After Hours at the Glad Light DinerAnother midnight ragging the counter down, another 10 o'clock like midnight, as predictable as ceiling waves or the wallpaper's alluring turquoise. He reads the news from out-of-state out loud. Galaxies splinter to fine light. And wind, rising by sleights, rattles the eaves and casings, obliging two so far, the moon showing a face through gold-hemmed drapes, and this face meaner than a man's would wish to be. Local time's plenty of universe tonight. And coffee will have its way with his descent, the snowy two-lane, south shoulder sloping to creek's flow, ice building around smooth stone, the up-sloping far side barred with straight-up or leaning spindles. Again he'll crane to gulp stars down. And again the galaxies will overturn then clear, seen through breath that might confirm a living, easing his mind another night of lead guitars and ale, back and back, en route rollercoastering, seeing her face as he expects, seeing the drawn lines of hair drawn finely back for him. Ripples close. And the stone he tossed leaps back up to his fingers. Out there, beyond the lake and river channel, the shoulders cramp, causing a man to brake uphill, to squint and find road stretched to the next rise, the shivers of ragweed fringing the upslope off the water, stars as breathtaking as the stairs she'd made to seem so by ascent. The summers were theirs almost. As wide as their next breaths, as the words a couple had been counting on as futures. Not out of chaos but concentration does he call her to the Diner, this foreign bride who speaks in accents, bearing the secret dark bread she's hidden in print skirts. They eat. They speak in gestures. They resume their chores half-dressed and vanishing, ragging the counter down, the midnight flowering on driftwood, the moonlight flowering on the ice-cutter's large-toothed saws and tongs, an obsolescence a man outlives, his heart horse-racing yet, remembering the snow, leaf and sand burials, seeing the practiced lives, suffering correction, there at the bottoms of dark cups a man will take again for dreams.Toward EveningIt might take years, I think, as it has taken years, to get the hang of argument, to shake these hints of hills that seem to breathe at certain angles, transformed, as they had thought themselves transformed, these beau old men that fill our evening's air with singing. To speak a life would not be poetry as such. But what poem here would do, what small book interest them, on the screen-closed or open porches where we sit, indulge these partnerships, peopling village textures? Italians, Czechs, stocky Germans set a-dance, cobblers and shopmeisters, shopping these scenes Time's flawed, remembering themselves the stalks, the yellow beans and fallow only steps away from backdoors, the shapes of eaves and cornices, of prayers they left with Easter treats and Easter wishes. They would not join the sunrise choir as she would, repent the words let spin, to get the rough worn off, excite this dance of lamps to ask a pardon of the fathers, to ask of this one more, who brings her flowers to the sun porch, than that she speak a word to them, and show her face to breeze that clears the air out under porch roofs, as the memories rebuild, and the solitary child, crying at her curb, healed or helped across by someone older, sets the mood for triumphing, for the gold-dust bees examining our hedges, seeming to doze as the moon flutters among then quits the mixed horizon trees. The dealers in antiquities stand smiling at the signs. The silhouette stamped sheep, cropping front-yard grass, sense the suburbs closing in on them. And this other love tonight, taking care to be invisible and witness, she watches at her draped pane, voicing aloud addictions neighbor men prefer to sainthoods, seeing the stars out overhead, and stars to come, appearing as they're ready, seeing their faces turned by what could only be the music, remembering lusts, she thinks, in cities deeper than star-dark, and shimmering banked clouds, wearing the looks, she thinks, men such as these try on, the looks of animals, when they pretend to sleep.Ecce Homo1951-1994
For Ray Hopkins, my wife's brother, who lived and worked in Cambridge, Massachusetts, owned a cottage on Cape Cod, and cared for his ailing mother in Arlington, even while he, without having told us, was HIV positive and experiencing signs of physical decline. The poem deals with a period from December '93 through his death in May '94 and imagines a pot-luck gathering of friends that my wife had hoped to host for him, set in March, and at a location that willfully blends the family home in Arlington that he had had remodeled to facilitate his mother's care and his own home on the Cape. The week after his death, my daughter and I joined my wife who had been there during his last weeks and shared in the funeral service on Monday, 5/30, the funeral Tuesday, the burial in Rhode Island on Wednesday, a Memorial Service on Friday evening on the Cape. On Sunday, 6/5, we participated in the AIDS benefit march in Boston with 35,000 others who shared with us their own griefs and their hopes as well that the victims with us live on.There would be boulevards to choose, and March snow reacquainting strangers, a "shapely house" gradually showing ruin, beheld as memory, turned in the hand with attic scraps, with the dreams let go in shy accomplishment. The light accelerates. And kids, amused by lathed materials, beat rhythms home, inviting a poetry as rose paper peels away from boards, as the old glues fail and fields dissipate. December, shriveling toward spring. Boulevards to choose. And light, where light once shared the likes of bodies. And Death, and Beauty in a pinch. And Death puts on its looter's grin. And Beauty does what Beauty will in March, taking the stars, the daylit tales to heart, the rooms to heart still warm with winter travelers... * Was that a '56 Bel Air? Were these the feasts of consequence? And these, because we have the need for them, our genies, our angels after all? Had we, like prodigals come home, coursing the mint-hued light, figured remodeling against the seasonal conscripting drift, finding the old men dead, the brothers bloodgrim, more wooden and force-fit? The angels occupy green light, arriving now, and, being natural, stand with us in the green light among the ranks of medicines, family yet, ( each to each roughed in and each to innocence, ) here, because the malice went for naught, because a few lines, yielding form, will have to do for shades, for the intimacies more snugly matched to human motions, directing the eye from breads, the ear from sounds of home deliveries, the mind from vespers and from matins beverages. And from this music parodied, this poetry surviving kitchen tools and colors of appliance, stirred here in awkwardness, in invitation to odd costume, so