In honor of National Poetry Month, The Thread is introducing Poetry Fridays. Each Friday in April, we will publish a selection of poetry from local independent publishing houses Graywolf Press, Coffee House Press and Milkweed Editions.
Five-Day Present for Aunt Ollie
Having traveled together I was late, a
satchel full of purpose, stolen attempts
disrupting rooms and waking thought
with miscellaneous trips outside; in real life
I had no passport and you had no phone.
We relied on the little one to bring us
home, the beard drove his car
through an elevator and up, I was
late, and they would not wait for me.
There are people inside their blue houses.
April, a light on for most flowers.
March: I wasn't ready. The lamp like
a well, particle blushing rooms and
an important blue something-else in your
mind, maybe plaid, maybe a blanket making
the lots faced daily any easier to bear
I was there, I was plain hearted with a home
beneath the states that I put on, the sky
setting itself on fire. All these books,
they're too much! I'll not read them, no!
Let's send them back to the woman
who wrote them. I was eating breakfast
with my father when the news came
on, the walls were green, we were
having eggs. So many times we're
thrust upon ourselves and so what?
Well I was sleeping, then woke to the
cluttered sound of an old pine hitting the
garage, it was at once spectacular and
bad, as if ways of seeing were named
after a woman without sounding, or if
windows could buy themselves
outright, before centuries—I'd gladly
pay for the whole world to see
what could be done for elegance on
walls of different colors. Novel forms
are over but doubling back on the day
I found patterns. You were of the pattern
on the wind, it fell into our rooms
Elegy with a Darkening Trapeze Inside It
The idea turned out to be no more than a cart wheel
Stuck in mud, & unturned fields spreading to the horizon while
Two guys in a tavern went on drinking tsuica & recalling their one
Accomplishment in life—the seduction of a virgin on the blank
Pedestal of a statue where Stalin had once stood.
The State is an old man's withered arm.
The only surviving son of Jesus Christ was Karl Marx.
You can tell by the last letter of his name,
Which has the shape & frail balance of an overturned cross
On a windswept hillside. It marked the end of things.
Of lumber that rots & falls. The czar is a shattered teacup,
The trouble with a good idea is that it has to work:
The only surviving son of Jesus Christ survives now
Mostly in English departments & untended graves.
One thing he said I still remember, a thing that's never there
When I try to look it up, was: "Sex should be no more important . . .
Than a glass of water." It sounded vaguely like the kind of thing
Christ might have said if Christ had a sense of humor.
The empty bar that someone was supposed to swing to him
Did not arrive, & so his outstretched flesh itself became
A darkening trapeze. The two other acrobats were thieves.
My colleague Otto Fick, who twenty years ago
Wrote brilliant lectures on the air, sometimes
Would pause & seem to consult notes left
On a podium, & then resume. A student once
Went up after class to look at them & found
Only a blank sheet of paper. Nothing there.
"In theory, I believe in Marx. In fact, my wife
Has to go in next week for another
Biopsy. Fact is disbelief. One day it swells up
In front of you, the sky, the sunlight on everything,
Traffic, kids on surfboards waiting for the next
Big set off San Onofre. It's all still there . . . just
There for someone else, not for you." This is what
My friend Otto told me as we drove to work.
I worked with men in vineyards once who were paid
In wages thin as water, cash that evaporated & rose like heat.
They lived in rows of makeshift sheds the owner hauled
Into an orchard too old to bother picking anymore,
And where, at dusk, a visible rushing hunger
Raced along the limbs of the trees surrounding them.
Their kids would watch it happen until a whole tree would seem
To vanish under it. There were so many of them.
By then the rats were flying over a sickening trapeze of leaves
And the tree would darken suddenly. It would look like brown water
Rushing silently & spreading everywhere
Before it got dark anyway & the kids went in.
"There was more rats in there than there was beads on all the rosaries of the dead.
We wen' to confession all the time then 'cause we thought we might disappear
Under them trees. There was a bruja in the camp but we dint go to her no more.
She couldn't predict nothing. And she'd always cry when you asked her questions,"
A woman said who had stayed there for a while.
Every revolution ends, or it begins, in memory:
Someone remembering her diminishment & pain, the way
Her scuffed shoes looked in the pale light,
How she inhaled steel filings in the grinding shed
For thirty years without complaining once about it,
How she might have done things differently. But didn't.
How it is too late to change things now. How it isn't.
Consumers in RowboatWayne Miller
The consumers have fallen in love—
they drink up their wine,
they slip into bed, where they tangle their hands.
Out the window the dogwoods are tousled with blooms,
big smudges of white.
In the morning, the consumers
work in the yard—he splits logs,
she paints the gate—
consumers in love in their house on the street
where the newspaper slaps like a hand to the stoop
(while they lie in their room
fearing death, fearing loss).
The consumers read books
late at night in their bed—
they don't speak of themselves in the way that we do—
they think of their lives as backroads to drive,
novels to write,
long hills to slide down.
The consumers imagine their voices as minds,
their words as their thoughts.
The consumers keep speaking
into their world,
their sentences foghorns propelled through the dark;
they're speaking and speaking
by choosing their markets,
the world passing through them
as though they were filter
(the world made of meals, nice liquor, and music).
We're here to remind them:
be good consumers,
remember your debt, the economy needs you—
you'll carry it forward
like a boat to the water;
one day you'll go rowing.
The consumers will anchor the oars in the oarlocks,
they'll steer themselves out
on a lake in summer:
consumers in love beneath double-arch bridges,
their profiles splashed
to the light-dappled surface—
too distant from us to have meaning.