71: coma, canto 20

Surely the heavens don’t play favorites? No,
of course not, yet there is a hue that can be heard
when what is meets what might be and the color

of cherish develops in the center of the sky

canto 20

my mother called
and said, Come. Come
over now, to see your
when I came, rushing,
with Lucy
behind me
with her little hands
turning like wind catchers
in a light breeze,
into the house, where he sat
at the couch with a book
and said, Aha, see,
and he read from the book
every third word he saw
because that was what he could see.

my father began to see in threes,
sentences, and the complexity
of feeling, in threes, reading,
but wholes, remembering.

He read me this:
patients craniectomy compared.
See, he said, soon he said,
they’ll all be back. His face
like a lamp there on the couch,
Lucy, saying, It’s amazing,
my mother with a few tears
on her cheek.
I said, In threes. What does it mean?

Wholes excised into threes:
God’s number, he said,
and she agreed, and she agreed.
Who’s meaning is completeness.
But also, he said, some aspect
of recovery’s secret, motioned
by divine motions, triptychs,
triples, triads, triumvirates,
and troikas,
a corner, an approach, a rope
in succession or ordering
(I thought about the corner,
a person getting closer,
the image of the rope. He said:
I thought, yes, we may make passage
this way)
trinity in the end.

he’ll pray like Christ
did on his day of reckoning,
my mother said,
and when things calmed,
dinner over,
I asked my father:
but why divine, why
not some measure
only of the brain’s efficiency,
as threes are manageable
more than fours or sevens?

my mother motioned
the tines of a fork my way,
which come in fours,
saying: don’t ruin it,
don’t ruin it, the way
you always do.

my father reading, said,
from the sonnets:
Three . . .
Have . . . forests shook . . . pride,
. . . springs
and gave me remonstration
from his ellipses suffering
brain. I gave him my palms,
which then meant peace,
and I smiled because
that night I knew sleep
would be easier.

but before sleep Lucy
stood at the door to my room
soon for her place on the couch.
She said: why can’t you just let
him have some hope, her some hope.
I can, I said. He can have it.
But there are disappointments
and there are tenderer ones.
The rope holding a climber
can break. He says, as he falls,
that’s disappointing.

70: coma, interlude 11


my mother is fond of the claim
of gardens, gardens and time.

that her garden
is an image of the seasons to come,
the naked rose prefiguring
colors to come,
new life to come
some image of the forwardness
of movements,
some shape of the future,
like an appearance
of forms in the closer
mists, or some shore flat drift-in
from the ocean’s more distant,
deeper landscapes;
and that now,
the accumulate (aggregate) of now,
the moment of the conscious instant
was a geography,
her geography
mapped by the horizontal
proportions of seasons
with their common
but other-textured forces
(liquid solid gas),
each instance of the now
an apparition of the season
coming, requiring due preparation,
planting, splitting,
the digging of holes,
their resoiling,
a gritty-fingered husbandry,
where frozen stuffs could be seen
in this or that bed
where liquid water
dripped or settled
for the birds and wasps to use.
These, she said,
tomorrow, will another garden be.

Shakespeare wrote in Richard Three:
“Why should we in the compass of a pale
Keep law and form and due proportion,
Showing, as in a model, our firm estate,
When our sea-walled garden, the whole land,
Is full of weeds, her fairest flowers choked up”

which was, she said,
the last thing she heard him say.

69: coma, interlude 10


but the dream is unmanageable.
The dream is not language or poetry;
it’s not a dog or a brother or a sentiment
sentimentalizable in script, Spanish, Arabic,
Coptic, English, Chinese or hand-made
grammars for the deaf or red warnings
tacked up for the mischievous to read.

I once took a no dream pill, one of those little ones
one must take with warm milk
and dreamed just the same:
I saw whales, patted cakes with bat droppings,
smoothed down a bed made of nails
no matter the pills or the wishes
or the directives, and soon the distillations
of the day will unmake them for new memories,
as the sun slacks, as the rains
smash through the trees
no matter the ants below and their
million eggs drowned.

no, I will not tell you what I mean.
I had a dream of heaven once
and it looked like the thorns
on rose bushes baking in the day’s heat,
like those bushes I plucked
clean and naked in my mother’s garden,
for if she loved the roses in the garden
so much, she would surely love them better
in a little yellow kid’s bucket
I filled and wrapped with birthday paper
and watched for the surprise,
the everlasting love and thankyous
after she’d blown the cake candles out.

