The Perfect Poem

I wrote the most perfect poem in the English language last night.
Then up for work after two hour’s sleep
To repair a door for Carol her drug-addicted
Son kicked in.  She was very grateful
I don’t charge too much and have a knack
For finish work—it looks brand new.
Then to Samantha’s who keeps her townhouse
Hot enough to wear her thong bikini bathing suit
In January where no one can request
She leave the beach like last July.
She’s 75 and rather proud of her obesity.
It’s a broken toilet seat (easy fix).
But shimming and leveling the base takes more time.
Her checks never bounce.  That’s good.
But she keeps saying, “Cliff
Cliff, your clothes are soaking wet
Let me wash and dry them for you
While we soak in the hot tub.”
I say, “Thank you, but I’ll be fine
If you’ll just turn your thermostat down a tad.
That’s all.”  Next up one of Carlo’s rentals.
A tenant has moved and the entire place reeks of dog piss
And shit.  I’m really dragging now
From lack of sleep because
I wrote the most perfect poem in the English language last night
But rip out all the pissy carpets and
Padding and drag them to the street
Amid a cloud of brown dust.
The new-carpet guys waiting and impatient,
I rush the Clorox scrubbing room to room,
Get my 10 hours in and collapse back home
Smelling bleach in my nose while dozing off
And yet fulfilled:
I wrote the most perfect poem in the English language last night.

To a Millennial

First an apology:
The mess we left you
Debt, debt and rump
A twilight redoubt
From the ravages of Davos
All over and next door.
Perhaps I should have fought more
But you were such a beguiling distraction
How I’d bounce you on my knee
For joy.  Whisper, “Love you.  Love you.”
And kiss you on the ear.
Whisper, “You’ll get it right.  For once.”
(Was it my tenth alcoholic binge?)
“So get to it, Get to it!”
As my dad slurred to me.
“Get to it!  Get to it!
Your turn to save the race!”

For Laurie Essig

Gum is a whitewood tree
Good for nothing in the trade
As firewood more of ash than flame
Her splitting is an ax to hell
Stubborn, stingy, sulky pith
But left intact a graceful trunk.
Maybe that is just her point
Lithe to look at, loathe to have
Her raiment fits to slender branch
Her height the tallest in the stand
And yet no footing for a song
Men who’ve climbed her can attest
(More than I with broken mind)
Oaks are cut and she remains
A sky of leaves to regal crown.
Perchance a lesson in her wiles
Grace needs cunning to survive.

January 1968

A white memorial
To laughter, cheers
And sledding boys
Down snowy hill
To hearths
We’d knead
Our hands
Before how once
We made a hockey rink
Of frozen swamp and
Sapling sticks to shoot
A pine cone tree to tree
With 12-year-old
Equality, clumsy falls
And easy laughs—
Not love nor work
To sort us part–
A frozen bliss
That couldn’t stay
By noon the rink
Was melting in—
We switched frontiers
To fallow fields
Which yielded up
Some arrowheads
And one mad possum
Brought to bay.
The yellow sun
Gave way to orange—
We rushed to supper
Skipping baths, waged
A bedroom pillow fight
Wrestling when it came to that
‘Til finally TV
Stood us down
The Wild, Wild West
In black and white.
Our palm-cupped chins
Fell into sleep
Then up for breakfast
Back to swamp
God had frozen
Just for us
Play without a plan or thought
Next to next
Our only care.
So weird the weirdest
Of the three
Lives to be
The last to speak.

the end of vanity

So much death—time for an orgy poem you’d think.  Actually in this instance I set out to write a winter poem surpassing Wallace Stevens’ “The Snowman” but ended up with this cryptic hybrid of Robert Frost and John Ashbery in goth mode.  Strange, it’s the dead of winter and, unlike my propane bill, flies are the least of my problems.  But the muse is the muse. 

the lives beneath
life vanishing
made me bearer
for a day
of everything
that came before
then by degrees
myself in kind
from vital warm
to cold clay clod
that life is fragile
late I know,
beyond belief,
philosophy,
but not beyond a vanity
to find myself
the center of
attention earned
by other means:
fawning swarms
of blue-green flies
attending me
this latest walk
what must they smell
that I do not
that makes them so
enrapt of me
they’d chance their eggs
in something old?
could it be
as in my youth
i captivate
with party jokes?
or do they sense
as I will not
a final end
to vanity?
if the latter
presumptuous fly
i have DEET
and you do not.

Plagiarism Is Discouraged

It seems frank enough, too frank
In fact, but have you seen what pilings
Pain the earth and strain to present
The edifice complete with some beauty
Un-clinical, remindful to a limit
Of a limitlessness I can take and smile
Wry about born that way but with a courtesy
Not to drown the uninitiated in the footings of thought,
To force you to feel it
Hence a fair warning:  Deconstruct, mine
And mind my pilings knowing the risks
A drool bucket at Butner being the least of them.
Truly, stick to the surface of my horrors
As my logic intends.
And for God’s sake, do not imitate!
My Brain is not for everyone.
My life is not for everyone.  It
Takes practice.
Give yourself 80 years.

A Tree Falls in the Forest

Sally said, “Well, I’m really not into firewood epistemology
But if you insist: That tree is true when I see it
As a thought.”
Dick said, “No, that tree is true when I chop it
With my ax.”
Sally said, “Then do I exist when you chop a tree
Or only when you’re in bed with me?”
Dick said, “My point exactly—YOU exist
Like nothing else.”
Sally said, “You asshole.”

Poem by a Youth

which is true
the poem you see
or the man who wrote it?
if the verse is laying waste to man
and he is loving while he writes it
which needs the other worse?
what is his obstacle
to paradise?  and is it
yours as well?

son so cynical
nothing more I lay to waste
than does the same to you
take the ruins in my words
as tokens of my love.

My Susie, My Patrick

Emily Dickinson before The Day
Saw Susie Gilbert everywhere:
“I have but one thought, Susie,
This afternoon of June,
And that is of you,
One wish, only, dear Susie,
And that is for you
That you and I in hand
As we e’en do in heart,
Might ramble away as children
Among the woods and fields
And forget these many years
These sorrowing cares
And each become a boy again!”
O Emily, love, my prophet
Centuries on the march
I’m thinking just the same myself
Your Susie is my Patrick
Twice blessed we are
Despite ourselves
Neither we weird out.