Pandora’s Box

I am not sure there are not more things left hidden in it.
I think they may have lied to us. Mythologically lied.
I think we should look inside. Just to be sure.
I wonder what is stopping me or us
or all the other pronouns.

What’s the worst that could happen?
Look at where we are right now, the hubbub
of venerable demons, the whirlwind of evils, the exhaustion
we experience by being good all the time.
I think one of us should just lift the lid.
We could draw straws or force someone
already terribly guilty to do it.

Both sides wish for the same thing, really.
They just use different buzzwords to get there.
The box is ancient and we all see it.
Think of the opportunities for reward or blame,
the everything-there-is in a food universe.
At last, we would be rid of the temptation,
the horrible wonder of what we will become
when we are too tired to argue anymore.

Silhouettes Inc.

Joseph Cornell couldn’t draw but needed to compose
things the moonlight wanted to say when it fell over the jagged city,
and he saw, and felt, and worried about the expiration date
of these moods. This, in part, is the Riddle of the Sphinx of the city itself.
If you don’t see it as someone continually dressing and redressing
before a simply impossible mirror, then you have not sat by the fountain
long enough, staring at the distress. Only the pigeons and trees are immortal.

We fall in love the same way, with styles spinning and disarticulating,
the synthesis of the blur of two bodies, countless minds, the quantum
prestidigitations of how to greet the other on first awakening,
how it will color the whole day. We are always falling away
into the reflection of the other. At work, we dawdle and play
with him or her like a doll, in the mind and on the phone.
What a surprise come evening to find the body has returned,
a totem in the doorway, closing and locking the outside world
away, a last glimpse of the sunlight steeping neighbors’ houses.

Later, sitting in the unlight of the television, the treaty of silence
between voices in the common room. One translucent suddenly realizes
the other is an invisible packboat. A peripheral smoke, such as ghosts exhale.
It is incredibly peaceful. One could stir the ashes looking for a bone
to argue over. But, really, is this not what you wanted all along,
desire put away in a small reliquary box to be cherished and opened
on only the rarest occasions? The window at the rear top of the house
affords you a flowing river with smoky islands. You like to stand here
at evening and turn your jewelry, watching the river’s little movements,
picking at its own surface like a painter who has waited too long.

Shirt Redivivus

The cats are right and I am wrong. Again.
I learn to believe in others senses more attuned.
But, entering the shirt, I understand why the smells
in garments hung in closets for lifetimes are more important
than the travels of Odysseus. We come as close as words
to each other, then back off.

This child’s bowl in this window has kept me attuned
all summer. Some who grew up on paper meet one Sunday
those who grew up on screens, in the street’s fine rain
making the city smell differently. Younger, more innocent.
The stones of the bank had a rose scent. It was preposterous
but real, as scent molecules have shapes and bounce around
like balloons until they meet something like a miniature hand
in our body which wants to hold them.

It is nearly summer again. I watch a man mowing up to the edge
of the forest, through the window. I want him to continue on,
into a deep forest with the lawnmower. It is like someone
talking, talking in a museum after all the long-ago paintings
have made up their minds and decided to hang there
on the wall as the only afterlife possible. The sunlight cracks,
but each puzzle piece remains true.

Sweater Stanzas

Sometimes even putting a hoodie on I get lost
There are three roads of darkness
It quickly fills with warm breath like the past
One feels vulnerable in those moments stumbling about
A shirt over the head like a beast being led to slaughter
Why do we still do that anyway?
But to come out the other side is to be reborn
The sweater is a simple variation on death

Because your mother did this for you at first
Sometimes you still expect to meet her
When you come out the other side of the tunnel
Everything feels possible in warm darkness
Because that is how we enter the world the first time
There are some who can’t get through a sweater
It is simply too great a maze like Oedipus Rex
They wander around cities with dark cloth over half their body
Waving their arms like mastodon trunks
Sometimes they meet by accidental touch
And fall in love and run blindly away on four feet

Gettysburg Walk

We will come to the end of words
but not the end of night.

The trees stand in the darkness
drinking without sight.

We pause in our walk to listen
to the forest of solitudes.

just beyond wet asphalt’s reflection
of human lights, an army

sleeps standing in shadows,
leaves blowing cold off them

like letters home from boys
who won’t ever be home.

A Greeting

 

On my late night walk
I greet a certain tree
at least as old as the town.
I nicknamed this sycamore
Charles Bukowski.
It has bad skin,
always peeling to white
which makes it seem to glow
in the dark as my breath
on cold nights might.
It’s outlasted entire graveyards
of people who passed it
in smug superiority of species.
It’s nearly as tall as the tower
of old people it grows behind,
whose windows show them
this unrelenting reach for more
of the particular solitude
that is its lot from non-cradle
to non-grave. One intuits
it is another lost drinker
in a world of them
standing quiet in the night.

The Contract

After trying with the people
for so long, we are broken
by the idea of them. The noxious
poison we fed ourselves.

People are not ideas. Pretend
but never were. Think more along oceans.
You can skirt them or drown seeking
treasure they swallowed once.

No sense to be had but senses
that made the head. The eyes
are amulets, but also starving
for surprise. Feed them your body

or your mind. The rest bores them.

Now

They are all gone away and the house
now, even the idea of it, seems a sort of phantom
in wood and nails and roof shingles. Strange.
Still, it exists and you can drive past it, a ghost,

and see another group putting on the play.
The maple tree still has red leaves each spring
that unfold like things inside the house will.
And they leave. The tree will stand bare between

seasons, the comings and goings. The bees
that return to the tree seem the same ones.
Your mother’s hands darker in red leaves.
You believed the house was yours

and not the red tree’s. The bees touch each bud.

They fly singing around the ghost children singing.

The Cat

How we are young
is different, how
you grow old. I hold
strange time close.

In my arms, you
are racing somewhere
beyond me. Your eyes
want only essentials.