Life Choices

Better that any arc he sees confound than that it confirm his protestations.

It swallows all it swallows, mass mistaken for mass,
swallows it all as storm surge swallows swaths of shoreline,
offers for the finding after only slivers of glass,
deflects off weathered edifice, trickles through tumbledown.
Deflects barely, a swallow off the surface of a farm pond.
Even on cold nights, not all brilliance mimics the crystalline.
Not all wisdom waits, not all that winters winters underground.
Unspoken, any summons to silent predation.


My heart’ s aflutter!
I am standing in the bath tub
crying. Mother, mother
who am I? If he
will just come back once
and kiss me on the face
his coarse hair brush
my temple, it’ s throbbing!

then I can put on my clothes
I guess, and walk the streets.

I love you. I love you,
but I’ m turning to my verses
and my heart is closing
like a fist.

Words! be
sick as I am sick, swoon,
roll back your eyes, a pool,

Cantata for Lynette Roberts

Lynette, the stars are kerned so far apart —
Through a herniated zodiac I almost see your waled skylanes, your shocked Capricorn and Cancer.
In the hundred and two years since you were born, and the sixteen since your heart failed, and the nearly sixty since you gave up poetry, it seems we can’ t navigate by the same star chart.
I’ d like to think we were fated to work the same coracle: you steering with one hand, grasping your corner of the seine while I grasp mine; together sweeping the weirs.

Deep Deuce

As phantoms direct life from the shadows,

I feel
I leaned on something,
and it broke.

My father on the porch with his crosswords said,
this must be what it feels like to be dead;

When I returned from the dead there was no one to greet me,
but still you are glad —

I wander the ruins the way my tongue
wanders my missing teeth,
the bricks and mortar of Deep Deuce
rotted like molars in an ancient mouth;

Here Charlie Christian might have walked —

The astrologer counseled patience
and creative imaging:

Hollywood & God

If only God would save me,
I would know how to hurt you.

If only God would save me,
I would know who to sell my soul to.

Anything is an autobiography,
but this is a conversation —

William Burroughs insisted
literature lagged 50 years behind painting,

thinking no doubt about abstraction, collage,
fragmentation, his cut-ups.

But whatever that meant (why always 50 years?), or however
he presumed to rile other writers,

poetry probably does lag behind any credible media theory about it —

Leisure, Hannah, Does Not Agree with You (2)

My house disgusted me, so I slept in a tent.
My tent disgusted me, so I slept in the grass. The grass disgusted me,
so I slept in my body, which I strung like a hammock from two ropes.
My body disgusted me, so I carved myself out of it.

My use of knives disgusted me because it was an act of violence.
My weakness disgusted me because “Hannah” means “hammer.”
The meaning of my name disgusted me because I’ d rather be known
as beautiful. My vanity disgusted me because I am a scholar.

Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast

It’ s too cold to smoke outside, but if you come over,
I’ ll keep my hands to myself, or won’ t I.
I would like to tell you about the wall eaten up

by the climbing plant — it was so beautiful.
Various things have been happening to me,
all of them sexual. The man on the bus

took off his pants so I could see him better.
Another man said, “Ignore him darlin’.
Just sit on my lap.” But I’ m not one of those

who’ s hungriest in the morning,
unlike the man at the bakery
who eats egg after egg after egg.

The End of a Beautiful Era

Since the stern art of poetry calls for words, I, morose,
deaf, and balding ambassador of a more or less
insignificant nation that’ s stuck in this super
power, wishing to spare my old brain,
hand myself my own topcoat and head for the main
street: to purchase the evening paper.

Three Poems from “A Manual for Living”


Your rightful portion averts your ireful potion:
Caress what can’ t be blessed, cup shadows under breasts.

Let pass what’ s out of   ken: lover, job, riches,
a ripe peach
until it reaches you.

Bring salt for your honey, lime for your grenadine.
Money’ s not your fault.

You’ re a feathered peahen
preening for marzipan men.

The People on the Bus

We have had our lives.
The reservoir visible
In the window beside our elbows, and the willow
Branches trailing at our stop
Are the nature we leave
Behind us gladly, since it has no place

For all we have recently learned: that sex
Is temporary, help
Ours to hand down now, and materials science
Not the only kind. We thank
Calm, careful Minerva, goddess
Of adults, who for so many years took us