The old country

They say in the old country
that lighthouses are for keepers;
better make your own way.
They say eyes are like knives piercing your heart;
better stay low and move fast.

They say in the old country
that hopes are like lovers;
better check your promises.
They say dreams are fragile
and fall from heads like autumn leaves;
better watch your step.

They say shelter is for beggars;
better nail your secrets to the wall.

Occasionally, in winter

Occasionally, in winter
I take a turn into some vast space
–an empty parking lot, a parade field–
shorn of summer frippery

and I’m there again, there
where each single blade of grass vibrates,
where every grain of sand trembles
and the sun,

terrible in its wintry beauty,
fights back the clouds,
never mind their insistence
on seasonal priority.

Hard to stay home on such days,
all the triviality of existence
concentrated in a mote of dust
poised by the window,

ready to make a run for it,
unaware of the relentless
inescapability of it.

Oil, water

I’m oil, life is water.
I’m a stain on the tarmac,
a slick spot to catch fate unawares.

I’m not the doer, but the done;
not the message, but the voice,
modulated by frequency or amplitude,

not so much indifferent
as bemused, not unaware
but naked in a world of secrets.

Sky and water

Water and sky indecisive,
light flitting around corners,
thunder mumbling curses,
a low energy kind of day

I recall a day exactly
like this, so long ago,
when we walked between the drops
to the 10th Street Pool Hall

to lay our fortunes down
on the Steepleton tables,
greener than any pasture,
leather pockets yawning.

Entire lives were spent
and measured in racks of nine;
I still hear the clack
between the thunder claps.

In the end, we walked out the door
pockets empty, hearts full,
into the long shadows
of the waiting sullen universe.

A sailor’s epitaph.

Rest, you say, in peace,
rust away in peace!
All I ever did was rest into pieces;
I’m dead of it.

I know, I know, too late,
the clock has struck
and my mortal wisp is doomed
to eternity, slowly descending
into elemental
entropic stupor.

But even Achilles, brave Achilles,
would rather have risen and returned
as chattel than rule over
those resting in peace.

I want trouble to get out of,
love to fall into, happen to stance,
luck to stroke, good or bad,
it’s all the same to me.

If I’m doomed to rest,
let it be fitful, at least, full of
desire unquenched, fortune
unclaimed.

All these trials, these wounds,
are closer to heaven
than moldering nothing
without light or darkness,

changeless.

True death is the
timeless, the changeless,
the big zero.