If you want to be noticed, write a poem with the effect
of being hired for a job after sixteen months laid off.
Write a poem that jingles in peoples' pockets.
Write a poem that Stephen Hawking reads.
Write a poem that takes apart the Atomic age
even as the ones Oppenheimer wrote put it together.
Write a poem that works harder for someone else
than for you and builds workingmen's unions.
Write a poem and fold it tight into an envelope
that will be the last thing a woman ever opens.
People blinkin' out like fireflies on a bug zapper,
Charlie said as he rolled one of his own, a way of life
disappearing into the cosmos. Well, it happens time after time,
at least the way writers write about these things, he added;
but I don't know. Maybe I'm the first one to notice,
you know, the way language changes over time when
you write it down but it doesn't mean the same thing
a year from now when you pull it from your desk drawer;
and we've been among the best writers, the ones who paid
attention and dues and all the rest and listened in silent rooms
while other people around us made bug zappers and turned coins.
And I don't know that it hurt them zapping bugs,
and I don't know that the wheels of war make a hell of a difference,
just that it seems we're all one way and another drawn to light
that fries our hard drives down when we least expect it or see God.
You're one of our own, I say. Good luck.
I had forgotten almost how to
touch your mind down here where
a freight train hangs my words
on cold tracks that sing with something
not my own nor yours but cars containing
factory floors and somehow songs that
touch you again here and here and
my fingers are tuned as memories.
The east winds are unsettling here, unnatural,
something against nature in the way they blow
cold and moisture in from the prairie states up
against the mountains. What more can nature
pile up against the shoulders of our continent;
enough, isn't it, that everything erodes away in
the normal passage of a man's life? The way the
jet stream always rushes east above us, it would
be natural if like a tired man the lower winds as
well stumbled down these pitch-forked heaps of
stone, just as usually they do. But stone is not
supposed to change as rapidly as these winds do
nor to let the wind sow rain into its crevices…
not here along the western flanks of our nation.
The sky is cornflower blue tonight,
mountains pasted against orange clouds.
No depth. But in this spring warmth
brought upon us Washington and Wall Street
are as far as a car can run on rum and corn.
Men with heart attacks building in their veins
are shipping coffins across the oceans
but here on the sere sands of home something
more sacred than all their dreams evanesces away.
I watch from my porch as distance falls flat with sun.
What would you have, poster child, filling your eyes.
A bucket of cornflakes with cream from the Midwest.
A trawler of fish from the mid Atlantic nights, eyes
flashing the distance of the big dipper at midnight,
casting spawn and milt across the Milky Way at dawn.
I think as we sit and sip our drinks I know your name,
but have been so wrong in so many things I dreamed upon.
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