In the courtyard

Some mauve words, some beaded trees:
this part of spring overwhelms me,
each planted tree a comparison
done in seed pearls, a version
onto which strips of lilac felt are pressed
then held in place for a few seconds
above a generalized base—
as though created by someone skilled with a glue gun
& the types of detail I’m no good at.
I can’t compete: what I’ve done
stands toward the back of the courtyard near the church wall,
a few fuzzy words from several years ago.
That one of the words has turned a shade of ochre
that's hard to come by—that I’ve been trying to put my hands
         on for years—
purely by chance (plus exposure to a few
back-to-back winters) is most discouraging.

The Egyptian Tomb of Emily Dickinson

The author reading in her grave is an orange dotted line
then a red continuous line, a house light & more head lights,
above that, a row of (etc.), what a car alarm looks like:
4 signs repeated together: a cherry, a pineapple, cloud, raindrop &
then brief yellow dashes moving like birds, “To be continued.”
The red line lies above the orange line at 75 mph
on the mountains on the last page—while a crow goes
from behind, deleting the orange dotted line—each dash
worth 5 points, cherry and pineapple 10 points, the glow-in-the-dark
haystacks & speeding garbage truck, 50—through
to the underlined parts of the room where I write.
The red line lies above the orange line at 75 mph
on the mountains on the last page in the dark morning.
She reads and reads in this large building in a room
in western Massachusetts—in this primitive dark
a fish skeleton goes by. The walls are decorated with
repetitions, electronic and natural sounds, someone coughing,
an alarm clock going off. A large gloomy ballroom
with an answering machine, & then a black mental swimming pool
ended by three dots.

The Gift

Like a spittle of aluminum, a crest of fear
in a long-faced mirror, like water rushing over a box,
like a dried sentence flying in the air,
like being shown a picture of a perforated wave,
like a mark that appears on each moment,
like knowing a man is in the box,
ingot of man, and the water is shiny, highly intuitive.

Like a mote dripping with silver,
a cataract painted with lead, a sentence of gleam,
and the sky speed up, cloudy, obscure, occluded, unheard of
using a cat’s eye for a planet,
like the water now almost reaching
the help desk across the marble floor
of the enormous lobby of the hospital.
The sculpture, a prototype, donated by the major
auto-pharmaceutical industries, Spanish moss fills the ceiling
in the car port, vaults rush past picking up no one
and souls like aphids stream the stalk of the escalator.

In this gift—a sheen, a shining—wrapped around
a grid of major research hospitals in one block,
on an acre with a drop-away floor,
the mesh bow, car-sized, is heavier than it looks.
Shreds of people, the day torn off, and the incinerator is working.
Oh, dollop of man. Replica of Rodin’s thinker from the gift shop,
I spot that, neon yellow teddy bear inside leaves of cellophane
for the sick child, I spot that. A man is inside the box
of cascading water. He is always wrapped in the present
moment. By now, the silvery water runs over the lines /
of this poem. I feel like shaking for the jet, the cross inside the box.
We are all headed home.

The water draft,

lotuses on blotches of water
coins in water, water on water 
water about water, at the bottom
are coins to get to the bottom of
pastel sound, words written about water
circular words circular words

dashboard figures in lotus position
patron saints, consorts, goddesses
on the surface of pink    of green
music, reggae and gospel  hip-hop
canals of classical and Latin jazz
though in a water garden, H2O music

tuning forks of lotus roots dangle
into a pond of piano, to rooms of silt,
the rooms at bottom toss up silt
watery Times New Roman font
it starts to rain, rain drops on the surface
circular sentences circular sentences

the pink pianissimo starts up
the green largo, the pond of sound
with “brief brush strokes like commas”
notes across water    like black lily pads
dis- and un- in a water garden,
dissonances against the harmony

x x x x x x x x x x x
where the lotuses knocked out
the water lilies

words circular words circular
water about written words, sound pastel
water about water, water on water
water of blotches as sound reverses,
passing under the white footbridge
moves to the left, moves to the left,

before banks of irises, before endowed benches
for Monet’s beloved Camille, for Satie’s girlfriend Suzanne
Valadon, and the lotuses who notarize
Death Certificates, Marriage Certificates,
in mobiles of notes recognize the sound as
Gymnopédies and change color like mood rings

