It is almost midnight.
If this was Seoul, the Hilton,
I could walk down the hill
to Namdaeman Market
and wander around the shops
the smell of the city, of pigs heads
simmering in giant caldrons,
fish lying on beds of melting ice
and look at silk and stainless
flatware, watches and celendon
casting its faint green glow
in the fluorescent night,
but it is Virginia and there is
only a 7-Eleven four miles
down the road where I can
pick up a Diet Pepsi
and Hostess Blueberry pie
and stand at the counter
where the County Sheriff
stands talking to the owner
while browsing the Penthouse
magazine kept behind the counter
for long spring nights when
there is little traffic along route 7.
First published in The Iconoclast, Vol. 47 (1998)
Fourth floor, Antwerp Hilton,
night encasing the Schelde,
ragout of boar and claret
slowly regurgitating, I pause
ancient words, stutteringly said,
hand on my head a shoddy cover
two parts of eight fully remembered
one section only in part,
turning East or a best guess.
I ask nothing, or perhaps too much
it is hard to know, CNN International
offers no clue, no guidance,
head bowed, knees bent
the carpet has a burn hole,
Ani, I am, I do hear
I always hear, now rest
and share my peace.
First Appeared in Oasis: A Literary Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 2, October-December 1997.
In the end, it always comes down to night,
regardless of the moon, if any, it’s faint light
drowned by the city’s oppressive glow,
headlights, streetlights and once,
spotlights painting the sky, traceable
down to that new place we don’t wish
or can’t afford, would never dare to go.
Death is omnipresent, his shadow is at least,
but at night he has greater freedom of movement
his reaches longer, less random
and we claim not to fear the night, the sun
assumes we mourn its absence, and this
is true at some level beyond our comprehension,
but it isn’t the dark, that is their origin and
destination, it’s the hour at which we
cede control, and that, like the roller-
coaster in freefall, is what we so deeply fear
My uncle and I would sneak away
from the seemingly endless party,
no one wanted to attend and couldn’t leave.
We go up to my room and turn on the radio.
He’d want to look for the Senators game,
but they’d left town and
no radio could pull in Minneapolis anyway,
but despite Killebrew, Arbitron sealed their fate
and this was Yankees country as well.
I try to pull in C H U M from across the lake.
It played music the local DJs wouldn’t touch,
in which never found their constrictive playlists,
provided by dad’s pal, the local rack jobber
come self-assumed all label A&R man.
Still, Mel would listen with me until he was missed
then try and sneak back to the party, while I
listen Don into the night, hearing songs
I have to hunt for at the record store,
for one thing I knew was that it didn’t
have a section marked Canadian Content Rule.
We can sit for a time, and speak
of our pains, how they cause us
to stop and look inward while the world
proceeds on it’s axis, in a slow march
through time and space, and we
share the anger and anguish
of our too fallible bodies which
time reclaims in slow progression.
We do not pause and cast eyes
on the egrets, heron and ibis returning
for the night as the retreating sun
paints the clouds in colors known
best to flames consuming all,
to wings flapping as perches are
taken adjusted, as conversations
are continued while night settles
slowly over the preserve, the birds
marvel at how we allow ourselves
to be absent from the simple
beauty of the world that surrounds us.
As the last
of the wine glasses
is put back on the shelf
the Brut recorked
and the dishes set
in the tray to dry
we take a slow walk
after the meal
hoping the arrabiatta sauce
will be less angry,
the pasta less weighty,
when we arrive
back home to the sofa
and the purring cat
distracting us from
the beckoning of the bed.
The night fully settles
over northern Minnesota
in the sky grows dark
as the stars make
their reluctant appearance.
Peering through the tall grasses
of the wetlands abutting the road
1000 stars are born
and die in an instant
only to be reborn again
they are replaced by
the beetles that accompany
the slowly rising sun.
Coyote no longer inhabits the hill south of our city. Yet we know he is there, staring down at the lake, watching the grape clusters fatten on the vines. We cannot see the orange-red orbs of his eyes on a still winter night. We know he sees us. Coyote cannot be found, no carcasses attest to his presence. Coyote is everywhere, walking among us, living in parks, living in plain sight, knowing he is invisible. We see his tricks, know we were once again outsmarted, know we can outsmart him. Coyote no longer inhabits the hills here, for he has morphed, and we are coyote.
We sit on our lanai, which
the birds will tell you is
the backyard of their preserve
and watch the sun bid
its blazing farewell to this day.
The birds begin their scheduled
return, ibis in groups,
the self-declared top guns
flying in hot and flat, only
dropping their arrestor hook
as the approach the deck.
The egrets fly in solo
carefully circling, then
extending their landing gear
until they gently alight
and await their next mission
which will come with dawn.
Through it all the anhinga
perch on the bare branches,
offering their direction, happy
to play air traffic controller,
but the limpkins find
my whole metaphor foolish
and too loudly let me know.
I could never understand as a child
why the moon was female,
the sun always male, and most
stars but ours had Arabic names.
Now makes much more sense to me,
the moon is never one to hog the sky
and even when she commands more
than her usual space, you only want
to stare at her in rapture,
while the sun is so vain
you can stare only briefly
and must look away, and he
is as likely to hide or flee
when he is most wanted,
as a calming, steady presence.
As for the names of all the others,
they don’t sound like ours,
and so we cast them off
as aliens to our small, smug world