Halter

- 1970-

Nothing can make, make me want
to stay
in this world—

not the grass
with its head of hair
turning grey—

not the swayback horse
in the field
I swear I almost saw

start to saunter—

nor the bent shadows
late in the day
drawing close—

the neighbor’s boat
not yet docked
gathering snow

not the dream
with the moose hunched
in its crown

shedding velvet
led by a silver halter
through the shaded campground—

a shawl over its shoulders
like a caftan on a grandmother
or her rocker

whenever she’s no longer there.

Not the brass nail-heads
on the Adirondack chair
I put together, sweating,

this morning, that creaks
but still
does hold—

nor the cries of the others
above water, beloved
bright voices of summer

echoing like the ice cream man
in his whirring truck—
along the curb his lights flash

like an ambulance
playing the tune
you cannot name—yet know—

except this babbling, like a light
barely shining,
from below the baby’s cracked door.

The Dry Spell

Waking early
with the warming house
my grandmother knew what to do
taking care not to wake
Da Da 		she cooked up a storm
in darkness 	adding silent spices
and hot sauce

to stay cool. She ate later, alone
after the children had been gathered
and made to eat
her red eggs. Da Da rose
late, long after
the roosters had crowed
his name, clearing
an ashy throat
pulling on long
wooly underwear
to make him sweat

even more. The fields have gone
long enough without water
he liked to say, so can I
and when he returned
pounds heavier
from those thirsty fields
he was even cooler
losing each soaked
woolen skin
to the floor, dropping
naked rain in his
wife’s earthen arms.

For the Confederate Dead

I go with the team also.
                       —Whitman

These are the last days
my television says. Tornadoes, more
rain, overcast, a chance

of sun but I do not
trust weathermen,
never have. In my fridge only

the milk makes sense—
expires. No one, much less
my parents, can tell me why

my middle name is Lowell,
and from my table
across from the Confederate

Monument to the dead (that pale
finger bone) a plaque
declares war—not Civil,

or Between
the States, but for Southern
Independence. In this café, below sea-

and eye-level a mural runs
the wall, flaking, a plantation
scene most do not see—

it's too much
around the knees, height
of a child. In its fields Negroes bend

to pick the endless white.
In livery a few drive carriages
like slaves, whipping the horses, faces

blank and peeling. The old hotel
lobby this once was no longer
welcomes guests—maroon ledger,

bellboys gone but
for this. Like an inheritance
the owner found it

stripping hundred years
(at least) of paint
and plaster. More leaves each day.

In my movie there are no
horses, no heroes,
only draftees fleeing

into the pines, some few
who survive, gravely
wounded, lying

burrowed beneath the dead—
silent until the enemy
bayonets what is believed

to be the last
of the breathing. It is getting later.
We prepare

for wars no longer
there. The weather
inevitable, unusual—

more this time of year
than anyone ever seed. The earth
shudders, the air—

if I did not know
better, I would think
we were living all along

a fault. How late
it has gotten . . .
Forget the weatherman

whose maps move, blink,
but stay crossed
with lines none has seen. Race

instead against the almost
rain, digging beside the monument
(that giant anchor)

till we strike
water, sweat
fighting the sleepwalking air.

Eulogy

To allow silence
To admit it in us

always moving
Just past

senses, the darkness
What swallows us

and we live amongst
What lives amongst us

*

These grim anchors
That brief sanctity

the sea
Cast quite far

when you seek
—in your hats black

and kerchiefs—
to bury me

*

Do not weep
but once, and a long

time then
Thereafter eat till

your stomach spills over
No more! you'll cry

too full for your eyes
to leak

*

The words will wait

*

Place me in a plain
pine box I have been

for years building
It is splinters

not silver
It is filled of hair

*

Even the tongues
of bells shall still

*

You who will bear
my body along

Spirit me into the six
Do not startle

at its lack of weight
How light