If you are lucky in this life,
you will get to help your enemy
the way I got to help my mother
when she was weakened past the point of saying no.
Maxine, back from a weekend with her boyfriend,
smiles like a big cat and says
that she's a conjugated verb.
She's been doing the direct object
Sometimes I wish I were still out
on the back porch, drinking jet fuel
with the boys, getting louder and louder
as the empty cans drop out of our paws
The season turned like the page of a glossy fashion magazine.
In the park the daffodils came up
and in the parking lot, the new car models were on parade.
Cold wind comes out of the white hills
and rubs itself against the walls of the condominium
with an esophogeal vowel sound,
and a loneliness creeps
into the conversation by the hot tub.
We don't deserve pleasure
just as we don't deserve pain,
but it's pure sorcery the way the feathers of warm mist
keep rising from the surface of the water
to wrap themselves around a sculpted
clavicle or wrist.
It's not just that we are on
the eighth story of the world
looking out through glass and steel
with a clarity of vision
in which imported coffee and
a knowledge of French painting
but that we are atop a pyramid
of all the facts that make this possible:
the furnace that heats the water,
the truck that hauled the fuel,
the artery of highway
blasted through the mountains,
the heart attack of the previous owner,
the history of Western medicine
that failed to save him,
the successful development of tourism,
the snow white lotions that counteract the chemistry
of chlorine upon skin—our skin.
Down inside history's body,
the slaves are still singing in the dark;
the roads continue to be built;
the wind blows and the building grips itself
in anticipation of the next strong gust.
So an enormous act of forgetting is required
simply to kiss someone
or to open your mouth
for the fork of high-calorie paté
someone is raising to your lips,
which, considering the price,
it would be a sin
not to enjoy.
November like a train wreck -
as if a locomotive made of cold
had hurtled out of Canada
and crashed into a million trees,
There are people who do not see a broken playground swing
as a symbol of ruined childhood
and there are people who don't interpret the behavior
of a fly in a motel room as a mocking representation of their thought process.
Then one of the students with blue hair and a tongue stud
Says that America is for him a maximum-security prison
My marriage ended in an airport long ago.
I was not wise enough to cry while looking for my car,
walking through the underground garage;
jets were roaring overhead, and if I had been wise
I would have looked up at those heavy-bellied cylinders
and seen the wheelchairs and the frightened dogs inside;
the kidneys bedded in dry ice and Styrofoam containers.
I would have known that in synagogues and churches all over town
couples were gathering like flocks of geese
getting ready to take off, while here the jets were putting down
their gear, getting ready for the jolt, the giant tires
shrieking and scraping off two
long streaks of rubber molecules,
that might have been my wife and I, screaming in our fear.
It is a matter of amusement to me now,
me staggering around that underground garage,
trying to remember the color of my vehicle,
unable to recall that I had come by cab—
eventually gathering myself and going back inside,
to get the luggage
I would be carrying for the rest of my life.