- Never a Shade, and: After Chekhov, and: Unicycles of the Dead
Never a Shade
But real. As goatskin. As leatherypomegranate packed with seeds circulating throughall of us, you were sweet sap, you were apple; even in old agenever drained: fine high jet of conversationendlessly rising and falling, no I am notexaggerating here: you were articulation'sjuiciest snow pea pod of a man loadedwith salts crystallizing into sugars, into hardfragrant cider: even sagging from the heart-stempainfully, at the apparent end you were still full of it,spirits that never sting but speak true, brisk buckupsfor darkening friends, fruit flies and honey bees multiplying around youthen as they do now, under leafless trees stricken,jostling each other for one more sip of you.
Pencil dropped in his lap, half dozing on the porch: scarlet petals droop against gray clapboards, grizzled chair-stuffing sags over the orange and greenish outdoor carpet- [End Page 5]
Idiots, why do they drive so fast?-snarls at the cars racingthrough narrow intersections under broad, low-hanging maples where children gurgle, absorbed sticky clots of them on the sidewalks -
Then back to brooding-is it supper time yet, where is she, is it time to take his pills? Phone rings, he speaks knowingly to an editor, charmingly to a friend. Slept like a baby, tells her, then later to Bartok mumbling on the local FM station, Little discordant there today, aren't we, fellows?
For the lawyer across the way puffs up his chest, calls out, All Hail Macbeth, then to himself, of the aging jogger opposite in scrawny shorts thudding through the calm streets, So you think you'll live forever!
Then dozes again: sees his long-dead younger brother in a toddler going by, wants to take him in his arms- eat it, (the chubby little grape) jokes to himself-
Then starts worrying again, could he actually have shelled out that much to the door-to-door salesman his wife told him only this morning he was perfectly capable of doing "either in an excess of pity or just plain showing off"-and if so, how to deal with it, let alone the bank-
Until, finally, she returns, gray-haired, up the walk, and he greets her with his biggest voice, his warmest huskiest embrace, How was it? Then scoffs with her at a bit of critical bêtise, a tasty bit of good interdepartmental gossip. [End Page 6]
At supper, deliciously almost drowning in the delicate, open-faced yellow dahlia blooming on the kitchen table, Looks just like you, darling he tells her and she snorts with pleasure,
But that evening, reading out loud to each other and laughing, they fall silent over the last but one paragraph of Chekhov's short story Gusev, the
"joyous, passionate colors of the sunset" sailing over the prison ship, the slow waltz of the shrouded body down through the winding corridors of the ocean-
only to forget it, later, fixing a snack for them in the kitchen, humming Cole Porter to himself, then to her, then an old nursery rhyme, both of them chuckling at it as they "climb the golden stairs" and head for bed.
Unicycles of the Dead
Overnight the too-late ambulances;a few more black umbrellas pop up and disintegrate in small gases, short puffs
now like a rash, now like a bomb cluster of blisters over the railroad tracks, [End Page 7]
see how the fragments come downdelicately? Horrifying as ash. First a femur, then a smile, then an eyelash-
Crickets hopscotching. Spurt, spurt.In and out of the mild milky squares we jump around after them, o after them-
Large suns squeezed into smaller bodies, barely discernible selves like scarred moonscapes seen from within and darkening, into thinner and thinner slices
or never. Or right here. Thinkkaleidoscopes revolving, opposing parallels that won't stop,
not even for the kindest of saints' countenances dippingand bowing, pinned to the tall banners
in their royal papier-mâché processions hiding from us, dodging behind rooftops and cornices vanishing-
When it knocks it knocks rapidly...