March 17, 2017

An Elegy for My Grandmother's House, at the Occasion of Its Sale

the hall is warmer and longer than it
ever will be again, and I race, I hide,
I laugh myself into the long memory
of this house. The closet is a coffin
entombing dark coats, and in my fear
I fall asleep with arms around my
knees outside my grandparents’
bedroom. In the day, the kitchen
is small and made for applesauce
and beets and jelly sandwiches.
We ride a horse named Twister
around the world several times
over, only to find that he is a fraying
butterscotch-colored couch and
less prone to galloping than
we originally assumed.

the ball arcs past the drainage ditch,
and tall grass itches against my legs
as I leap. The sewer tunnel disappears
into unspoken darkness, and our
duskbathed bodies flee from the
warm windows toward the garden
and the locked-up magic of the
shed. The wonder is in our lungs.

the grown-ups tell old stories
across the dining room table, but
the laughter of the basement is
all for us. The disused bedrooms
are stacked high with everything
we could need, with an unsolved
mystery stored in the cabinets
behind the blue drape. The laundry
room creeps far backward into
shelves of preserved fruit and
canned soup, and we grow up
before we dare to venture all the
way back on our own. I sleep
in the big bed alone, and my
grandfather’s breath passes
through a dark glass in
the next room over.

the rain floods the yard, and the
bird fountain becomes a waterfall.

the clock chimes, and I walk past the
dark piano and the dark glass table,
watching the streetlight fringe the
blinds. The desk lamp illuminates
the residue of my grandfather’s
breath in the quiet midnight room,
and the clock chimes. I choose my
favorite mug from the cupboard
and drink a glass of water in the
big night kitchen, smelling the
residue of Thanksgiving turkeys
and chocolate cakes in the gentle
air. Grandmother, you will not
remember this kitchen, but this
kitchen will remember being
nurtured and worked by your
aching and tireless hands.

the nightlight casts blues and
greens and eerie reds upon the
bathroom walls, and I am
under the covers at last, I am
holding this place in my mind.
Grandfather, I hope you are
smiling to yourself, because
the footsteps of your children
echo in these rooms, falling in
pleasant places, running toward
a good inheritance; and the only
louder sound is laughter.

fireflies weave through the warm fabric
of storms, and a train whistle is
a lonesome caller dialing an old friend.
A thousand feet above, the bloodshot
eyes of radio towers wink knowingly
at planes. I call my friend from
the driveway, and we talk of
summer freedoms. Later
I stand beneath the window
four feet from the corner where
electric light dyes the concrete
tangerine, and I watch elm trees
play with the flashing jagged fire
of storms. I hope you are sleeping
soundly, grandfather; I hope you
are smiling to yourself, because I
am looking to the heavens, and
even at three-o-clock this morning,
I see nothing there but light.

January 31, 2017

The Thanatos Quartet

Part I: The Spectator
I see the glory
of your blood run dry by circled
sands. This Roman sun is brighter
than fires tended in caves. It must
blister for the hunger in the looker’s
grin. I look too, in my hungry
disguise. Will you bleed for me?
I am a lion too, and I will not
look away. These stones are meant
to bottle your pain, and your death
will fossilize in them even after
the church-makers cart them off
as steeple blocks and cornerstones.
This is a temple to your futile
thrashing in mortal tides, and I
am sick from my wants to worship
in it once again. Will you bleed
for me? I will not look away.
I will be entertained.

Part II: Monsieur de Paris
I see the glory
of your rising up and your falling down.
You play as Jeanne d’Arc in her fire:
you tremor, you ascend, and in your play
you make the cosmos bat its speckled eye.
The people sing, the people reign, the gardens
of the king wither in your sun. I see the
terror of your rise, I see your blood in the
soupy gutters sloping for the river. Two free men
dance in the ruins of your rise; pay them
no mind, for now, but wait your turn. Wait
in cells, in the heart of your executioner
as in the hearts of all men. I am your blade,
I am your death, I will make my own
rivers in the streets. I will make you remember
the boils and sprays. I will leave those
who raised me looking for their heads.
I will divide you. You will see the glory
of my rising up and my falling down.

Part III: The Star-Givers
I see the glory
of our realm and of our furnaces.
Into these chambers we welcome
the hungry and the weak. Into these
dens we invite young and old.
A million of your names inscribed
on pitied walls – I tell you, not a
million, but seven times a million.
We make infant eyes churn and
crisp and sweat little tears for their
truncated sliver of history. Go forward,
inscribe these unflowered stares on
the wall with the rest: a mausoleum
for the generation stitched with the
thread of stars. The charnel needle
must not yield, and your ash rises.
Your smoke tastes like an ivory
palace in our lungs, like a new
kingdom under a white sun.

Part IV: The Angel of Death
I see the glory
of none of you. I see the lions’ walls
crumble and the rising blades dull. I see
those who sew stars embalmed in lakes
much hotter than star-fire. I see their
kingdom perish while the names on the
walls live on like unquenchable suns.
I bend my wings through cathedral
alcoves and mud-pits marshy with blood
rills and pulped bones, and you will feel
my feathers sing, you will hear the triumph
of my keeper’s return; you will see the glory
of his rising up and his rising up. You will hear
the chords of seraphim, the voice of dreams,
the arcing aching song from the oldest
dream, the slumbering vision that rhymes
with the wind and the sea and the mountains:
Joseph and Mary will look for their child
among the dead, and he will not be found.