68: coma, interlude 9


my, my father’s, my mother’s,
my brother’s dog, a great
Labrador retriever
goes down the stairs
he’d always feared
like a fat horse.
And then under the sun
I wrap that kindhearted thickness
of him
with my arms
to some (just some) resistance,
then I feel
his muscles under my muscles
relax and I pull him close
to my chest hard,
so hard I want to consume
him, crush him
through the cage of my ribs,
press him so hard
he will never
escape again.
If we could just remember
to hold them harder.

I wake up
with his weight
on my chest
and the muscles
of my arms rigid,
tears in my eyes,
the ghost weight
of him following me
out, but it’s the heaviness
of his never coming home,
his never to appear again,
the vast span of his notness,
the dream so real I could
smell his mouth
and the dog wax of his ears,
and sense against my heart
the diminishment of his resistance,
the soft concession of the powerful neck,
as if in the dream
he was giving me a change
to ask under the sun his forgiveness
for all my mistakes,
for all the words I’d wished I’d given,
for all the time I’d wasted,
for all the fears that had beaten me back,
for all the reservoirs of good self
I’d shoved aside for some dumber
choice, and with the weight of that dog
against my chest and the smell of ears
in my nose and the tickle of his whiskers
on my cheek, I thought of my brother,
and I wish I’d been there,
been there to take the fire for him.
I think, maybe,
the dog would’ve loved me better for it.

67: coma, canto 19 reexamined

canto 19 reexamined

there are inflictions
where the eyes may never
close, because
when closed the eyes
remain lit: imagine
Thor with his hammer
and his lock pick
picking and a car
slowly, on the edge
of his knowing,
pulling outside
the hindrances of light,
meaning into dark
where the guilty hide,
Thor working at the lock
and hearing a click,
turning the knob.

then, later,
he told a story,
the judge working at some sharp thing
in his teeth,
knowing exactly what would happen:

Thor gave the judge
an image of a coyote
with a hat and boots, yes,
in someone’s window.
One night I opened
the window and reached
in and got that sucker
out and put it in my truck
and went home
and showed Lucy.
I said, Look at this.
She said, Look at my face.
The next morning
I went back
with the coyote
and opened the window
of the house
and put the coyote back
in the place
behind the window,
which was a table.
I closed the window
and went back
home, and there was a man
in the living room
talking to Lucy.
He told me,
Did you put my coyote

the judge asked:
so who’s this Lucy
and should we go for her,
too, an accomplice, maybe,
kin, or lover, no matter,
should we go for her,
too, find her where you
keep her, the last thing
for her to hear
the smash of the cage
closing on her back, like you?

no, no, Thor said:
my mother my mother.
And she’d dead now,
dead now.

I read about it all in the papers,
a classic ring broken
by officials,
procedures, bail denied,
suspicions of murder,
other trails Thor
might have brought with him
here, harbored with a hamburger
in his mouth,
as he garbled
out stories of comefroms
and wheregoings
and images of riches
and mirthsomes
of Lucysex
and otherloversex,
while Maricela and her boyfriend,
Cruz, filled in the spaces
Thor’s feet made in the lose
soil of his tales,
all simply an example
of our nights together.

tell us about the tree
again you saw, so much like
Moses’ tree, in the desert,
burning, and I interrupted
and said: that was my tree,
I’m afraid, which, I reminded,
went something like:
under the sun,
a dune out of which a tree
has somehow footed itself
in life, making a life in the sand,
waiting for rain,
a tree soon to understand
perhaps that it hadn’t chosen well
or that a whale one day
may form itself in the sky,
change shape,
drift over the gray mountains,
the tree, which is part
of an image of the future,
urges its hard knees
out of the hot sand
and starts its journey
to find the cloud
and gain knowledge of it.

ah, an analogy,
Cruz said: the tree
being a human,
the tree as everyman.

