sunny, chilly, the wind brisk but toothless.
March, as March should do, marches on,
winter grudging every degree of discomfort displaced.
On mornings like this I used to walk the railroad tracks
past factories in the low piercing light
kicking up dust, examining the artifacts left by passing trains —
bottles, bean cans, scattered pages of illegible text,
and the occasional leg bone of a vanished
furry animal, hobbled off or eaten whole.
I was looking for anything new, it didn’t matter what.
There would be sudden neighborhoods,
unfamiliar soil, sometimes a pool hall,
a secondhand store,
or a diner. I would sit and imagine
what it would be to live there, to always order
the same lunch, to indulge in idle
ruminations with the help.
In the long, slow afternoons I would watch
them fill the rows of ketchup bottles
on the counter and the tables.
Always filling, never washing.
It occurred to me that at the bottoms
of those bottles lay the remnants of the
Original Primal Ketchup in its few remaining molecules.
I couldn’t guess its age, much older than me.
We can never escape the past,
it is our stuff, our formless substance.
I was a captain of the sky
clouds around my head
like a laurel wreath
eyes fixed on the cresting moon
elbows dancing, and then
in the spark of an instant
lost, all lost,
just a vague memory
until time scrubs the words
from this stone
Trees, drunk with snow melt,
push buds through winter skins,
impatient crocuses bustle from the soil.
Everywhere something stirs,
its long sleep nearly done.
The wind blows without a bite,
birds are on the wing.
Long ago, it was gulls that called.
Now it’s wild geese.
Suddenly, I’m old,
every day a gift;
it was always so
had I but known it.
We put these offerings out
into the blunt nothing of tomorrow,
then wheel about and drift off
impatient to gather more
and all our works and amusements
all delights and suffering
sliding into yesterdays
they will waste until our bones
are no more than a smear
beneath a rubble
until we and everything
known to our kind
have vaporized and seeded the cosmos
and somewhere the light is lifting
and fragments gather into wholes
Shall we meet on some vacation,
Soaked in summer perspiration
Or put it off till August
When the rains no longer dog us
Or shall I look for you in autumn
Seeking out your soggy bottom
Wrapped in leaves of red and gold
While your ass is growing cold
But not as cold as winter’s blast
Be you ever so steadfast
Will you be on some new caper
Despite the freezing vapor
Or, alas! not until spring
Shall I find you on the wing
Pushed along on some tornado
Nearly halfway to Laredo
Whatever is the season
You choose to fry or freeze in
I hope it’s not too long, my lover
Or soon we’ll have to start all over