Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sea Change

Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
-The Tempest by William Shakespeare

He made the case for the state of missing.
The lost and disjointed and I nodded.
I know a thing or two about that.

I have stood on the railing of passenger ships
and stared down into the water.
That is where things get lost.

And on occasion, found again, washing to shore,
running right up to your feet.
Only what comes back rarely seems to be what was missing.
Like a bird molting feathers.

“I’m looking forward to the warmth,” he said.
And as the sky darkens overheard, I am too. I tell him it must
be a sign of age or possibly a sea change. A full fathom five, right?
There is yet another storm swirling out over the water

and it is making it’s way here.
But right now we talk about baseball and light jackets at night.
We plan trips to Coney Island to see the Cyclones.
I think about what the sea smells like in summer.

I have to remind myself that this is what matters.
Not the other. I have to remember to focus and sit still.
It will be like this for awhile longer.
We both know that.
But it’s easier if no one says it.

No one knows, right?
Just no one knows.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Devout Petition

I never prayed.
Not even when I was younger,
and the priest sat in that darkened room
and I stood behind him or in front of him
trying to think of things to say. Things to be sorry for.

I never prayed.
Not when I got older
and stood at the graves of friends,
and walked away from twisted heaps of metal
Iron girders bent like sculpture, glass like torn leaves, machines like dancers.

I never prayed.
Not when we found out about the sickness
Not when the arrangements were made.
Not when the priest asked us to bow our heads.

I never prayed.
I wouldn’t know what to ask for.
I don’t think I believe in salvation.
I believe in being here and falling.
I believe in finding and losing and finding again.
I believe in quiet and dedicated pursuit.
I believe in losing direction.
And sometimes, I believe in love.
Little love, mind you.
Like being touched when you don’t expect it.
Small moments, not absolution.
An unexpected kindness,
a quiet, like a petition,
an entreaty,
a prayer.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Talking about Ray

I tell her, I’m reading Ray’s biography,
and I’m heartbroken.

Not by the drinking, or the affairs
but that in the end, with Maryann, after everything
they had worked for, just when things were getting better, it fell apart.

It can do that.
Just unravel when you aren’t looking.

She shrugs.

These people, you understand, these dead people
they are my friends, too.

But I don’t think she understands.

After all the horrible little jobs,
and the dreams and the children and the moving
and the parties and the creditors and the bankruptcy

And the drinking, she says.

Yes, the drinking too. Always the drinking
but that isn’t what I am saying.

It’s more than that. To do that much damage to someone you love.
People are careless with love, she says.
But they weren’t, I tell her. They cared too much. Don’t you understand?

She tells me that they couldn’t have really loved each other.

But they did. I know that. They loved too much. They held on
too hard till everything started to explode and burn
and eventually they too would burn. There was no stopping it.

That’s not love, she says. That’s a sickness.

I don’t say anything else.
She’s young.
She doesn’t know that sometimes there is no difference.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

That Philly Sound

You were talking about music.
And I’m watching you like a stranger would watch you.

Not like a wife,
in this bar where we are no longer strangers.

You keep talking about the Philly sound.
You want to play guitar. You tell the man in front of you.
He’s been playing the guitar in the bar.
He used to be a street musician.

Not to make money but to learn the songs.
He tells us that whenever a new wave of tourists would go by,
you could start the same song over again. It was just a long practice session.

This makes you and I smile. I like this guy. So do you.
It’s usually a good night when he’s in the joint. Calmer, maybe.

Whenever he is here, you guys talk about music.
There is a lot of nodding.
Yeah, man. Yeah, man.
You say, “and The Stylists, too.”
He laughs. “Yeah, man, definitely”
A lot of that.

I like watching you like this. It reminds me of
you before I knew you. Before we knew each other.
Before I knew that you knew so much about music.
When you were just this boy that I liked to watch.
And you said things that made me laugh.
You are doing that again right now.
After all these years.

You told me no matter what, you always think of me as a poet.
I smiled and put the bottle to my lips.

You too, baby. You too.
Even when you aren’t in front of the machine.
Even when you are just talking about the Philly Sound.

There are all these worlds in people. Worlds we know nothing about.

Don’t forget that part too. After the loss and the ugly and the anger and rage
and the men on the street that yell horrors at the women who go by and the taking and the death and rot and the stink and the impending storm that might keep the snow falling for the next seven years.

There is also this. Always this.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Julie rings her hands and redials.
The police have come and they are standing in her hallway.
She stares at their feet because it is something to focus on,
large black shoes like planks.

She feels the weight of the keys in her hand.
She tells them she doesn’t understand how this happened.

Later, she says she wishes there was something she could have done.
Something she could have said
to this man that lies dead in the alleyway of her building.

And I wonder why someone would choose here.
Why not take the last of your money to San Francisco
and leap off the Golden Gate.
Or at least the Brooklyn Bridge. A swandive.
A bottle of pills and an endless dream in their own bed.
Something a little more beautiful than an alleyway in Brooklyn.

Julie thinks she might be cursed. What do I do, she asks.
How can this happen, she wonders.

And I think this kind of thing happens everywhere all the time.
People don’t wake up into tomorrow
We have all left someone behind.

The dial has turned on their life
and now, in a different way, on Julie’s.

She tells me the police were nice. Professional,
which I suppose is a good thing.

They take the man away.
No one knows him. He didn’t live here.
He’s was just a man.

That night Julie won’t sleep. She will think of him.
The way he looked when she saw him. There was no blood
He was just a twisted crippled thing, a sack of meat and bones.
Not like a man at all. Not like the man lying next to her, who breathes steady.

Later, that thought will help her sleep. He was not like a man at all.
This was no one’s fault, she tells herself.
He was already dead before he hit the ground.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Way We Live

I ask you if you miss the bookshelves
we moved into the bedroom
after we bought the new couch,

which you are laying on now and reading.
You say no and turn back to the Ezra Pound bio.

I’m learning chess notation,
replaying a game from 1990
won by a 12 year and 5 month old chess master.
He’s good.
But the article says he made some stupid mistakes.
That is luck, I guess. I wonder what else he could have been
doing that night at 12 years and 5 months.

Waste is a funny word.

The noise through the wall has stopped.
The football game was boring.
The heater clangs and wakes a cat.
There are books on Paris on the wine stained coffee table.
There are empty beer cans.
There are full wine glasses.

This is how we live, for now.
I don’t know what next year will be like,
but this is the winter, we lived like this,

hovelled away, scraping out peace in slivers
under our nails. We are searching for something.
Something like a definition.
A book. A chess piece. A nap on the worn green couch. A language.
You turn down the classical station
because you hate Vivaldi.
I haven’t been to work in days, nursing a sore throat
made worse because I wouldn’t stop drinking.

This won’t last.
Things are either going to get much much better
or much much worse. You told me that in bar yesterday.
We are on the coin’s edge, wobbling before it falls.
But for now this is the way we live.

There is a harsh wind coming up from the estuary
It whistles past the window and I’m glad I’m here.
With my glasses off, you are just a blur on the couch.
I squint at the clock and wish it was earlier.
This night isn’t going to last
much like this way of living isn’t going to last.

Eventually it will change.
You will find something, or else, I will.

But goddamn,
just this once,
I wish it would.