his image, Thor’s image,
in the paper square
I held, reading,
was neither this nor that
Thor but a Thor
with raging hair,
and the look he gave
was a commonform accusation,
as if my hand had somehow
had a hand in making
him, and that he would blame
me from a small paper square
in the morning paper
which declared him caught,
imprisoned, done for and finished,
shamed before the world.

two days later
two men gave me a list
and I checked this
and this and this
and this and this
and said yes yes and yes
and they asked why had I not reported
the robbery of those yeses
and I told them:
my father was sick
and I had no care
for anything else.

and two days still
after that I opened
the door and there stood
Lucy with tears under her forehead
and a sad mouth
and I asked her
in and closed the door.

66: coma, canto 19

canto 19

Thor came with beer
and a sling hugged arm
and on the evening balcony
he told me about the desert
he remembered
on a drive from an old life
to a new life, here,
where, a beer in his good hand,
he gave an image of a coyote
with a hat and boots, yes,
in someone’s window.

one night I opened
the window and reached
in and got that sucker
out and put it in my truck
and went home
and showed Lucy.
I said, Look at this.
She said, Look at my face.
The next morning
I went back
with the coyote
and opened the window
of the house
and put the coyote back
in the place
behind the window,
which was a table.
I closed the window
and went back
home, and there was a man
in the living room
talking to Lucy.
He told me,
Did you put my coyote

Thor raised his beer
to the sky, to the clouds
coming. He laughed.
I asked him,
Why, why did you
put it back, this strangeness
in the window.
He said it was easy:
because I looked
at Lucy’s face
and Lucy’s face
says things.
You just look at her
and you know that she’s
saying something.

but how do you know
what her face is saying?
You don’t, he said,
you just know it’s saying something.
A face at a distance from understanding
can appear like a dune
under the sun,
a dune out of which a tree
has somehow footed itself
in life, making a life in the sand,
waiting for rain,
a tree soon to understand
perhaps that it hadn’t chosen well
or that a whale one day
may form itself in the sky,
change shape,
drift over the gray mountains,
the tree, which is part
of an image of misunderstanding,
urges its hard knees
out of the hot sand
and starts its journey
to find the cloud
and gain knowledge of it.

Maricela and Cruz
appeared with wine
and picked up on the image
of the tree and the coyote
because for some reason
unexplained Thor
took the coyote
and rested its carcass
beside the tree
and both of them,
the tree and the coyote
. . .
I imagine, said Cruz,
the tree and the coyote
came over a hill
in the desert,
these odd
companions, coming
over a hill,
and they encountered
another hill
where someone
had dropped random stones
or rocks, and the coyote
told the tree:
I think I’ve been here before.

I listened from a chair,
waited for the clouds
to grow closer,
listened as Thor
told Cruz and Maricela
the story of the coyote
with the hat and the boots
in the window
and the man he found
speaking to Lucy,
and again, again,
somehow the coyote
and tree were conjoined.

but where did the tree
come from? Maricela asked.
Yes, the tree,
where did it come from?
Cruz asked.
Thor said:
what tree?
The tree on the dune,
I saw one once,
I said,
and when I saw it
I wondered:
how can such a thing be living?

65: coma, canto 18

canto 18

yes, my father, larger
than life told me
deepsleeping stories,
how the young and the old,
the hairless and bearded,
the thin and the large,
would leave their beds
with images of sleep
in their eyes and in their hands
and in their pockets
and in their bags
and in their stomachs.

the birds would sing.
The stars would blow
golden winds to clutter the heavens
and curtain its widths
across and distort
the blacknesses of time.
The horses with horns
from their foreheads, stomping.
The warm stone tops
in which meditators
reluctantly stood
and walked out.

he said:
I saw absolutely nothing
but with little effort, seated
at his desk with his hands
on the uneven topology of this strange
truth, but giving
some amount of extra breath
to the word nothing
so that absolute
played the roll
of a rising surface,
though not of too much length,
at the edge of which, the word
dropped a small distance
to rest on the ether of meaning
like a great black whale
grown still and waiting
at some oceanic crossroads.

