A robin

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A robin, solitary, young by now raised, body gathered inward against the chill light, breast the color of sunset, color of embers blown with new life, that were embers yet and never would birth flames, perched taut on the taut catenary stretched from beginning to end, from end to beginning, and far nearer one than the other

was moveless the while

I watched

till time had gone

then did I cross the new mown lawn, then I walked on, past gray sermons of buildings, past black stones standing, moving along alone beneath the dark green trees and through the park and through the cheering dawn toward town

only, nearly there,

to pause, struck still, pierced neatly to the brain on glimpsing, pictured in the patternless cracked sidewalk cement, having hastened before me to lay itself as if by happenstance across my path,

my own shocked heart.

 

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You were a work of fiction

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you were a work of fiction
you were a solo cloud
baiting the Lord
with your sourest word
sure that His sword
was as light as a feather

you were clever and light
you had spent time underground
wasting your breath
in singing, your health
in fucking, your death
in not caring to go on forever

you were still somebody’s baby
you were a commonplace book
you rode the rails
you might have gone through hell
in the end you sat down on a tumbledown wall
we sat there together

you were as sure as a bird
you kept your friends to themselves
you had that place near Paris
you had a brother who called us
your cousin bent God’s ear
but we brought you a plastic tiara

* * *

you were a fiction
light as a feather
you were a sword
baiting the Lord
let’s sit here forever
singing your health

 

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Used to be

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then as maybe now
every day came
with a purpose
you just had to wait
with an open pocket
it’d slip something in—

a book of poems
a tails-up coin
a bottlecap
printed inside
with a riddle
something;

one day followed
the one before
they were
all in a row
but each one
unexpected

like dominoes set
just so
far apart
if one fell
it was the only
casualty;

all together
small multiples of life
each ending
with a death
each beginning with
a birth.

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At least you died beloved

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At least you died beloved
Though surrounded by snow
And after the slow twilight
Had gathered and then gone.

Not how you thought to go,
Maybe, when you were young
And winter a long way off,
Before anything was known.

Couldn’t the end have come
One day in summer?
One perfect day
That would be like living always?

A field of flowers, warm sun,
Your loved ones gathered round
And after one bird’s wistful song
No pain, and no good-byes unsaid?

I harbor no regrets for you.
You were our perfect day,
He your warm sun, and we
Your field of flowers.

 

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No Evil Star

Jean_Dodal_Tarot_trump_17The world laments with many tongues;
You had your one.
But you said enough, with your rhymes and your songs
And your crying, crying, crying all night long.
You were just killing time till it was time to go
But found time dies too slow.

It’s all right now, I think you’d say.
Maybe there was a better change you could have made
But finally they’re all the same.
After the games you’d played with pain
The gas was easy, anyway.

Were you afraid? Who wouldn’t be?
You knew the soul is what it feels.
A private pain is no less real:
Yours grew until it had to be set free.
I guess you did it perfectly.

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That Old Feeling

(by Mascha Kaléko; translated from the German) 

Erich Heckel, Still Life with Wooden Figure, 1913The first time that I thought to die
–I still recall the scene–
I died with so much skill and grace
In Hamburg, just the perfect place,
And I was just eighteen.

And when I died the second time,
It filled my heart with woe
That I could leave you nothing more
Than just my heart, laid at your door,
And footprints, red in snow.

And when I died the third time,
I hardly felt the pain;
Familiar as my toast and tea,
Like an old shoe, is death to me.
I needn’t die again.

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Kaddish

(by Mascha Kaléko; translated from the German)

Red shriek the poppies in the green fields of Poland.
Death lies in wait in the black forests of Poland.
Wheat rots, unharvested.
The reapers are all dead.
However much their mothers starve
The children cry for bread.

And frightened from their nests, the birds have ceased
To sing; the trees lift up their limbs for grief
And bow and whisper lamentation towards the east;
And when the wind takes up their sorrows like a prayer
And when they bow down like old Jews in attitudes of prayer
The broad, blood-sodden earth is shaken,
The stones themselves awaken.

This year, who will sound
The Shofar for the supplicants beneath the ground?
The hundred thousands whom no headstones name,
The hundred thousands God alone can name.

How shall they be entered into Heaven’s book aright?
Lord, we beseech you,
Let the prayers of the trees reach you
Tonight, as we light the last light.

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No rain that summer, my father said

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No rain that summer, my father said, the grasshoppers’ song bringing
No relief among the dry weeds. Then the buffalo came like thunder,
My father said, they came like the flood
That follows rain. The hunters went out singing
In the cool before dawn, dark shapes going along under
A dark sky. My father said by the time they came back again,
The whites were heaps of bones beside their heaped goods,
And the grasshoppers were singing up the rain.

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If I Was Ever Going to Say It

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Last night, everything still,
I still, all the people still, the world still,
A dream slipped in
Like a memory, not a dream.

He didn’t say Hello
He just said, Hey.
Hey. I got over it,
He said. The way you do.
It wasn’t so hard, or so bad.

And the time we live in now
Is the important thing
When nobody has to say I love you
Which is really Goodbye
Because nobody’s dying.

Then he told a joke.

Then I learned there wasn’t
A single moment
I could have changed.
Just all of them.

Later the stillness broke,
I waking, the whole world waking
As the line of dawn runs around the world
And the sky brightens and then
Everything starts to hum
Like there’s something inside everything.

That was the time to say Goodbye,
If I was ever going to say it.

 

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