Friends & Enemies

Third Avenue in Sunlight

Third Avenue in sunlight. Nature’ s error.
Already the bars are filled and John is there.
Beneath a plentiful lady over the mirror
He tilts his glass in the mild mahogany air.

I think of him when he first got out of college,
Serious, thin, unlikely to succeed;
For several months he hung around the Village,
Boldly T-shirted, unfettered but unfreed.

A Poem for S.

Because you used to leaf through the dictionary,
Casually, as someone might in a barber shop, and
Devotedly, as someone might in a sanctuary,
Each letter would still have your attention if not
For the responsibilities life has tightly fit, like
Gears around the cog of you, like so many petals
Hinged on a daisy. That’ s why I’ ll just use your
Initial. Do you know that in one treasured story, a
Jewish ancestor, horseback in the woods at Yom
Kippur, and stranded without a prayer book,

The Last Word

As if your half-witted tongue
Spoke with an eloquence
Death bestows, I heard your voice
Muffled through the dark
Layers of cemetery loam:

“They found me black-suited
In the shuttered half-dark, my eyes
Dug like claws into the clouds’
Soft feather-turnings. What kept me
Separate the broiling sun

Of intellect now shone on fiercely:
In the sheep-pens stinking
Of dung and lanolin,
I buried my face in the ewe’ s
Swollen side and listened

G-9

I'm at a double wake
in Springfield, for a childhood
friend and his father
who died years ago. I join
my aunt in the queue of mourners
and walk into a brown study,
a sepia room with books
and magazines. The father's
in a coffin; he looks exhumed,
the worse for wear. But where
my friend's remains should be
there's just the empty base
of an urn. Where are his ashes?
His mother hands me
a paper cup with pills:
leucovorin, Zovirax,
and AZT. "Henry
wanted you to have these,"

Dear Bryan WynterDear Bryan Wynter

1

This is only a note
To say how sorry I am
You died. You will realize
What a position it puts
Me in. I couldn’ t really
Have died for you if so
I were inclined. The carn
Foxglove here on the wall
Outside your first house
Leans with me standing
In the Zennor wind.

What to Say Upon Being Asked to Be Friends

Why speak of hate, when I do bleed for love?
Not hate, my love, but Love doth bite my tongue
Till I taste stuff that makes my rhyming rough
So flatter I my fever for the one
For whom I inly mourn, though seem to shun.
A rose is arrows is eros, so what
If I confuse the shade that I’ ve become
With winedark substance in a lover’ s cup?
But stop my tonguely wound, I’ ve bled enough.
If I be fair, or false, or freaked with fear
If I my tongue in lockèd box immure
Blame not me, for I am sick with love.

The Red Coal

Sometimes I sit in my blue chair trying to remember
what it was like in the spring of 1950
before the burning coal entered my life.

I study my red hand under the faucet, the left one
below the grease line consisting of four feminine angels
and one crooked broken masculine one

and the right one lying on top of the white porcelain
with skin wrinkled up like a chicken's
beside the razor and the silver tap.

How It Is

Shall I say how it is in your clothes?
A month after your death I wear your blue jacket.
The dog at the center of my life recognizes
you’ ve come to visit, he’ s ecstatic.
In the left pocket, a hole.
In the right, a parking ticket
delivered up last August on Bay State Road.
In my heart, a scatter like milkweed,
a flinging from the pods of the soul.
My skin presses your old outline.
It is hot and dry inside.

Sonnets Uncorseted

1

She was twenty-two. He was fifty-three,
a duke, a widower with ten children.

They met in Paris, each in exile from
the English Civil War. Virginal

and terrified, still she agreed
to marry him. Though women were mere chattel

spinsterhood made you invisible
in the sixteen hundreds. Marriage was arranged

— hers a rare exception. Despite a dowry
a woman never could own property.

Your womb was just for rent. Birth control
contrivances — a paste of ants, cow dung

Progressive Health

We here at Progressive Health would like to thank you
For being one of the generous few who've promised
To bequeath your vital organs to whoever needs them.

Now we'd like to give you the opportunity
To step out far in front of the other donors
By acting a little sooner than you expected,

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