TRANSISTOR RADIO, CIRCA 1975
the current connects us, crackling just the same
for the widow nibbling toast at her tiny kitchen table
and the boy pressing hard against the tin
through the pillow for the din of extra-inning baseball
or the song about the songs in which somebody done
though she has never squinched her face
after tongue-to-tip contact with nine volts,
and he has yet to taste the deeper sour regrets
also housed within that miniature case.
meanwhile, on the eights, men and women of letters
make anagrammatic praise in angelic high harmony
collecting union wage
as a brilliant summer storm electrifies the airwaves —
though lightning, like love, moves faster than the brain.
keep a count for the thunder.
I used to love days in school when we’d go to the library
and read All Hour.
But once, during my first year of teaching, I took my students here
and told them to check out a book
and read All Hour
and they looked at me like I just told them to drink paint.
It made me feel like I had invited all my friends
to my 9-year-old birthday party to play Oregon Trail
and eat cheese pizza
and ride bikes,
but they thought those things were dumb.
They thought I was dumb.
I want kids to feel the way I feel about this place.
(And more and more, I see that they do).
I can be filled with angst at the mounting piles
of critical essays on the
motivation of John Proctor in Act 4,
the symbolic meaning of the Green Light,
or who really is to blame for the deaths of
poor old Romeo & Juliet,
but when I come here, those papers,
as well as all of my other oh-so-important concerns,
swim away to the back of my consciousness.
I sit in the rocky wooden chairs
(which anticipate the trajectory favorable to 9th grade boys),
and the plagues of my life dissolve into nothingness
as I take on the lives of my book friends.
And although they can’t play Oregon Trail
or eat cheese pizza,
they think I’m awesome.
HOPE AND DETERMINATION
Had I been born with less Norwegian blood
I may have lived a little harder, drank a little more.
More often and blisteringly
Had gotten my proofs and theorems out of my body
While they would still be heard ..
Now I sometimes overcompensate
Braying at others in the manger of my ivory tower
But when I listen carefully, and I do
I shine in other’s eyes a way I like.
WISH YOU WERE HERE
I think of you
while your face, like a mirage, dissipates
between the blue waves of the sea
and the blue of the sky.
I close my eyes,
and feel your hands caress me.
I haven’t yet forgotten,
I haven’t yet forgotten the feeling of you.
The memory of us is strong,
prompting me to dig my toes into the water line,
while I lay on this hot sandy bed.
My cheek lying on the sand,
I inhale the scent of salt and suntan lotion
mixed with the sweat on my skin.
Warmed by the sun,
my mind warms up to the memory of your body.
I lay suspended between an image and a memory,
listening to the waves and the sounds around me.
Your image trapped between my eyelashes,
held hostage as I am by the thought of you.
I look at the line that divides the sky from the sea,
you from me, here from there…
I wish you were here.
THE WAR COMES HOME
The war comes home to me
albeit via eavesdropping
still it does come home
in the Dome in section 118, row 30, seat 22
during a Twins game, June 15, 2007.
Right next to my rear
in the seat just behind
with his blond curly knees
nearly on my shoulders
up to my ears almost
sits a soldier of the war
Norseman in guise and proportion
He is mighty of aspect
a Thor, thoughtful in cast.
Delicate golden wire-rims
SOP tattooed, stencil-font letters
boldly from wrist to, I suppose, shoulder
his tee-shirt sleeve cutting off the remainder
As I see it only obliquely
I can’t read its text though it is brazen
Unlike him, as yet unweathered.
He’s with a date
much younger, pretty and petite
Oddly so — an a-go-go throwback,
hair retro doo-ed, make-up to kill
dressed in a sheath (a dress to a game?)
Later I am told the style
has been returning.
He doesn’t much follow the game
she explains the plays
but then he has his own stuff to say
First just about his newly placed earring
its piercing, a wound still badly healing.
He has had other wounds too
Though not available to view
Shattering ones by their sound
He is recently freed from
months of medical interventions.
He goes on about his recent life
on both fronts: Iraq, Afghanistan
a few times over
He is heavy duty Special Forces.
The real thing.
He has seen it all and starts saying it
in a deadpan delivery
Any affect too much for him
or was he incapable of it?
I gather what I can
The crowd’s sounds waxing
What I do hear is startling
I can tell she’s stunned too.
Action and death And impossible situations
Deeds done no matter what.
But it is of the death that stops it all
Two buddies, by the sound of it very close ones
One gone as ghastly as it can go — right by his side
In still steady tones he details the other’s dying
just matter of fact.
Slowly and close it took all night long
and though coaxed
he expires in his arms.
I am in tears
Her cheeks too are wet
Her eyes lost to this awe and awfullness
her breath held.
I turn. I offer him my hand.
You’ve seen some shit I say
He says that true and never old litany
You know it is not political
We do it for our pals.
Enough has been said
We all go back to the game.
THE FIELDS SLIPPED BY
The fields slipped by
all muted browns and greys,
ragged with cornstalks,
stitched together by lines
of black earth and dirty snow.
A timid sun peeked cautiously
through colorless clouds,
then hid from the whining wind.
If I squint, the browns and greys
blur and become moire silk.
My grandmother had a dress like that.
It whispered when she walked.
She was beautiful,
all muted browns and greys,
ragged with time,
stitched together with threads
of other peoples lives.
A quiet woman saying little,
letting grandpa do the talking,
going about her own business.
My mind squints, her features
blurr and become mine.
All I need is a silk dress
that whispers when I walk.