RED HORSE TRUANCY
Boys who can’t play ball watch a donkey rise out of the lake,
shake off his ragged, grey pelt. Red bells
still around his neck -- souvenirs from his last war.
Put to bed early this same summer evening, a small girl
sees a red horse moving backwards through that picture pinned
above her headboard. The flowered wallpaper also seeps away.
When he yawns, a ghost uncurls from the donkey’s jaws.
The boys, beneath the bleachers, see soldiers
squatting at the lake’s shore rinsing stickiness off their hands.
Across this careless continent, a black window-fan
shushes through rose-scented air where a widow
curls towards death. Her children
flow in and out of her room
They love her the way grown children should
no matter their secrets.
This summer baseball season is late and will last just two weeks.
Trees rush at the sky while deer browse the suburbs,
the way kids, lolling on their porch steps, lick ice cream slowly.
A brother and sister shift the widow in her bed.
She thinks she sees a red horse in the shadow of her dresser,
a small hand holding the reins. The widow remembers
how she’d been both calligrapher and postmistress
when her family was interned in treeless Arizona.
Now she has her own good children and rests in a dark breeze.
Boys scuff the diamond’s dry grasses,
chins down, hands empty. As the pink sky
darkens, twilight’s fog rises from the lake.
The boys and their donkey walk towards a house
where they can smell something cooking,
a sweetness which hovers before explosion
The little girl sighs and twists in her bed. Roses shoot out of
wallpaper and pile up around her as the horse trots back
into his painting with a slim, black-haired rider
clutching her pen, ink, scrolls -- a night- folded flag.
LET ME TELL YOU
about Buddha in the night.
He was at my high school when Linc Russell
splayed me across the smooth
beige table in the chemistry lab.
In the dim light, Buddha shone
over by the sink.
Let me tell you
how that tall man – the one I loved—
was tender when asleep.
But I lived alone, beyond his edges
in a world of green, and late lilacs.
My arms and thin ankles
drifted down streets separate from him,
yet he stretched out within me.
Our city was at war, water buckets
o the steps, soap, blood, rags.
How the roadside Buddha almost dozed off
watching the way the world
kept dying in front of him. It never stopped:
children, soldiers, mothers, sheep.
So many down, stiff as old horses. And others?
Their faces just stopped shining.
at how sleepy this made him.
Sometimes when ku beloved slept
I would almost float within a long, lake-calm moment.
no road, no scum- encrusted steps,
No Buddha tipping over.
IN BLUE WATER
Birds in blue water
the air above
green, gone to butter-pale --
soft as the cloth
laid on his stilled face. Two hands
gentle on that lace shawl
as it’s folded up
for the rest of her life.
That’s one kind of good-bye:
no ambulance roar
and flash, no tipped chair
crashing, no wrenched child
caught in soiled sheets.
The birds skim their blue
water in the hallway’s
skewed painting hung too high
for the ordinary eye.
How she mourns, wishes
she could have loved
with more force than a single
spring flower: pretty, buffeted
then gone. How
she wishes she could have loved
like birds lifting
above a whole year’s garden.
ON RE-READING JOHN BARNIE’S A REPORT TO ALPHA CENTAURI
My friend in Wales, who sees it stark, still lets
a ragamuffin in his garden
to dig and pluck, then shovel up
that snaky nests of worms.
My friend, whose every star of hope
comes and goes without him, walks
those dark slopes
where some brief Eden might appear.
The ragamuffin blossoms her hair,
powders the good, imperfect earth with ash.
Standing knee deep in the broken stream,
she plucks out pieces of watery light.
An intention of crows tell her their one joke:
that they are also made of beauty
From my far-flung chair and window, I watch
her dark hands fling sparks into a tangle of worms.
She is a sliver of spirit, singing off key to birds,
and trying not to poison where she steps.
My friend has written a long letter to his family star,
a book about destruction
in its cocktail dress and narrow, desiccated shoes.
Not everything broken can come green again:
not Eden, not Ophelia’s mind, and clearly
not that woman whose curled body iced over
when the pipes burst in her one apartment
in one city in the one country of Ukraine.
My friend at his desk sets this image aside,
clicks off the lamp, stands at the window where
he can almost see the Black Welsh Hills
adjusting bedding for a frantic, and over-lit sky.
They caught you stumbling down the mountain
with boots full of gold; they spied you
drinking wine beneath the shade tree with your ruby
fingertips, your jade knees and shirt of indigo silks.
On the first, second and third days they looked
for you, Bonanza Girl, little celebrity
wiping down the counter at Pipefitter’s Rest.
You had nothing to tell them; your romance was private.
Next time you be coming down the mountain
you’ll wear coveralls and dust.
No one will care to ask about your picnic,
where you buried those boots, or why
there’s some wild rumor that your baby died.