but I don’t know why
it should or shouldn’t matter
but I hear the urgency,
the urgency of your question,
and so I respond,
merely respond
with the truth.
But I do have my own
question, he said:
what does the nothing mean?
What should I do with it?
It’s like a rock in my head.

but I do remember
once seeing, yes, a cross
shape floating over the grass,
some unlikely insect
whose wings I could not see,
this floating insect
crossing my vision,
wingless but winged
and thin as spider legs,
an insect you’d think
would be crushed
by even the lightest breeze,
and I remember wondering:
how can such a thing be living?

outside his office,
I pressed my back
against the wall,
felt the wall
at the back of my head,
feeling my father
at his desk
like a great dark
whale waiting,
like a great cave
wondering at the silence
of absences,
the ponderousness of nothing.

my mother
I saw
clacking the plates
in the washer,
taking a towel
to the wetter ones,
looked at me
through the door to the kitchen
and said:
I’m still waiting
for the edge of the plateau.
I’m still waiting
for him to wake up.

64: coma, canto 17

canto 17

finally it came to be
that after dinner
with my mother and father
my father put the truth
on his desk,
the same desk
at which he’d
expressed his
years of work
with deepsleeping
into published
papers, a book,
at the desk
where, I remember well,
one evening,
he reached for the lamp,
turned it off,
which is as plainly
as I may put it,
leaned back in his chair,
wrapped the long fingers
of his hand into a cup
of longfingered respite
or interlude,
leaned back in his chair
with those fingers
supporting the back of his head,
and said, That ends the day,
with slowness, more space
added between the tones,
providing a heaviness
or profundity to the sunlit hours
and to the labor
that shaped them
and, therefore, a lightening,
a palliate quality to his chair,
to the fingers
at the beck of his head,
to the emancipation of night.

yes, he unrolled
the truth on the desk top
like an old general some ancient map
of forgotten campaigns
hard fought through hot
and stony terrains
where soldiers
departed the fields
lighter in actual weight
with legs, arms, eyes (about an ounce)
where, at night,
dying, resting, or cleaning
their gritty guns,
they’d watch the erratic wing slash
of spasmodic bats against the moon
and dim illuminated
spaces between the stars,
the wing movements
like the brushmarks
of artists madly grasping
for the very notion of the rapid
and for the beauty of speed,
unrolled the truth,
he did, and I watched
his hands; I watched his eyes
as he smoothed
it out, placed heavy
objects on the corners
to keep it in place.

he began with a lie:
I saw all those things
in my sleep: ponds,
rippling waters,
Noah’s beard,
birds under arching,
which is the shape
of their feeding
nigh the lake shore,
Heaven’s gate, yes, I saw,
and Peter there motioning
me to him with the soft
hands of the very long dead.
No, he said:
I saw absolutely nothing.

63: coma, interlude 8


sprang from spora communalus,
but are they related in the wide etymologies
of war, worship, and loss,
breeding in those strange
orchards of words, bursting in those empty
memory marks and sordid other
orthographical and inherited imaginings,
breeding creatures that will walk
the earth round and after years
of labor and love and hating
remeet the solemarks of their origins
and say: Have I been this way before?

when the million bats died in their stony
hibernacula, researchers bore them
out one by one on little withy stretchers,
and the confection sugar G destructans
on their faces and wings
vanished in the airs of morning.

what we share is that we are all mysteries
to ourselves (which is no new thing to say),
and there are more mysteries
to come, enough, I tell Henry,
worthy of our time
and effort and mind.

he calls me an atheist.
You are an atheist, he says.
Thor agrees.
Lucy agrees.
I refuse this to Henry.
I refuse the word, I say,
but call me what you want.

bring to me the image
of wholeness, roundness,
things complete and thus things
broken. When the bats perished,
their million death masks
grinned in the echoing dark,
their silent agony descending
drip by drip into icecold pools,
the world became something less.
I tell Henry: the world is awake
and walking, asking its cousins
the whereabouts of its chiroptera,
all those furry chiroptera I had,
(and all those people, sure,
those people who once lived
in the desert).

the world grew heavier
by one more mystery,
paid for by a million bats.

