Returning From Ulster
I took guns across the universe
seeking in revolution the central substance
amid the tears and howling of me—
war, that chimera's ambitious profligate
returned bankrupt to a debtor nation
shell-shocked refugee from the rhetoric of plenty.
The first motion I made on this dock was shaking my pockets free
of insolence, those hard coins spent everywhere.
I need credit here, will vou lend me coat, hat, subway token,
I'm walking everywhere; the world's uncovered.
I have a gun I'll trade for understanding,
it is large caliber, well oiled,
unarguably rare ... not of manufacture but essence: it can
be traced to no one. I'll trade it for An American
understanding of coats, hats, subway tokens,
What you accomplish with the gun is none of my business:
some go in, some go out.
What I accomplish with my understanding is none of your business,
what I put in,
what I take out.
The cold Atlantic air unrolls Emerson's riddle: What have
you ever received that is not of God?
A: Your sins.
Where then, you bloated, smug fiction, did they come from?
Lord, I have plenty,
and I'll trade them straight acrosss for an American understanding,
I'll empty my pockets in your lap
for the Root of it All;
I have seen the big trees, stood under
inconsequential, mind-emptied green vastness,
trunks of grotesque alien simplicity:
I think of my lost ancestors-armor rusted,
skin attacked by fungus,
starving, hymning, praising-
discovery concentrates on the naming of things,
the ever-pushing forward of dark continents to dispel God.
I don't run afoul of ghosts in the city.
I find it impossible to live there
because I cannot hear the night.
Por San Blas la cíguena veras, y si no la vieres, ano de nieves:
No, you won't see
the stork by San Blas. I have prayed for a snow-year
to make these disappearances sane.
Home is blank stone:
Johnny, port arms:
let tellers peak.
Mother, in your mind Lisburn still smells of bread, Belfast of wine, and this dirty suburb of LA holds promise and regeneration. Imagination your servants call down with flattery, replace your dead geranium with silk tea plants, push three black leaves over two green while next-door outlaw bikers crush your hollyhocks and pennyroyal with the stench of gasoline.
The sound the hound gave from its neck chain of steel charms
and the risen laughter of lovers off in the woods
uncorking another champagne
flushed a pheasant,
a bold, gold, scarlet-dappled bomber
rising from the Autumn floor into itself,
connected as it were a strange planet.
The lovers do not know I pass to appraise their making,
they are unhidden, unencumbered;
the man has his mouth to her breast,
he makes a sound like a skate surfacing,
she chirps, head back, mouth drinking the visible land,
the sun in their parts blowing one shadow
Now I unguess the deep hardness of sky,
the dark changes in wood and fragrant softness of the air
swallowed. I am old,
very ordinary, familiar, a common object,
and I never want silence again, ever.
I want the hound, the pheasant,
The Dark Side of Dazzle
She set her children in toy ships to wait out dawn's majestic
laser show, her education as physicist warned her light ages,
kills, penetrates, wrinkles; the children know better and lift
their pale hands over tiny, complete faces, their shadow-tigers
Devour three squirrels. They laugh, they shout "We're hungry!"
She gives them bread from packages and a man advances from
shrubbery to take what is fallen. The children fire crusts at his head,
morsels hang in his curls, his sparrow-brown beard. "Thank you,
children," he sings them no reason for alarm,
he laughs with them, pushes bread through oily hair to his wet, dark
The morning hesitates, the light quickens, he chews. He has a knife
Deep in his pocket, a big bras thing with stag handles, carbon steel
blade forged to keep its edge striking bone. "Stop it," the woman scolds
her toy ships, squirrels, the cold red sun. She says nothing else. She
folds herself on the bench,
blood drips through oak slats like juice from a grill.
"What are you doing!" shout the children. The sparrow man
has her purse, draws three lipstick stripes down his forehead.
He gives them reasons: "Sshhh! I'm buying
you ice cream." The woman
holds this vision until he walks away from the toy ships, stropping
wet steel against his thigh, whistling. The children
lose interest, drowse,
tiny stomachs full of bread, waiting for ice cream.
The sun is up, striking everything reached with tardy fury.