Only Bread, Only Light

At times the blind see light,
And that moment is the Sistine ceiling,

Grace among buildings—no one asks
For it, no one asks.

After all, this is solitude,
Daylight’s finger,

Blake’s angel
Parting willow leaves.

I should know better.
Get with the business

Of walking the lovely, satisfied,
Indifferent weather—

Bread baking
On Arthur Avenue

This first warm day of June.
I stand on the corner

For priceless seconds.
Now everything to me falls shadow.

Letter to Borges from London

When I was a boy I made a beehive
From old letters—dark scraps from a trunk,
Lost loves; assurances from travelers.
It was intricate work.
The blind kid and the worker bee lost whole days.
I made a library for inchworms.

Now I’m a natural philosopher but with the same restless hands.
Some days I put cities together—
Santiago and Carthage;
Toronto and Damascus.
If strangers watch closely, Borges,
They’ll see my fingers working at nothing.

In Hyde Park near the Albert Memorial and alone on a bench
I reconstructed the boroughs of New York—
Brooklyn was at the center, Kyoto in place of Queens.
This was a city of bells and gardens, a town for immigrants.
The old woman passing by saw my hands at work.
She thought I was a lost blind man, a simpleton,
Said, “Poor Dearie!” and gave me a quid.

Essay on November

There is at times a small fire
In the brain, partita for violin,
Brier, black stem,
All burning in the quarter notes.
And the hedgerow
Beyond the barn
Calls its starlings in.
Then frost, sere leaves,
A swollen half-moon
Like a drowsy fingertip
Above the apple trees.

Learning Braille at Thirty-Nine

The dry universe
Gives up its fruit,

Black seeds are raining,
Pascal dreams of a wristwatch,

And heaven help me
The metempsychosis of book

Is upon me. I hunch over it,
The boy in the asylum

Whose fingers leapt for words.
(In the dark books are living things,

Quiescent as cats.)
Each time we lift them

We feel again
The ache of amazement

Under summer stars.
It’s a dread thing

To be lonely
Without reason.

My window stays open
And I study late

As quick, musical laughter
Rises from the street

And I rub grains of the moon
In my hands.