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Prairie Schooner 80.2 (2006) 49-53

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Compulsion, and: Geezers, and: Variation on a Theme by Wordsworth, and: Stirred, and: The Poems I Want to Hear


Because he did not write yesterday, today
he must write twice. Having switched on a lamp,
he must turn on a second lamp. He must not waver
in his intention lest he have to make a correction
on the opposite side: a man who, having fallen
on his left side must touch his right knee down
to placate the forces of equilibrium. Extreme, yes,
but not uncommon where mumbo-jumbo
hides in sidewalk cracks and issues from the throats
of chickens in times of slaughter. We have lawns
from which all happenstance has been yanked,
bagged and delivered to an inferno. Burn
the evidence to lose both sides at once. He believed
he could sort any hodgepodge into groups but how?
Weight, color, transparency, utility? – locks, pens,
ashtrays, balls, matchbooks, spoons – and the doctor
waiting while he ran through the possibilities.
The idea, which the doctor could not fathom, was to
even things up so that nothingness remained whole.
It was always his argument with time,
which, he was certain, symmetry eats in space. [End Page 49]


Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld
It was a breeze to grow old.
The dust settled. Some dunes moved.
I left Long Island for the plains and mountains,
and here I am, a bit retired, a bit unstrung,
a little off my rocker still, but still first out
on the dance floor, as quick as ever to defend
the duck and the swan, the soft soap
if innocent, the quip if it zings a Yalie
or a social engineer. I am, like you, a witness
to the coffins that were Viet Nam and Iraq,
to a political machine that came up three lemons.
Not every geezer is old, not every prez mature.
I am the big ears and the wide eyes
to whom time happened. I lived in stormy weather
writing songs of love because, tell me
if you know, who can help it?

Variation on a Theme by Wordsworth

"The world is too much with us . . . "
"When you're dead you're done," sings Ray Charles,
so we rock and roll long after nightfall. We woke
seeking in the sweating grasses at dawn the rising
gods of the earth, and we cheered beautiful Apollo
when he slowed his chariot to give us longer days.
But the sun bowed in shadow, and the pale moon
lowered its face. I'd like to spot a few immortals [End Page 50]
myself, now my time has grown short, so much
to be done and still the music of the spheres
in my ears. Nature was a sour smell of seaweed
and dead fish belly-up in the canal, but then
the sweet fennel by the path, and wild clouds
of roses. And the sea never stopped sweeping
the ocean floor of wreckage and unspent coinage.


While the cream swirls in the eddy
of your coffee, and the roasted scent opens
some place within you that sleeps
unless stirred, you may contemplate
the sly incineration of your dreams
the first cup of morning accomplishes.
Where mournful sounds wrapped you
in an endless elegy to nothing, where
there was no escaping your pursuer,
where the car was hurtling, brakeless,
toward the pier, now the warm fumes
percolate the day before you. Thankful
you feel, to be awake instead of aware.
Two cups to be rewired for the day.
Three, perhaps, to reenact your dreams.
Never to know when enough is enough. [End Page 51]

The Poems I Want to Hear

Poems in the spirit of those who know they will die.
In the swell of the horizon over land or over water.
In the exaltation of gulls but also crows.
In the bursting of the sun exhaling before the mirror of its body.
Also in the pull of the moon that moves tides above and below ground...


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