American poetry

The Shameful Profession

For years I tried to conceal from the villagers that I wrote poetry
I didn’ t want them to know that I was an oddball
I didn’ t want the young men with beards wearing baseball caps who come to the liquor store in their pickups to buy sixpacks to know that I was some kind of sissy
I decided it was prudent to buy the Daily News instead of the Times at the drugstore
I burned my poem drafts at home before I took the trash to the dump, kids scavenge around there and the old man who does the recycling is nosy
I took every precaution

Argonaut's Vow

Pushed prow southerly into the golden wind:

hurt the eyes: gold pelted water: so looked less far away:

plovers huddling on the tide's last piece of shore:

Rise up in brightness: clap wings::

I told myself I'll go where eagles go: if to brimstone:

my wake a narrow river back

to its source in cedar: and when sunlight embers

the shore's soft fleece will be before me.


At dusk, the grandmother sits alone
in the light of the long pale pool and speaks
to the frog who is waiting
by the electric gate of the clubhouse.

It will be all right, she says, leaning out
from her chair. Her voice

is churning, and old, and wet
with advice. Her newly red hair
purples under the bug light. It will be
all right, she says, again, and again

the sky rolls in and out on its journey
across the peninsula, rattling the palms.

City Moon

Perfect disc of moon, huge
and simmering
low on the capital’ s filthy horizon — ¡ Ay,
qué luna más hermosa! she says
pushing the stroller slowly down Atocha.
And gorgeous too the firm-thighed

boys from Lisbon
a block away, who work
Kilometer Zero’ s sidewalk, the neon
shoestore they lean against
cupping the flames
of passing strangers.

February Snow

The tint of the sky between sunset and night.

And wandering with you and your nephew
in that maze, half-lost — Madrid
of the Austrias — looking for Plaza of the Green

Cross where, days before you arrived,
an Opel with false plates was parked, its wheels
straddling the curb, and so the van

heading for the barracks that morning
had to slow to squeeze
past... Back at the hotel your mom

is holding up her gift — Amethyst, she says
admiring how light
when passing through a prism

from Of Dark Love


there has never been sunlight for this love,
like a crazed flower it buds in the dark,
is at once a crown of thorns and
a spring garland around the temples

a fire, a wound, the bitterest of fruit,
but a breeze as well, a source of water,
your breath — a bite to the soul,
your chest — a tree trunk in the current

make me walk on the turbid waters,
be the ax that breaks this lock,
the dew that weeps from trees