62: coma, interlude 7


my father knew that
healthy and hale
have ancient roots
in the notion of wholeness,
but he would ask:
what does it mean?
this wholeness of the holy,
this root that goes so deep.
I feel, he would say,
that I’m missing something,
missing something in the obviousness
of things, that in the stone
is something obvious,
that in my shuddersome
hand I’m holding
the image of a bird
who’d winged away years ago,
leaving behind the other image
of its first downstroke for thrust
and lift and the sharpness
of that last touch of its claws
on my palm and that last
look it gave me
on its way away from me forever.

Imelda would say:
seeing the color of the flower
is enough.
Henry would say:
He’s drawing him back,
but he’s using his will to fight.
Cruz would say:
it’s proof, I say, of the infinite.
Maricela would say:
Not at all; it’s proof
of the not infinite.
Thor, with someone else’s
credit card in his hand would say:
God loves you.
Lucy, with her butter hands,
would say: but I do care
that he comes to terms.

my mother, who painted
her flowers, painted a garden
image in greens, yellows,
and sometimes sunbursts
and little red ladybugs on leaves
and purple petals
and muscular gynoecium
and powder pillow anthems
on their slender filaments
with meditative brushstrokes
that reminded me of guitar strumming.
I saw her with a roller.
I watched her roll the roller
in a pan of black
and roller the black
on that dry garden canvas.
She called it:
garden at night.

61: coma, canto 16

canto 16

Imelda showed me
her forbidden places.
The map of these is grand,
spread wide on the table of maps
for pointing to, identifying,
marking with a finger, and from the edges
one can simply stitch on new maps
prohibited only by surface
and time and the weather,
which may move in quickly
and snatch at the corners
of maps, finger them,
pince up and fling them
into the peach trees
or ruining on the grass.

she stayed
for a week at my apartment.
And when she met my father
she asked
about Ovid,
about hospitality,
about Aphrodite,
and he complied
with that wistfulness
of people who remember
what all the keys
open but lack the knowledge
of the motive for opening,
seeking even,
and so they speak
with words made blurry
by fatigue, words
that emerge into the air
and fall slowly like feathers
to the floor,
rest there like bursts
of dust or collections
of mysterious hair
soon by the gentle
hands of window or door drafts
to disappear under the couch.

she showed me dark
places under the sheds and barns.
I watched fish in pools
circle the reflection of the sun.
Imelda took me
by my belt
to where feeds were kept
and where at night
owls would perch
and sleep
and all the while that goose
followed us, waiting
at the bottom
of ladders, at thresholds,
out on the verges of lawns
and orchard paths.
He bites only
when I carry flowers,
she said.

on another day, Henry said:
It’s not right,
it’s not right.
We didn’t go to The Meadows
for hunting.
No, not at all,
I said.

Imelda would wake
early. I found her
with the paper
on the balcony
conversing with the women
with the tulip cup,
planning a lunch,
and when I looked at the women
with the tulip cup
she winked at me.

Henry said, It’s not right.
Imelda said, It’s what God
would want, love, more love,
big hospitality, for she
believed in a positive god.
Paul, Henry said, spoke to the Romans.
He talked about easy things,
conveniences, and fornication
was one of them,
which is true, Imelda said,
who seemed to know Romans,
fornication, she said,
and murder, debate, and boasting.
Covenantbreaking, Henry said,
looking at me, as if I were snapping
my father’s femurs, dishonoring
a past-imparted wisdom,
image, cracking old records
we’d listened to together.
I said, the problem
with Roman’s is that it proves
nothing, I said. My father
and I, we would go over this;
he’d propose a pattern,
say, from this God is manifest.
I would say: it proves nothing
because it’s really amounts to a threat;
Paul produces no reasoning,
I said, that the just
shall live by faith

because there’s no reasoning
of the validity for the just
and the faithless. Imagine, I said,
such a speech in Romans: Paul says:
the just may be faithful
and the faithless may be just.
This would make no sense to Paul.
But one must still be faithful,
Imelda said, to which Henry
could to that agree. We,
she went on, can agree in better
definitions than Paul
brought to the world.
Just, I said, come
with better definitions.
Goose, for example:
waterbird, leg pecker,
protector, not quite
as good as duck for dinner.
Henry said, You’ve
changed the truth of god
to a lie
. I said:
Which is a quote from Romans.

