“Things are tight, ” the man
said, tightening his
“We can’t give you a
job, we can’t give you
any money, and
we don’t want these here
poems either.” He
tightened his tie. “Fact
is, the old cosmic
gravy train’s ground to
a halt. It’s the end
of the line. From now
on there’s going to
be no more nothing.”
He went on, lighting
a cigar: “We don’t
wish we could help, but
even if we did,
we couldn’t. It’s not
our fault, by God, it’s
just tight all over.”
He brought his fist down
on the burnished desk
and lo! from that tight
place there jetted forth
rivers of living water.
After everything quits,
happening. The phone
rings. A knock comes
at the door. Lightning
flashes across the bed
where you bend, looking
at the dictionary.
Asleep, you keep waking
from dreams. The surface
of your life keeps
being broken, less and less
frequently, at random.
Raindrops after a storm:
surprise: the ghost of awe.
Of course there is a loud
and multicolored doom
on the street. But it is
the deafening absence
of your voice over which I
am straining to make you
hear me, at whatever corner
you are lost: Take me
with you in the traffic.
A man squats by the railroad tracks tonight
eating a moon fragment: not cheese
at all, but a honeydew melon. His hands
are fuzzy. A train roars past. In the
lighted windows men and women stand
with pewter cups raised. Tea slops out.
Then it is dark again. Moon-eaters have
no time for such foolishness. The silence
is not absolute, though, because the world’s
longest accordion, the world’s longest
musical expansion bridge, is playing
somewhere. I am up in my office
watching the glitter of my last cigar sail
out the window, over the shrubbery, down
into the darkness where summer is
ending. I keep office hours at night so
nobody comes around to bother me. Not even
you. The moon comes around, though. I want to
drag it down and hand it to you and say, “Here,
this is lovely and useless and it cost me
a lot of trouble. You can tie it up on
the river behind your house, and go down to
look at it whenever you like.” The trouble is,
you don’t want it tied up, and you are
right. This is no new problem. Eight hundred
years ago a man heads home from the
Fair, pushing a wheelbarrow full of real
moon pies. For ten years he has been
stealing wheelbarrows, and nobody even
suspects. Well, what is all this? you
want to know. Right again. I could
say I don’t know myself because the evidence
is not all in, never will be. I could say it’s
the unfinished moon poem I’ve always wanted
to almost write. Well, what is it all about? you
ask. What does it mean? You have me
there. It means, whatever this is between
you and me, I hope it’s not over, and good-by.
GODS LAST WORDS TO THE STARS
Coming home from beer with a beer
I hear the brain cells popping off
one by one like firecrackers
The stars going out one by one
leaving the sky black
God sweeping the last stars
under the celestial rug
Muttering not Good riddance
to bright rubbish but (more kindly)
Out of sight out of mind
I’m not going to
any longer by
pretending they touch
me. I won’t even
say I like these leaves
except as they swirl
against a special
is relevant since
losing you is what
my life is about.
PARK BENCH POEM
Mind if I put up
a park bench
in your mind?
I mean, if
the mind is a park,
why not have a poem in it?
After all, when
you get through
buying hotdogs &
getting a load
of the swans
some place to
sit down. It
ought to be fairly
the time a few
have worn it
smooth, & the paint
off – though
the original idea
was to advertise
my product: my own
green life, now
flaking into winter.
Oh hush up
right there on
plate, and you’ll
yell “Take it
But there won’t
THIRTEEN WAYS OF BEING LOOKED AT BY A POSSUM
I awake, three in the morning, sweating
from a dream of possums.
I put my head under the fuzzy swamp of cover.
At the foot of darkness two small eyes glitter.
Rain falls all day: I remain indoors.
For comfort I take down a favorite volume.
Inside, something slimy, like a tail, wraps around
Hear the bells clang at the fire station:
not hoses, but the damp noses of possums issue
Passing the graveyard at night
I wish the dead would remain dead,
but there is something queer and shaggy about these
From the grey pouch of a cloud
the moon hangs by its tail.
At the cafeteria they tell me they are out of
I am furious. Who is that grey delegation
munching yellow fruit at the long table?
I reach deep into my warm pocket
to scratch my balls; but I find, instead,
another pocket there; and inside, a small possum.
My friend’s false teeth clatter in the darkness
on a glass shelf;
around them a ghostly possum forms.
At an art gallery the portraits seem to threaten me;
tails droop down out of the frames.
I screech to a stop at the red light.
Three o’clock, school’s out:
eight or ten juvenile possums fill the crosswalk.
Midnight at Pasquale’s. I lift my fork,
and the hard tails looped there
look curiously unlike spaghetti.
When I go to the closet to hang my shirt on the rack,
I have to persuade several possums to move over.
Drunk, crawling across a country road tonight,
I hear a shriek, look up, and am paralyzed
by fierce headlights and a grinning grill.
I am as good as gone!
THE SENSE OF DECORUM IN POVERTY
I put on a shirt
with a couple of
gone buttons and a
pair of pants my wife
hates and walk into
the living room and
sit down in a dull
chair. In this way I
going on. If I
wanted to really
suffer I could go
lie down in some shit,
but that transgresses
the fine line between
I were any kind
of poet I’d go
stick up a Jiffy
Mart or, Say, the First
Bank of the Cosmic
Then I could buy a
red plaid jacket with
a rooster tie and
stumble out into
the clear autumn air
crowing “Guilty! Life,
I’m your beautiful
for Ralph Adamo
From the air it’s all puddles:
a blue-green frog town
on lily pads. More canals
than Amsterdam. You don’t
land — you sink. When
we met, you, the Native, shook
your head. Sweat dropped
on the bar. You said:
“You’re sunk. You won’t
write a line. You won’t make
a nickel. You won’t hit
a lick at a snake in this
antebellum sauna-bath. You
won’t shit in the morning if
you don’t wake up with
your pants down.” And you
were right: Three years later
I’m in it up to my eyebrows,
stalled like a streetcar.
My life is under the bed
with the beer bottles.
I’ll never write another line
for anything but love
in this city where steam
rises off the street after
a rain like bosoms heaving.
for Bob Woolf
Now I don’t care about hum-drum
order any more than
you do. I sympathize
with Huck Finn’s taste for
the mixed up. This is no
tight ship. I wouldn’t
want my moments run off on an
assembly line like toy ducks. That’s
not the point: it’s been
raining possums for a month. And now,
when I’m absolutely up to my neck in
a whole bathtub of concerns, you
walk in unannounced, wearing
an ETERNITY sweat-shirt and leading some
kind of out-of-date dog on a leash, and
shake my slippery hand and tell me
“Just normal, thanks.” Well, no
thanks. I’ve had enough. I’m going to
pull myself up over the side, and get
all the way out of my mind.