Hooray for the
fine wind and time
for old movies on TV
James Cagney young
a feather-hatted blonde by his side.
back at the window and
the brisk Canadian wind
in the frantic poplar tree
my mother getting drunk and sad…
her hurts and pains…
with pills for each…
she takes them all.
my strange and native land…
she’ll never cook tonight,
She talks and weeps…
so many yesterdays to grieve…
to worry for…
she does them all.
She’ll never cook tonight.
(first pub. in Red Start, 1987)
Life tenacious—on the slow verge of itself. I give you an image for a flag. Recognize it, I say, to the realization of how things dwindle—the far screen replaying your life, you never changing the lines you are famous for, the last enjambment catching up with you, turning to meet yourself—yourself at bay—swung like a ghost, out and over the enveloping gray dusk—that twilight of words. And you like the feel. You feel like the unfolding wings of a gray butterfly with miraculous span. You float off the night into stars.
It was only a dime to get in if you
were under twelve. And I could pass
if I hunched in, round-shouldered, to conceal the breast-development I always hid self-consciously. Then I would go to the ladies’ room to put
the lipstick on and mascara from
the small red box with the small
black wand. And I would pose into
the flattery of the mirrors until I
found my movie face. Then I’d go
in to the gilt interior of the theatre, ornate, plush-dark, and velvet-hung, where drama led my thoughts away and yearning took my heart along for all my star-touched life—in love with love—and Charles Boyer.
(first pub. in Pearl, 1997)
Why do we get off
I do not know this place
nor any of these people.
What kind of neighborhood
with its houses
of no house-numbers
and its street-names
repeated at every corner.
I thought you knew
I have always followed what you knew.
But there is nothing here,
this old, ghost-town-of-a-place
you seem to remember.
You open a door
and go in
and after a moment
I follow, trusting you,
a false-front house
with fields behind
and the famous tumbleweed
You should have
to make this poem mysterious.
But you are standing there
with lonely welcome on your face,
your arms extended.
what old melodrama
my life was
black and white movies
spliced and edited
half-hearted chase scenes
some lecherous form
settling beside me
but I watched
that young and handsome
behind the flashlight
who could have been
a movie star
he showed the way
to loge seats
plush and deep
laugh through some scenes
weep for others
any sham of a reason
to be here
aching to be discovered
chewing on ticket stubs
in the adolescent dark
Three horses arrive from the east . . . they
silhouette on a line between earth and sky . . .
three riders upon them look in this direction . . .
everyone here stares back at them.
The light is green again and we must pay
attention to traffic and names of streets
and get on with our commuting. There is
not much left of this day, thank goodness.
The horses are in a parking lot. Someone has
put children upon them. Parents walk beside,
holding onto the stiff saddles, the small horses
going round and around in a m monotonous slow
circle. The children want them to gallop.
We are standing in line at The Caballo Blanco.
We are treating ourselves out to dinner.
The smells coming through the doors are
tantalizing. We are dressed up. We look
at each other in our little celebration.
The horses are grazing near fences. No one
is on them. A farmhouse is watching the horses
with its curious dark windows. A single car
speeds past and the horses do not look up.
We are at a drive-in movie . . . the screen
suddenly begins to enlarge until we are
enclosed in it . . . part of a landscape in
a western . . . our car has vanished, and we
are on the horses, riding off into the sunset.
(first pub. in Poetry Depth Quarterly, 2000)
You are my love poem
you funny ballet-dancer
and sad-eyed star
How late you are
to my role
I confuse myself with art
and applaud your performance,
write you a fan letter,
(first pub. in Red Cedar Review