Polar Night

- 1944-2020

Maybe if you could see yourself
from a distance
you could see what people see
when they see you close up

they can see the canaries and the penguins
and the darts flying through air,
like missiles above a city
only the trajectory is all wrong.

Only the sonnet is wrong,
and the signature on the dotted line,
a pool of light in the puddle
at the bottom of the well.

Maybe if you abandoned the song
and the tubes of the radio went dead
you would rub the hands of a stranger
in the storm.

You would lie on a mattress
with broken springs and take your
swings with your foot
in a bucket.

If you close your eyes tight you
might recognize me if I touch
your skin. The tattoo of a flower
in the shape of a heart.

New Travelogue

I stumbled out of the bushes
to see a deer drink from a pool.
I climbed into the hills above
Berkeley, one step at a time.
I went to Prince Edward Island
where Anne of Green Gables’ face
is on the license plate. A hawk
or a condor flew over our house.

I bought a carton of smokes
at the duty free shop in Anchorage.
Took a seconal in Frankfurt
and woke up in New York.
I bothered my friends with my troubles;
I was never (not) alone. I postponed
pleasure until it was almost gone.

I stared out over the North Sea,
waiting for rain. I wandered
through the red light district in Amsterdam
in the middle of night. I rode on
the back of a motorcycle over a mountain
on Christmas Eve.

I floated on my back in the ocean
at Maui. Stared out the window of
my hotel room over the rooftops of
Florence. Took LSD in Paris and sat
on a bench in the Luxembourg Gardens.
Rented a hotel room in Liverpool
but couldn’t sleep.

I missed my flight from Madrid to Lisbon.
Found an apartment on the Panhandle
and drank tea in Golden Gate Park.
I was caught stealing at Safeway—I could never
return. A Chinese acupuncturist came to
my house when I threw out my back

and couldn’t move. I woke up in an apartment
on 5th Street and listened to the roosters
crow on someone’s roof. I visited her
in her house overlooking the ocean and she
let me in. I put out my hand to touch you,
but the bed was empty.

I wheeled a stroller down an icy New
England street. Waited under a canopy
in the rain, but she never came. I stood
in front of a classroom with paint stains
on my shoes. Called the suicide hotline,
but no one answered.

I dropped everything I was doing
and ran into the street. Drove
a car with faulty transmission until
a fire started under the hood. I ate
Indian food on a balcony in Capetown.
I sang karaoke in a bar in Tibet.

Something I meant to say comes back
to haunt me in my sleep. I turn
the key in the lock and call your
name. Her face appears, out of nowhere,
making a shadow on the page. There’s
only one stone and it weighs a ton.

The New Testament

Sometimes only a loincloth
covers the lower part
of his body but no one is
telling him that nakedness
is a sin, or a lie, no one is lying
to him, or lying beside him
in the dark, removing the loin-
cloth or fig leaf from the lower
half. There are dogs
barking outside the sandwich
bar, and a parrot is on display in
the lobby of the Marriott, locked
in a cage for everyone to see.
If I could see in the dark
I would tell you the difference
between the animal and the vegetable,
the nameless and the virginal, those
who rove the streets and estuaries,
their limbs exposed to the elements,
and those who stay at home behind
gated windows and tinted glass.


It’s possible you can see someone from
A distance, after all these years, and stop in your
Tracks or do a double take and wonder if maybe
It’s just someone who looks like someone
You used to know or if it’s the real person and
Then you walk on by like in the song “Walk
On By” and then you turn turn again but the person’s
Gone and all you can do is haul yourself
Up to the roof and jump off or shoot yourself
In the foot so that you can’t walk can’t move
And time hangs heavy as you sit in your room
And wonder if that person was him or you
Or someone’s twin who arrived from another
Planet to savor the lilac scent that radiates
From your skin

And the heat comes up from the pipes like Les
Trois Gymnopédies by Erik Satie and I turn the key
Without biting my tongue and the heart comes
Back on until it bleeds and I take back with one
Hand what I gave with the other and someone
Comes in off the street no longer invisible
And the kissing booth closes for the night—too
Bad for you—and I display my dishrag abs to
The wind one last time, feel my skin on fire
As I descend