Or else swoon to death, the young poet wrote,
though these in the seminar’s steadfast room
appear to want little or none of it,
however coddlingly the professor prods.
They are the poet’s age at death, or almost,
but do not find “relatable” these words
composed by one who knew his passion hopeless—
especially the sleepless Eremite,
belonging to another world and time,
and even his fair love’s ripening breast conjures only suspect looks, withering stares,
or now and then a tolerating nod.
Of course, they must assume their own bright stars
will rise aloft some digital empyrean
Sundays I’d walk down the hill toward the green four o’clock
dark beginning like a rumor—
always she was leaning over the counter, head tipped toward
a tiny phone,
her husband turning the pages of a Daily Mail like a man
whose suspicions of human nature were
being fed fresh evidence.
Stale fryer fat, ale, black and tans in the fridge.
They knew I’d be there before the match started. You alright yeah Every Sunday a matinee I attended for three years
as volcanoes exploded
and she died,
white slipped into my beard
wars began and others ended.
Each Sunday the words gathering new weight
as words do when you repeat them. You alright I didn’t know but by halftime if I wasn’t too pissed
I’d walk home in the furred darkness before the beer wore off
and a sudden gust of wind could blow cold air on my heart.
I was once in a denim skirt and cowboy hat, spilling milk in a grocery store. How many songs did I learn to sing I was the fool? I am a fool. I know I have been a fool— these are the early future concepts out of which I turned into myself.
I was in Egypt nine months before the towers fell.
The people spoke to me in Arabic Roh Rohi
but I spoke back in English so they called me “American”
/I never called myself American.
America never called me American – not without a hyphen.
You tried so hard to be good, turning the shower on when no one was home, brushing your teeth so inaudibly that even standing in the hall with an ear pressed to wood, no one could hear you. The sun could not freckle through you, but each morning you pressed your palms against the wallpaper as if you might one day slip right through into daylight. Once, you went so long without laughing you forgot how to start altogether. You watched one scary movie per year to insist you knew how to be brave, because you knew you weren’t transparent enough to pass through when those hands came spoiling at night.