Pastoral

- 1954-

Here at the center      of a field            of green

                                                                                   

leaves waving            center of a         grief I can’t

 

see far enough           to tell how         it will ease

 

it will not ease           it goes on           and on now

 

as yours does            in sunlight         and in rain

 

holding hands with    her in the           last minutes

 

sky so vast                hear the            wheat roar—

More by David Baker

Patriotics

Yesterday a little girl got slapped to death by her daddy,
   out of work, alcoholic, and estranged two towns down river. 
America, it's hard to get your attention politely.
   America, the beautiful night is about to blow up

and the cop who brought the man down with a shot to the chops 
   is shaking hands, dribbling chaw across his sweaty shirt,
and pointing cars across the courthouse grass to park. 
   It's the Big One one more time, July the 4th,

our country's perfect holiday, so direct a metaphor for war, 
   we shoot off bombs, launch rockets from Drano cans,
spray the streets and neighbors' yards with the machine-gun crack 
   of fireworks, with rebel yells and beer. In short, we celebrate.

It's hard to believe. But so help the soul of Thomas Paine,
   the entire county must be here--the acned faces of neglect,
the halter-tops and ties, the bellies, badges, beehives,
   jacked-up cowboy boots, yes, the back-up singers of democracy

all gathered to brighten in unambiguous delight
   when we attack the calm and pointless sky. With terrifying vigor 
the whistle-stop across the river will lob its smaller arsenal
   halfway back again. Some may be moved to tears.

We'll clean up fast, drive home slow, and tomorrow
   get back to work, those of us with jobs, convicting the others 
in the back rooms of our courts and malls--yet what
   will be left of that one poor child, veteran of no war

but her family's own? The comfort of a welfare plot,
   a stalk of wilting prayers? Our fathers' dreams come true as 
   nightmare.
So the first bomb blasts and echoes through the streets and shrubs:
   red, white, and blue sparks shower down, a plague

of patriotic bugs. Our thousand eyeballs burn aglow like punks. 
   America, I'd swear I don't believe in you, but here I am,
and here you are, and here we stand again, agape.

The Feast

The moon tonight is
the cup of a
     scar. I hate the moon.
     I hate—more—that scar. My love waited

one day, then half
the next. One 
     cyst drained of fluid that looked,
     she said, like icing for

a cake. Red-
laced, she said, gold,
      tan, thick, rich. Kind of
      beautiful.

One cyst 
was not a cyst. One
      —small one, hard, its edges jagged— 
     like a snow ball. 

This one scared 
the house on-
     cologist into 
     lab work: stat.

Once the snow melts the birds 
will be back.
     Once
     many men were masked

in front of their
families. Were gunned down
     to shallow graves, together, there.
     Basra. Kaechon. East 

St. Louis, Illinois. Nowhere
we don’t know about  
     and nothing yet is done.  
     This is what we watch while

we wait.
Twelve little cysts 
     of snow in the red-
      bud. I watched each one, having 

counted, once more, and then one
more time, as
     the news reports reported
     and the cold early 

northern wind shook
out there the bare, still-budded small
     bush. Balls of crust shuddered
     in the bush.

Birds will be
back as 
     though nothing has happened. 
     I am here to report that
		
nothing happened. Except
the oncologist said, then, 
     benign.
     But now I hate 

the moon. Hate the scar,
though it shines 
     on her breast
     like the moon at my lips.

Forced Bloom

1.

Such pleasure one needs to make for oneself. 
She has snipped the paltry forsythia 
to force the bloom, has cut each stem on 
the slant and sprinkled brown sugar in a vase, 
so the wintered reeds will take their water. 
It hurts her to do this but she does it. 
When are we most ourselves, and when the least? 
Last night, the man in the recessed doorway, 
homeless or searching for something, or sought—
all he needed was one hand and quiet. 
The city around him was one small room. 
He leaned into the dark portal, gray 
shade in a door, a shadow of himself. 
His eyes were closed. His rhythm became him. 
So we have shut our eyes, as dead or as 
other, and held the thought of another 
whose pleasure is need, face over a face ... 

2. 

It hurts her to use her hands, to hold 
a cup or bud or touch a thing. The doctors 
have turned her burning hands in their hands. 
The tests have shown a problem, but no cause, 
a neuropathology of mere touch. 
We have all made love in the dark, small room 
of such need, without shame, to our comfort, 
our compulsion. I know I have. She has. 
We have held or helped each other, sometimes 
watching from the doorway of a warm house 
where candletips of new growth light the walls, 
the city in likeness beyond, our hands 
on the swollen damp branch or bud or cup. 
Sometimes we are most ourselves when we are 
least, or hurt, or lost, face over a face—. 
You have, too. It's your secret, your delight. 
You smell the wild scent all day on your hand.