
The small but clustering duties of the sick,
Irritant as the cough’ s dry rhetoric.
Those hours of waiting for pills, shot, X-ray
Or test (while you read novels two a day)
Already with a kind of clumsy stealth
Distanced you from the habits of your health.
In hope still, courteous still, but tired and thin,


Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell tonight?
Whom else from rapture’ s road will you expel tonight?

Those “Fabrics of Cashmere — ” “to make Me beautiful — ”
“Trinket” — to gem — “Me to adorn — How tell” — tonight?

I beg for haven: Prisons, let open your gates —
A refugee from Belief seeks a cell tonight.

God’ s vintage loneliness has turned to vinegar —
All the archangels — their wings frozen — fell tonight.

Lord, cried out the idols, Don’ t let us be broken;
Only we can convert the infidel tonight.

My Grandmother Plays Emily in Our Town


I am asking something gone
return: at least one night, her face

a girl’ s, just twenty, and
to be married in a month,

holding the dress’ s hem to her lips
as places are called. And I,

come along too late to know her
trembling, parting the curtain —

let me hear her now
perched on the ladder, recite

“But Mama,...
am I pretty enough...?”


When Emily marries, ladies in hats
drown out the proper vows

— it’ s what the play requires;
the everyday over the sacred. Even the set

The House Was Quiet and The World Was Calm

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

Sunt Leones

The lions who ate the Christians on the sands of the arena
By indulging native appetites played what has now been seen a
Not entirely negligible part
In consolidating at the very start
The position of the Early Christian Church.
Initiatory rites are always bloody
And the lions, it appears
From contemporary art, made a study
Of dyeing Coliseum sands a ruddy
Liturgically sacrificial hue
And if the Christians felt a little blue —
Well people being eaten often do.

Poem on a National Holiday

How is it satisfied
I asked clapping my hands violently

and waving
in fear that I would miss the parade

I might have lost my sight
without noticing

Gone on imagining
I saw the same linked-up rooms I moved through

Or some cool gray space
where a silence could be made

I wanted a little animal
to climb inside it cleanly

I was asking to be left alone
but in answer the sun shone brighter

Convenience Store Aquinas

7-Eleven’ s a misnomer, like “mind-
body” problem. They never close. The hyphen’ s

a dash of form. Sure, this mind-body’ s
a machine, if you want, plowing across town

to the steak house. American Spirit. Give us
the yellow pack. No matches? This dollar

fifty-nine Santa lighter, too. Big Grab bag
of Doritos. No, the “engine” is not

separate — it’ s part of the machine. Sure, paper’ s
good, container for recycling. Rain’ s no problem.

I eat the Doritos, smoke up — one for you?
The chips are part of my machine —