An Unquiet Life

You’ll quietly go to see the Almighty—
A shocking end for an unquiet life.
Your hands are frailer and far less mighty
And as soft on my hands as they were on your wife.
Your face is now rigid as though set in stone,But your voice kind of shakes when you say “How pretty.”
You may say aloud, “Oh, just leave me alone,”
But eye glimmers beg us to lend you some pity.

Y’looked up in a tree
And met your dame.
She looked like me
And we talked the same.
She wore her braids
As I wear these.
That’s what you get paid
For looking up trees.

Your ring, like a hammer, fell from your finger
When you moved away from the beloved city.
You grew up a giant, and you grew up a singer,
And you grew up some members of some great committee.
You grew up a poet, and you grew up a saint,
A church man, a barkeep, a wandering fool.
You watched them work as you watched them paint
Their first family picture on their first day of school.
You worked your four jobs, you brought in the meat,
And you lived with your woman who never complained,
Who cooked up your dinner, and always smelled sweet,
And longed for companions, but always remained.

Now tell me your truths
And I’ll tell you mine.
We have our youths
And plenty of time.
We’ll take our crusade
On down to the Keys—
You’ll throw a parade
That celebrates me.

Off to the Orient, holding your hats,
You cruised on the streets and bought your cheap things.
You held her hands, held back your spats,
And lived out your lives as the pauperest kings.
Your children were born. Your parents all died,
The knights of religion that set us ablaze.
Your brother was dead. And then was your bride.
Your life still continued, and so did your ways.
Front porches now shelter your leathery hands
Until you are called to do your grand work:
Quiet, you swing until one commands
That you wash up your fingers and set out the forks.

To suppertime talk,
Do you prefer woods?
We’ll take us a walk
With trees as our hoods.
‘Fore eating, they prayed
And so did we
But after, we stayed
Safe under the trees.

In Autumn, you went to cathedral tents—
The people were wailing for joy or for grief.
And whether they went to praise or lament,
Mostly they went to find some relief.
So thus you were waiting when winds blew through.
They ruffled your hair and rustled your shirt,
Which billowed away from the sticky stew
Of sweating and weeping and dollops of dirt.
You left the great cauldron and went toward the sun
That set in the sky like a blazing white horse.
It lit up the trees like a harbinger’s gun
And split from the clouds like an awful divorce.

And do you recall
The way that you met?—
The trees in the Fall.
It is hard to forget.
A masquerade
Of loving me
When memories fade
With pictures you see.

The sound of a foot on the creaking old stair
Alarms of a child or a weightless young girl.
It lets in her presence and lets in some air
And her skirts fly up like the air in a twirl.
Her face like the picture you keep by your bed,
But younger and stronger and darker of brow.
You try to remember the words that she said;
She looks just the same, but she’s different somehow.
Shorter than yesterday, and sharper last year,
She spins through the kitchen and sweeps up the floor,
Puts flowers in tea cups and tea in the rear—
Her scent floats around while she does every chore.
You cut your eyes sharply to her every move.
Her hands are less graceful. Her feet are too small.
Her hair is too short, and you’ll never approve.
You’d rather her leave you with nothing at all.

Her eyes from that picture
Burn under your skin.
You cast down your strictures
Like ‘riginal sin.
They move through the glade
Just like a disease
That eats up the maid
And curdles the cheese.

When you were still dashing, you held out your hand.
She took it with modesty urging her forth.
Her youth was too pretty to then understand
Until you laid quiet and looked to the North,Where lovely she stood with the sun to her back
And twirled like an angel beside the still trees.
You stayed by her side ‘til the sky turned black
And mourned when her youth was turned into disease.
If you could go back, would you meet your Christ?
Would you kill all the Hitlers? Give peasants some bread?
According to you, it’s unevenly priced,
For you’d rather be lying beside her in bed.

You held her hands
As you hold mine.
We have no more plans.
We have no more time.
Her serenades
Were much like these—
The benefits paid
For looking up trees.

You moved to the forest
To put you at ease,
But now you’re just searching,
Looking up in the trees.

July 15, 2007

A Drink

He gambled and drank and cursed away
His days that seemed to him so vile.
He wished for a day
In Prague and Bombay,
And soon, he said, in just a while.

His voice grew hoarse from all of his liquor
And his squalor and pinkish riddles.
The church bells flicker,
And he grows sicker
As he slept to the sound of fiddles.

Vibrant, he wakes to the chiding
Of his woman, his lover-girl.
His children are hiding
And she is abiding,
Awaiting her piece of the world.

The world, all—he promised her all:
The moonbeams straight down from the sky,
The cherries in fall
The whippoorwill’s call,
And he promised her never to lie.

He scorned all his bad luck, and grace,
And God, and the whole world, and booze.
He hated her lace
As she hated his face,
Because, God, how he hated to lose.

An Autumnal Poem

Does it fall down
Like a leaf, a piece of autumnal grandeur, tumbling in ecstatic winds,
Down from a branch,
Wind-rustled and blooming with the blush of cool air?
Branches can be grasped;
Air will not be climbed—
Grasped like a leaf in my palm,
Climbed like ladders toward a stretch of sky, crisp.

Palms stretch their fingers heavenward,
Crisp leaves branching like my palms—
Heaven; branching veins like my veins,
Palm lining up with my hand,
Veins pulsing with an organic heartbeat.

Hands, tiny and wild,
And heartbeats name romantic bests.
Wildly they together chase after the autumn,
Besting me. Is it the leaf or is it the wind?
Autumn grasps after me with long, cold fingers
Of wind against my cheek, like a forest of branches.
Fingers dance across mine.

Branches may be climbed to higher heights.
Mine are steep.
Height increases with every breath,
Steeping tea leaves in water to be warm.
Breathing is visible this autumn evening,
Warm as steam on my face.
Evening spreads, cool and bright.

My face warms at the sight of such splendor.
Bright attitudes, like a blushing leaf or bride,
With splendor and hidden ecstasy.
Brides blush and fall
In ecstasy down the aisle toward romance.
Fall breathes romance through and through;
Romance that builds you ladders,
Through fallen leaves from branches.
Ladders you fail to climb,
For branches may fall—don’t think it.
Climb; think that it grows.
It does.

25 October 2007