In reverse sound, a bright story is told
differently, the notes of happiness put in reverse
walk backwards, across the water
and a non-indigenous emotional species grows on the surface
of sluggish channels of long ā and short ŏ,
millefiori of past and present

I prefer hand-tinted poems

Would you care to have this pond
immediately silk-screened
onto your chest
replacing the Rainbow Brite
Murky Dismal T-Shirt
you’re currently wearing
above rows of friendship pins?

Related Poems

One Moment Touching All the Others

If only each line of a poem could be its true beginning.
If only each moment could know every other moment
and we could hold them all at once the way we wish to,
the way we keep imagining we can. I don’t care
what anyone says about the impossibility, for I step
into the same moment again and again. I’ve lived
such a blessed life, a dying friend told me as I
leaned in close and caressed her face. I am writing
this line, this poem’s true beginning, six years later,
touching her radiant face again. Every moment is
the time I followed a yellow leaf downstream when I
was nine. To be, or not to be, Hamlet asked, and two
centuries later, Issa’s poems were born. And yet, and yet
the cancer still arrives to steal her breath, the same
breath blessing all her time. Just now a purple bird
flew up and startled me, and I said, Yes, yes, and raised
my hands. To live lightly in the body is to live deeply
in the spirit—I say her words out loud some days,
holding them all at once, and follow a yellow leaf
through overhanging limbs and enter my grandfather’s
quiet steps along a ridge a century ago when he was young.
He is being and not being, in and out of shadows,
arriving wherever the next step takes him, here and here.
When rain begins, he just keeps walking, drenched
and smiling, emerging decades later, holy. Sometimes
an echo hints from half a life ago. A driveway puddle
trembles at the foster home I lived in when I was three.
Good Lord, son, how did you know how to get here,
the father asked when I showed up, adult, from two
towns over. In the beginning was the Word, John wrote,
for each word starts anew, each word startling the sky,
the cells, the breath. Each word, each line, is an echo,
an arrival, a blessed breath, being and not being. I don’t
care about the impossibility of anything. The dawn keeps
breaking for which I am awake. The prologue is the epilogue,
the epilogue a leaf holding everything at once. I keep
arriving where I am, born and blessed again. I lean in
close to radiance: I’ve always known how to get here.

Artless

is my heart. A stranger
berry there never was,
tartless.

Gone sour in the sun,
in the sunroom or moonroof,
ruthless.

No poetry.  Plain.  No 
fresh, special recipe
to bless.

All I've ever made 
with these hands 
and life, less

substance, more rind. 
Mostly rim and trim,
meatless

but making much smoke
in the old smokehouse,
no less. 

Fatted from the day, 
overripe and even
toxic at eve.  Nonetheless,

in the end, if you must 
know, if I must bend,
waistless,

to that excruciation.  
No marvel, no harvest
left me speechless,

yet I find myself
somehow with heart,
aloneless.

With heart,
fighting fire with fire,
flightless.

That loud hub of us, 
meat stub of us, beating us
senseless.

Spectacular in its way,
its way of not seeing, 
congealing dayless

but in everydayness.
In that hopeful haunting,
(a lesser

way of saying
in darkness) there is
silencelessness

for the pressing question. 
Heart, what art you? 
War, star, part? Or less: 

playing a part, staying apart
from the one who loves,
loveless.

Poetry

There is nothing beautiful here
However I may want it. I can’t
Spin a crystal palace of this thin air,
Weave a darkness plush as molefur with my tongue
However I want. Yet I am not alone
In these alleys of vowels, which comfort me
As the single living nun of a convent
Is comforted by the walls of that catacomb
She walks at night, lit by her own moving candle.
I am not afraid of mirrors or the future
—Or even you, lovers, wandering cow-fat
And rutting in the gardens of this earthly verge
Where I too trod, a sunspot, parasol-shaded,
Kin to the trees, the bees, the color green.