60: coma, canto 15

in Henry’s truck
we crossed the boundary
of the city, which is near
impossible to figure,
crossed a small space
of road and entered
under an archway sign
that said: The Meadows
which is neither meadow
nor not meadow
but acres upon acres
of daffodil, rose, phlox,
apple and peach tree,
and more such trees,
salvia and vinca
and peony and cone flower,
red, purple, catstripe,
banana, dawn sun,
and western sunset
color smears
on lawns cut with strait
cut lanes, geometrically perfect,
and domes of green houses
and low porched and trellised
deck spaces for the sipping
of local wines and the wheaty wares
of brew pubs.

from a chair I watched
a woman whose name
was Imelda carry flower flats
from a ground bed
to a roughwood stall;
half-way from the gathering
to the placing, a goose
with a black face
and black flippers
and two dots on the back
of its neck would waddle
in and bite at the backs
of Imelda’s legs. Imelda,
with her flower flats,
would kick with strange orange
plastic shoes the goose away,
lay her flowers amidst the other
flowers where periodically
a fast cloud of cold steam
would spit a watering water.
I watched Imelda, her
black hair in a long rope
against her spine, go back to the bed,
say something to the goose,
who cocked its face, listening,
and Imelda would hip up
another tray of flowers,
and the goose with the black face
and the black eyes
and the floppity feet
would wapple
and bite at the backs of Imelda’s
legs and Imelda would kick
at the goose and the goose
would wopple to his
place of waiting and wait
and again bite again
and be kicked again,
and would wait and bite
and wait and bite
and listen to the words
of warning Imelda gave him
as if he were trying learn
something or teach something,
grim, treasonous, or portentous.

I sipped my beer, then a wine,
and watched Imelda and Imelda’s
goose work their way through
the morning, and when done,
she swiped her hands,
sat on a chair under a heating sun
and the goose moved to the chair
with a new movement, slower,
with that loamy patience geese
step on with their steppy webs
and stood beside Imelda
and fell asleep.

once I read a story about the art
of being good, a story
about what happens,
about what’s said,
not about what might be
or explanation or what meaning
should come. It can leave the reader
stunned, to watch a goose
fall asleep in the heating sun.

59: coma, canto 14

canto 14

one day
things and places
turned unfamiliar.

my apartment,
the woman I watched
from the balcony
who lived next door,
(taller, she seemed,
and when she raised
a coffee to me
in that peach-colored
tulip, she winked),
the little bottles,
the packages,
the implements
in the bathroom cabinet,
the cans,
bags, and boxes
on the kitchen shelves,
which I shook,
wondering about the rattles,
the globs and mashing
therein, wherein what?
I wondering,
wandering over rugs
that had become
strange languages,
I wondering,
pausing at faces staring
back at me with the blackness
of spiders’ eyes.

and the phones,
and the windows,
and the paintings,
and the notes
I’d written as reminders
of tomorrow’s words and colors
and conversations,
all unanticipatable now.
Such as, Call Mom,
and say what?

Henry called
and said, Let’s go
to the meadow
and walk there
through the flowers
and the bees.
I asked him: what meadow?
We live in the midst
of buildings. We live
above and surrounded
by baking stone,
birds that look
like crippled hands,
and other animals
whose casts of face
and casts of tail
suggest attack
by cornered creatures,
creatures lost, creatures afraid.
And in the sky
soon will come aliens
after us or meteors
hot with speed
and hot with memories
of thoughtless vectors
to pummel our inventions
and our skulls.

the one outside the city,
he said into the phone.
I said, Oh that one,
remembering that outside
of the city there were indeed,
indeed there were meadows
and mountains and other bird
forms, and I remembered
that even in the city,
there were indeed trees
and flowers and dogs
whose eyes threw feathers
at you and stopped
to watch and wonder
with wrinkled foreheads
how tall the buildings
could be, how wide the river
that turned under bridges
could be, how the sky,
birds, clouds, and oft-passing
passenger planes burned
against the silver windows,
and the wind would blow
and the smoke would clear
. . . sometimes.

