How must those Greeks have felt
four hundred years before
Backwards walking, forces by,
sucked into the old black O.
Above them a baby crying for a star.
Why didn’t hemlock change the time?
What kept the earth from cracking
when that great heart exploded?
What kept loving eyes to earth
and hope so ordinary
three days after?
Did not one of them turn,
hearing his name
touched lightly on the shoulder?
Or was it just time and time
growing cold as a corpse.
First, build a fire.
This will be difficult for you
As you have never built one.
In fact, you may not have built anything.
But it must be accomplished,
For that is Step One.
Use the wooden bed of your loved one-
Waste is sinful and she is finished with it.
Besides, if you don’t use it, someone else will.
It is shocking that you allowed her to rest for so long
What do you mean, where are the matches?
Where is your flint? Your steel?
Where are your rubbing sticks?
Stop crying and use these bones-
They are clean and smooth and will
Produce friction if used properly.
Tinder? Of course we have it.
Here is the most Holy Bible Word of God.
We worked backwards
Through the dragons and the beasts and the sealed gates,
Through the miracles, the laws, the wars, the begats,
So if you see “Word the was beginning the In,” immolate and disappear
Know you won’t be able to try again.
I praise this fire though it cannot warm me
But it will boil water which is plentiful.
Two rivers flow with sewage and the dead
But ice falls from the sky and we catch it
Like desperate children at the last snow of the world.
Don’t let the fire go out!
What are you doing listening to me?
The water is boiling and we are at Step Four.
Take off your shoe,
And ease it slowly into the water,
Being vigilant about the boiling.
It is important that it continues
As long as possible
For tannic acid and cow urine
Are unpleasant for the educated plate.
And leather stains are poisonous.
I cannot keep track of the steps anymore.
All I can tell you is that late into the process,
Late into the night, the shoe changes shape,
And develops wings
At this point, lift it from the water,
As we did, in wonderment,
And place it on a silver server from the Czar,
Dollop it with sour cream crowned with
Chives, rosemary and coriander
And eat it, yes, eat your shoe.
And wonder if delusion will enable you to eat
Your children tomorrow.
I lied to you about the silver server, the sour cream,
The chives, the rosemary, the coriander,
But that is all.
And this is what we did and had to do,
To save this city for you
To walk around in your leisure
Wearing that tangerine shirt of thick brushed silk.
It’s the tv camera of herself
saying to herself,
“Focus. This is
real now. This is really. . “
What is the news again?
Two months later, looking out the window
of the gift shop where she’s working,
a small boy’s walk takes on a temporary halt
as he regains his balance
in the Christmas crowd, and she turns
with recognizing breath and hurries
to the bathroom swallowing and then running
water over grief.
And now: a tightening in the chest when old men
bend against the hour.
(Those last two years that aged him backwards
to an alien, mute child, when they were over,
she grasped at the final news, squeezing it
It doesn’t matter
It doesn’t matter.
I slowed it down
the parade of fuzzy light
from the window
to the oiled floor
its milky tautness held me drowsy
And the little specks of dust
wandering like shoppers
up and down the galaxy.
I slowed it down
until not even the dust moved
And I could not even
clap my hands.
only the sound of the forest building
up and falling back down again falling
down and building back up
again an animal starts
in the brush
The morning rain changed everything
and now the mayfly ponds are filled
with winter’s clouds and babies.
Mothers stand nearby and laugh at soggy shoes —
for one day of the year at least we’re charmed.
But everywhere, reminders of the process,
brown phantoms haunting this green picnic,
anachronous as old men at a love in, they scrape
along the tops of tender grasses
and are gathered by the winds to mother’s feet,
now enraptured with her newborn buds.
No matter how quiet I make myself
I cannot disappear in this forest.
There is glowing in the dark—
A low-browed animal in Olduvai Gorge
stares at the eyed night
and blows repeatedly on the spark
of her own name.
Inside her warming brow is exhilaration
as from a particular fever.
Suddenly she feels the surface of the earth.
When both of us were twelve
we went to see the silent King of Kings
upon a sheet across the altar
of a nameless church —
the one that gave us half a Bible
with Jesus’ words in red
printed on that thin important paper.
(We held a page to light and read it
back to front at once).
It was directly after that I had my first real change of heart.
Outside, the sky had turned to crimson
and trees began to look like metaphors of greed.
Soon we were walking faster than we realized,
in step with our own breaths.
I turned to find your face to break the spell
but saw a shadow there
and then a nightmare canter caught my body
and I ran with you behind me, running
from the fear’s edge spreading stain.
We flung ourselves upon your mother’s porch,
the sky had dried to brittle black.
We laughed —
like winter’s dying branches crack.
From Oregon, you wrote that you had seen him
nailed across a million living trees.
And still you fled him,
on your knees this time,
his robes dissolving in the greening rain
that blurs this edge of death.
My older heart still wonders,
which is better?
Doomed and silent in his shades of grey
or cut with typeface edge in red
in shapes that look the same
from back to front, held to the light
by secret-seeking children,
scared to death?
The mother being dead, the girl-child coming
home in dark, to this house,
A hard lump in the throat of night.
Her father driving, automatic
as his gear box, as his beam light
draped in black silk.
The night is like a black dress,
rhinestones unstrung, falling.
Swallowing the dark, the house sits
like a mourner with the word,
and girl-child goes straight to bed
but lies knot-wise in tree, the blankets tucked
all wrong by father’s
large, lost hands.
Sleep, that weeping aunt
and girl-child sees her mother
in a city of stone.
There is an errand all
dressed up - a bouquet
of pale flowers. There
is something of importance
to be done.
A dream stick rattles on the fence.
And she awakens truly
silent now, her open mouth is filled
with night’s wet earth.
Her father’s come to put her in his bed -
and girl-child feels the house lay its long gasp to rest
and fill itself with sighs
Observe: how we grow up and say good-bye,
unwieldy in our rented trucks.
It’s never been more obvious:
the randomness, in spite of offspring, checkbooks,
thickening in the middle.
Was this the promise that kept me alive
when I was a child?
Lord, it’s really neither flesh nor bone,
but involuntary, eddying motion
trickling from a dynamo
that’s running some far city.
You walk into the lungs of night
coughing like somebody’s father,
the cab light takes your picture.
In six hours the dawn will find your face
and lose it, bone by bone,