Maybe I should have been

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Maybe I should have been
a nature poet, talking up
clouds and lakes,
wolves and rabbits,
the coyote, the honeybee, the scorpion.

Maybe I should have spent my time
traveling from desert to climax forest,
traveling from valley to mountainside,
talking forest fires, rolling fog,
the endless waves that munch seaside cliffs,
the fantastical desert arches
that occupy our cross section of time,
snails, beetles, microbes, grizzly bears,
and how everything fails and is reborn.

Maybe I’ll let go of my newspaper
this time, maybe
I’ll move to the suburbs and write about
a drowned man, maybe
I’ll go to work for a bank
and write about a drowned man,
maybe after writing about the sea
all my life, it will be a happy ending
to load my pockets with stones
and wade to meet the rising tide.

Maybe I’ll go to work for an insurance company
and write about ice cream.

Maybe I will yet.
Meanwhile, just to remind me
that it’s not all over,
here comes that blackbird again,
calling to see if I’m ready yet
to do the next thing.

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I have a dream, during which I find and lose the key to America

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I thought sure
I heard Walt Whitman singing up America
And all around him I saw America taking shape like columns rising up out of blowing fog
And like a barbarian who finds himself in the ruins of the Acropolis at dawn, having bolted from place to place all night lost in the blowing fog,
And seeing the ghostly columns rising up all about in the false dawn, but the real dawn always came thereafter,
And hearing all about the sourceless prayerful muttering felt his heart rush up in wild surmise
Only to find the Parthenon was a bank building in Youngstown, Ohio,
Only to find that the prayers issued from a series of speakers playing back a commissioned installation piece, recorded chants of a tribe whose language was lost
Only to find that only the fog was real and that he was not even a real barbarian,
Only a stranger,
I awoke then in California
Where my awareness spread out around me like water from a cracked pitcher.

No fog, no America of Walt Whitman,
No dream columns of a dream America,
The glory that was Youngstown, Ohio gone and then forgotten like a dream that is forgotten like fog when it is gone and forgotten,
Allen whom I never met dead, his America where I lived briefly gone,
Walt Whitman silent here, voiceless in California, the redwoods rising up like columns taking shape out of blowing fog,
The only America here my America
Still not finished rising up out of the sea.

 

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as a kid i always knew the wind was up to no good

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as a kid i always knew
the wind was up to no good
for all it never did me any harm

in the stories it was always
driving the hapless schooner on the shoals
then becalming the shipwrecked sailor
who clung to a spar a ragged shirt for a sail

or it was sidling down back alleys
and through the branches of landlocked trees
under moonpale clouds in the dead of night
squirreling away skeleton leaves
ghosts of plastic bags
and stale shreds of news
to deliver them unlooked for
months and county lines away

or it was whipping up prairie dissent
sometimes slamming a straw straight
into a phone pole
like a hammer drives a nail

or it was snooping up water for later
then freezing it to hail
the size of golfballs
pelting houses and cows
and fleeing into the stratosphere

so i knew not to trust the wind
even though it might never get around to
marooning you or
slamming a soda straw into you

ponder the still eye of the storm

you ll see what i mean

Under the hood:

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In Memoriam (two translations from the English)

Dear reader, I’m curious: of the versions below, which do you prefer (if either), and why?

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I.

They built a grand monument to the dead
And the place where the stone was quarried
Soon filled up with rainwater
And the young couples would meet there.

II.

Built to commemorate the dead
This palace stands, untenanted.

By the still pool in the quarry pit
The lovers sometimes come to sit.

 

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