58: coma, interlude 6


it is often said
requirements are required
of certain holy books:
one is that they
contain utterances
of the deity in a time and place
readers and hearers
know only as dust
between the fingers.
often, it’s said,
epics require this too.

two is that those
utterances may not be uttered
on the most current street,
kitchen, and bathroom,
where, standing sitting or walking,
where the children play
where the workers
turn the turnstile out
where the movie house lights
dim to rest til next night’s
brazen blotting out
of the stunning sky.

three is that all engines
of proof be melted into coins
for distribution of the lenders
and the counters or,
put differently,
we mutter the original
in as many translations
as make original

Henry told me:
your fool arguments against
me are proof
of calling, his calling
to you. You are in the act
of seeking him.

and it’s true, I told him,
yes, I could always
train my eyes away from lightbulbs
casting false light.
I told him: Thor and Lucy,
I tell them: you shouldn’t
use your gun;
use the video games
I gave you under duress
and be happy with those;
but they insist on more,
and the gun they wield
in the faces of clerks
will be their wreckage,
which is just good sense
for me to say and warn.

then you would compare
my belief to a crime,
he said, laughing,
and I laughed too,
saying, no, and moreover, I said,
I once saw a miraculous thing,
at the site of the mountain pond,
the one above us in the mountains,
I, standing at the shore, the sky
perfectly round and blue
above the trees, the surface
of the water of that pond
flat as a sheet of glass,
when out in that pond’s
middle I saw a disruption,
a cracking of that surface,
and I heard a plop,
saw the last sun-hot gem of the jet
spout fall back into place,
because, we know, an object
moving down into the water
will form an opposing spout
formed by cavity and hydrostatics
and implosion, and soon, moments later,
the circles of water came,
driving against the shore grass,
circle after circle from that center
out there in the pond’s center.

it was an eagle bearing an egg,
a balloonist losing his glass eye,
an errant golfer’s unsuccess at par,
a little stone last to fall from the sky,
having lost its way, Henry said,
a nut flung by some flinging tree.

no, I said, it was a rock
I threw. I merely left that part out.

57: coma, interlude 5


all readers and listeners have heard
the moralist moral away on one
of one hundred favorite lessons
and conditions, which may be true,
untrue, fabricated, or conjectured,
and all readers and listeners will
set their timers and wait for news
to come of the moralist’s fall,
shriveling before the videotape
of failed sobriety, while weaving homeward
from their speech declaiming
the horrors of drink.

i read once about the moralist
who, upon exiting the illicit house,
found her ride there on the curb
raised on cinder blocks, and, oh,
how the truths did aggregate in the papers.

one must ether sensor the tongue,
which is a form of knife use,
false self-mutilation;
or one can declare their space
in their measure of the schemes
of things and hope for the best.

my father gave me this quote
over the phone, adventuring lettered recollections:

. . . Surely

the valleys of his footprints
gully the soil where he has been,
leave a mark that forms beneath

the skin of the planet like a bruise.

which is, I said, a form of evidence
of passage over, through, between or toward,
a form of indirection, false valleys and foot marks,
a false skin, no matter, somewhere
in there is evidence of a mistake made,
some malfeasance soon for blaming
not on a blind spot but on some
other power observed only in a memory
of books.

what was his evidence of love who claimed
he loved those he feared or hated;
what was her evidence of care for the naked needy
she watched with distaste from some river’s shore;
what was his evidence of claim
against those from whom he would soon request
remittance or interest or banishment?

we must, one hypocrite says, bring them
into the flock so that they may bleat
like me; we must chop their feet to size
so that they may enjoy my shoe size;
we must teach them the art of belief
because they must enjoy
(if only they knew) my own
measure of comfort
for if I and the unbeliever
were vatted in some airless tank,
’tis I who will learn to breathe,
the other suffocate;
and on the moon’d streets, the unbeliever
diminishes the star light
my skin absorbs,
and I must make their tongues
bleed because the bitterness
in my mouth is hard to swallow.