much resembling, so many cast as memories survivors rub for luck, texturing light in the worked yards, entering the reconfigured kitchen, the light, at daylight's end, brightening the cupboards and white walls, the floor's sea-textured hues, entering with these the west-facing, repositioned entry and on these others gathering, showing their forms to us, along this brace of added glass. * The beef's blade-trimmed and underdone or done to suit the company, suit Rhone and cabernet, and the water's chilled, the juice and fruits and the chablis, the mood late-breakfasting, the human body twisted, with no other way to tell, so many dead, so many accomplished sandwiches, so many considered streets, inclining to cool water, having to do without their springtime elegance. * An earlier dark imbues these eastern edges of the time zone. The calendar's marked, checked. The bedroom's ours another night. The bed we share, moored to southern stars, within this dormered niche looks over water darkening, and on this light we'd swear begins in Provincetown. We float blue figurings, buoying griefs, breezier guitars, two in capable slow-building love, expecting the dawn light builds a way on the Atlantic, and finding the dawn light builds, showing itself on chimneys where the shore-birds roost, filling the sea-grey rock-grey gaze, finding the sea-programmed debris, adrift where sea-winds concentrate. And now this winter-keep, this winter-deep, more terrible repertoire, redrawn again and swept with consequence, leaving these maps to trace, these handsome flirts and bill-laden twilights, to chart and covenant, stories that journey and come back, assuming a place on shelves and on the mindfully mended rims, among the clowning toys, restored to function and bright shades, the tops found spent beneath the maps of ceiling stresses, like charts to treasures he followed home to dreams, like birthday tumblers, brought down again from attics where survivors keep them still. A people, used to listening, as old as European brides, as the grandpas bringing their brides to local porches, will let its neighbors sleep in loudly wondering, as he has left us wondering, moistening his lips to speak, to draw his comely audience, declaring his own, their own, deliberations at the gate. * He searches us each we think, as if to be believed, delivering sage and motherlode. As if to be believed required these shaped materials, and saying how Time's stopped, speaking these names that had been friends, or now the names of gods that would not hold still for their pictures. He moistens his lips to speak to us. And currents, merciless, that once had seemed benign, leave his bare arms chilled, his shoulders chilled, somebody's opened yard broom-clean and innocent. He moistens his lips to speak, to tell us last night's dreams, letting the spirits search the seams of our dimensions, the subject dreams and vanishings, lifted and beheld, served here among the trays and evening's company, among the sandwiches, desserts, the yardviews crossed by every breathing thing. * I see him lifted and beheld. And see the book of lyrics, face down, by the fire-screen, explaining everything. I let that book tell all, twilight activate the lamps. And snow, spilling into groves, filling the deep chambers as the scales play, the snow itself says once upon a time, until the absence ramifies, until the wind lays out such light and visits latches. He moistens his lips to speak, saying the words as one of many acts of faith, such as might be heard among the angels visiting, above the snarl and buzz of capoed instruments. Not these blades dropping, signaling further spring. Not this necklace and smoking corpse, this news like zone-reports, a generation, as it seems, like real and racing ambergris, pursuing these crusts, these sizzlings, this street's seductive balance and retreat. Couples like ourselves, pronouncing parts in outlines given to them, couples circulate, like poems become the subjects of a study, the names of young men vanishing, condensed to boxed suites and sorry medleys, fit deeply to that center their mean indenture builds. * How little you let us see, commuting that way between Cambridge and the Cape, composing your life as left, its vivid and crazed materials, the plunder, say, we had mistaken for exhaustion, numbed as we were by light and after-travel dreaming, by this off-ocean grey, meaning this ruin, reach through, these restitutions say, for our mis-reading of the compass. Maybe you just pick up or use your urgency. Maybe you just move off, let the slipperiness affirm, and let the men towel blood, lift their own stone tears, let the men discuss the looks of corn in other seasons, as if there had been no time like their own, no conditions but their own, crying aloud for irony or for detachment say, leaving these neighbor kids below, these March streets that seem to sigh and replicate, a view absorbed, as much as roughnecking or seepage seemed to be, as the face of a grandmother, bed-fast, becoming something like, letting her hands go lightly, tracing the pension moons, and tracing the pension custodies. * Maybe you just move off. Maybe you stop to watch, as alive as these, and these hard-bodied young, a few years older than our daughter, at their outdoor exercise, a mirage almost, perfecting the bloodprint, who might have caught your eye, attracting the eyes of boys already scared about themselves, thinking to control or risk their hearts, six miles of it today, because we ask these benefits, brought out and ushered through such streets, among the jugglers and these performing Asian exercise, the choral singers brightening shade, the boy guitarists playing at mid-block and the corners, bringing the day ahead, futures ahead more safely shored in their professions. Because the benefits exist. Because you're nine days dead. Because you haunt the spectral crossings of the city, your name inscribed with these, rainbows of names on tilting or on sun-warmed upright boards. Tonight, these ghosts, distracting ghosts to be, will make of rooms this marveling, these shades and sheer, like tube-squeezings and sprays of light, will enter the olive-shaded float, the huge red eye taking the weather in, leaving to each the street's green shame, and leaving to us our own child's voice, become the voice of the next century, reading as she must our lives, the risks and measures of delight, telling whatever that was that made your laughter peel for her, had made your laughter paramount, riding the racing thrones, the machinery and local options for equipment, the designs and parts that put the villagers to business, inventing the love to say some thing, the innocence men in love had drawn upon.
I - Kneaded
II - The Dust of Worry
III - Windy Vowels, Consonant Doors
IV - To Carry Emptiness
Featured Artist - Leslie Marcus
Current Issue - Fall 2006