City of Grace

City of Grace, you open,
you part your curtains
and smile like a hostess
when we call your name,
you tender what any traveler needs,
a call to ease, a balm,
a kindness, whatever storm.
You take us in. City of Grace
and Benevolence, you say
you know what solace means,
burned so often they called you
Chimneyville, and now
you can't forget,
you've written it in bronze
outside the City Hall
the War made a hospital
for the Yankee
and for your Rebel sons,

The Second Person

Afternoon burns everything off Franklin Street.
Even the birds, even the flies.

Or iced-tea sugar and chicken grease weigh everyone
into a doze, all indoors, in a cool

they said would never come eighty years ago
when this was still the center of business

and the civilized left these high hours to the dogs,
ice in a highball, and let each house

The Small Birds of Sound

When they come
filling the yard with their overheard,

broke-glass catastrophes of voice,
overcrowded party line,

he lets the screen door clap
to see them plume

the settle back to the fence,
aftershocks of crowd and wail.

When they come
he says again he was home at breakfast

radio preacher doing love thy neighbor
and then the bomb,

just ask the wife.
The silence

in the TV's cathode glow
slowly fills with questions

as starlings shutter light
then weigh the lines, voices

A Vulnerary 

one comes to language from afar, the ear
fears for its sound-barriers —

but one “comes”; the language “comes” for
The Beckoning Fair One

plant you now, dig you
later, the plaint stirs winter

air in a hornet’ s nest
over the water makes a
solid, six-sided music…

a few utterly quiet scenes, things
are very far away — “form
is emptiness”

comely, comely, love trembles

and the sweet-shrub

On Cowee Ridge

John Gordon Boyd
died on the birthday
of three remarkable, and remarkably different, writers:
Heinrich Heine, Kenneth Patchen, Ross McDonald

John, too, was just as remarkable, blessed with an inherent “graciousness”
and with extraordinary eyes & ears…

I think of two texts
on the grievous occasion of his death:

“Religion does not help me.
The faith that others give to what is unseen,
I give to what I can touch, and look at.
My Gods dwell in temples
made with hands.”
— Oscar Wilde, in De Profundis

The Wreck on the A-222 in Ravensbourne Valley

where the car hit him, fireweed sprang with
blazons of fennel

and umbels
of dill fell
through the spokes of a wheel

on Whistun holiday to the sun, Denton
Welch spun a web in his crushed cycle,

sat in the seat, spine curled up like a spider —

and spied: “saw
the very drops of sweat glittering frostily
between the shoulder blades”

of a lad

Of the Poet’s Youth

When the man behind the counter said, “You pay
by the orifice,” what could we do but purchase them all?

Ah, Sandy, you were clearly the deluxe doll, modish and pert
in your plastic nurse whites, official hostess to our halcyon days,

where you bobbed in the doorway of our dishabille apartment,
a block downwind from the stockyards. Holding court on

the corroded balcony, K. and I passed hash brownies, collecting
change for the building’ s monthly pool to predict which balcony

On Reading John Hollander’s Poem “Breadth. Circle. Desert. Monarch. Month. Wisdom. (for which there are no rhymes)“

“Breadth. Circle. Desert. Monarch. Month. Wisdom. (for which there are
No rhymes)” was just the title, and I only read that far.

That was because I felt like some old agent-of-the-Czar
When a new plotter swims within the scope of his exertions,
And I was scared this hothead would start hedging his assertions
Before I had him dead-to-rights. (A Chekan’ s or a SMERSHian’ s
Lot, you know, is not an happy one.) He might retract.