Razors pain you
Rivers are damp
Acids stain you
And drugs cause cramp
Guns aren’t lawful
Gas smells awful
You might as well live.
I have a friend
who is turning gray,
not just her hair,
and I do not know
why this is so.
Is it a lack of vitamin E
pantothenic acid, or B-12?
Or is it from being frantic
‘How long does it take you to love someone?’
I ask her.
‘A hot second,’ she replies.
‘And how long do you love them?’
‘Oh, anywhere up to several months.’
‘And how long does it take you
to get over loving them?’
‘Three weeks,’ she said, ‘tops.’
Did I mention I am also
It is because I adore this woman
who thinks of love
in this way.
We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.
And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.
That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.
O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.
They have photographed the brain
and here is the picture, it is full of
branches as I always suspected,
each time you arrive the electricity
of seeing you is a huge
tree lumbering through my skull, the roots waving.
It is an earth, its fibres wrap
things buried, your forgotten words
are graved in my head, an intricate
red blue and pink prehensile chemistry
veined like a leaf
network, or is it a seascape
with corals and shining tentacles.
I touch you, I am created in you
somewhere as a complex
filament of light
You rest on me and my shoulder holds
your heavy unbelievable
skull, crowded with radiant
suns, a new planet, the people
submerged in you, a lost civilization
I can never excavate:
my hands trace the contours of a total
universe, its different
colours, flowers, its undiscovered
animals, violent or serene
its other air
its paradise rivers.
Take to heart what may be learned from Oedipus:
If someone with a sharp axe
hacks off the boughs of a great oak tree,
and spoils its handsome shape;
although its fruit has failed, yet it can give an account of itself
if it comes later to a winter fire
or if it rests on the pillars of some palace
and does a sad task among foreign walls,
when there is nothing left in the place it came from.
I empty myself of the names of others. I empty my pockets.
I empty my shoes and leave them beside the road.
At night I turn back the clocks;
I open the family album and look at myself as a boy.
What good does it do? The hours have done their job.
I say my own name. I say goodbye.
The words follow each other downwind.
I love my wife but send her away.
My parents rise out of their thrones
into the milky rooms of clouds.
How can I sing? Time tells me what I am.
I change and I am the same.
I empty myself of my life and my life remains.
And when they bombed other people’s houses, we
but not enough, we opposed them but not
enough. I was
in my bed, around my bed America
was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house.
I took a chair outside and watched the sun.
In the sixth month
of a disastrous reign in the house of money
in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,
our great country of money, we (forgive us)
lived happily during the war.