from One With Others

- 1949-2016

     People study the dingy chenille clouds for a sign.


     People did what they have done.


     A town, a time, and a woman who lived there.


     And left undone what they ought not to have did.




     I take one more drive across town thinking about the retired welding teacher easing over that rise seeing the parking lot full of white men. I wonder if he thought he would die in the jungle [where no Vietcong ever called him [N-word]  ] or he would die in front of the bowling alley [without ever having been inside] or die in the swimming pool [without ever having been in it, except when drained, and the police had him in their sights]. Or if, because he was a young man, he would never die. I attach V to my driving-around thoughts.


     An object unworthy of love she thought she was.


     It was a cri de coeur.


     Those of our get had given her a nom de guerre: V.


     A simple act, to join a march against fear

     down an old military road.


     We were watching an old movie the night


     the table started walking toward us


     and there was trouble on Division.


     She became a disaffiliated member [of her race].


     I'm one of them now, she said, upon release


     from jail. I am an invader.




     Look into the dark heart and you will see what the dark eats other than your heart.


     The world is not ineluctably finished


     though the watchfires have been doused


     more walls have come down


     more walls are being built


     Sound of the future, uncanny how close


     to the sound of the old


     At Daddy's Eyes


     "Pusherman" still on the jukebox


     Everybody's past redacted




                                                                                   For me


     it has always been a series of doors:


     if one is opened precipitously a figure is caught bolting from bed


     if another, a small table, a list of demands on school paper


     if another, a child on the linoleum, saying she wants a white doll


     a woman sitting on a bed, holding a folded flag


     a shelf of trophies behind her head


     an ironing board, bottle of bourbon on the end


     sewing machine on a porch


     To walk down the road without fear


     To sit in a booth and order a sweet soft drink


     To work at the front desk


     To be referred to as Gentleman


     To swim in the pool


     To sit in the front row and watch Run Wild, Run Free [next week: Death of a Gunfighter]


     To make your way to the end of the day with both eyes in your head


     Nothing is not integral


     You want to illumine what you see


     Fear reflected off an upturned face


     Those walnuts turning black in the grass


     It is a relatively stable world


     Gentle Reader


     But beyond that door


     It defies description


A girl on the stairs listens to her father
Beat up her mother.
Doors bang.
She comes down in her nightgown.

The piano stands there in the dark 
Like a boy with an orchid.

She plays what she can
Then she turns the lamp on.

Her mother's music is spread out
On the floor like brochures.

She hears her father
Running through the leaves.

The last black key
She presses stays down, makes no sound
Someone putting their tongue where their tooth had been.


Some nights I sleep with my dress on. My teeth
are small and even. I don't get headaches.
Since 1971 or before, I have hunted a bench
where I could eat my pimento cheese in peace.
If this were Tennessee and across that river, Arkansas,
I'd meet you in West Memphis tonight. We could
have a big time. Danger, shoulder soft.
Do not lie or lean on me. I'm still trying to find a job
for which a simple machine isn't better suited.
I've seen people die of money. Look at Admiral Benbow. I wish
like certain fishes, we came equipped with light organs.
Which reminds me of a little known fact:
if we were going the speed of light, this dome
would be shrinking while we were gaining weight.
Isn't the road crooked and steep.
In this humidity, I make repairs by night. I'm not one
among millions who saw Monroe's face
in the moon. I go blank looking at that face.
If I could afford it I'd live in hotels. I won awards
in spelling and the Australian crawl. Long long ago.
Grandmother married a man named Ivan. The men called him
Eve. Stranger, to tell the truth, in dog years I am up there.

One With Others [Not the mental lethargy in which the days enveloped her]

       Not the mental lethargy in which the days enveloped her

       Nor the depleted breasts not the hand that never knew

       tenderness nor eyes that glistened

       Not the people dragging canvas bags

       through the ragged fields

       Not the high mean whine of mosquitoes

       Not another year of shoe-top cotton

       No more white buck shoes for Henry

       No peaches this year on the Ridge, and no other elevation

       around to coast another mile out of the tank

       No eel in L'Anguille

       Not the aphrodisiac of crossing over

       Not the hole in the muffler circling the house

       Not a shot of whiskey before a piece of bread

       Not to live anymore as a distended beast

       Not the lying-in again

       Not the suicide of the goldfish

       Not the father's D.T's

       Not the map of no-name islands in the river

       Not the car burning in the parking lot

       Not the sound but the shape of the sound

       Not the clouds rucked up over the clothesline

       The copperhead in the coleus

       Not the air hung with malathion

       Not the boomerang of bad feelings

       Not stacks of poetry, long-playing albums, the visions of Goya and friends

       Not to be resuscitated

       and absolutely no priests, up on her elbows, the priests confound you

and then they confound you again. They only come clear when you're on your

deathbed. We must speak by the card or equivocation will undo us.

       Look into the dark heart and you will see what the dark eats other than

your heart

       The world is not ineluctably finished

       though the watchfires have been doused

       more walls have come down

       more walls are being built

       Sound of the future, uncanny how close

       to the sound of the old

       At Daddy's Eyes

       "Pusherman" still on the jukebox

       Everybody's past redacted