LIVES OF THE POETS
Tom, folding his flag over his mattress,
coming into winter shelter at the Church,
says he lost his gloves today, Somebody
needed them more than I did,
he says. Opening the night shelter
is the first time I've been out all day,
holed up in my room with my friend's
sermons on the anguished heart--
Atonement--through the eyes
of Kierkegaard. I'm in a lousy mood
all day, to use a word common
to my father, (one that hasn't crossed
my lips for decades), and I hear
his voice and my mother's pain
in the same moment. "...Get men
to judge to get them out of their masks,"
the brave pastor quotes his mentor.
How inventive, my own hidden inwardness
and rascality--how vulnerable--I am
creation in cover-up. Geronimo
has returned to claim his bed
by the door. Each night two men
permitted showers. Who's
going to rub my feet tonight?
is the lone, sweet call from
the corner in the fellowship hall
as the men, exhausted from a day
of surviving, put sheets over plastic
mattresses after spraying them with 409.
I am the most restless traveler. God
of my North Dakota childhood sees
my every thought, the only one who knows.
5 December 2016
AT THE POST OFFICE
"I'm the last leaf on the tree."
Looking for the old time post cards,
Marissa, the postal clerk
I've known for years, tells me,
We have what you're looking for
but they're not old fashioned.
Plain, but postmarked, I say,
I want to use the commemoratives.
Laying stamps out before me
I have all but Repeal the Stamp Act.
If you have Repeal the Election,
I'll take all of the sheets in the drawer.
Had I thought that rather than said it
in the hearing of the banal clerk in the next window,
had I thought it in silence,
the white misogynist's poisoned offering
Lock her up,
wouldn't be stamping me days later.
2 Dec 2016
MEDITATION ON THE NAME ALEPPO
AFTER IT BEGINS SHOWING UP IN CHRISTMAS CARDS
There is the Aleppo Boil,
lasting a long time
and leaving a deep scar.
from Italian Aleppo,
from French Alep,
from Ottoman Turkish,
halep, from Arabic halab,
of uncertain origin.
from Arabic halaba,
gave out milk,
coming from tradition
that Abraham gave milk
to travelers moving through.
20 December 2016
BEFORE THE ROLLER SKATING PARTY IN UNION GAP
Did you see the video of your granddaughter
last night, looking at the stars? my wife asks
as I come in from shoveling snow to rest the back
and warm my cheeks while reading the news story
of county votes Statewide, looking at enrolments
in health care. It seems the poor have voted
themselves out of coverage. The writer for the Times
asks the question, How much are we obligated to care?
He resurrects sarcasm from Mencken:
Common people know what they want
and deserve to get it good and hard.
Shop talking journalists trace it all
to radiating fear and loathing against liberals.
On this day my granddaughter turns nine.
10 December 2016
SATURDAY MORNING, TALKING WITH A NEIGHBOR
Blaze lives around the corner
in the next block, walks his dog, Luna
by my place while I'm out
shoveling snow. Give me a little Luna
light, I say, my glasses already dark
from an hour in snow. About that name,
Blaze, I say, can you say something
about those parents who named you?
I can, he says. Mom and Dad
are in Michigan. Dad was in school
studying philosophers. Blaze Pascal
is who I'm named after. Yes, I nod.
"Men never do evil so cheerfully as when
they do it from religious conviction.
10 December 2016
THE WEEK THAT SNOW COVERED
up November, friends check in
with reading lists and detailed plans
to carry them deeper into the young century.
Flush with new books myself.
Early December, Guadalupe's name day
after the weekend, I can already hear
trombone and tuba marching
through dark streets. Body of Water,
Dead Souls, Montale's Complete, 1925-1977.
Elegance of designed dust covers.
A full year into following an old word:
Banal. Banalities. Poshlost in Russian.
Melville's Clarel, longest American poem,
threads needle towards 2020.
10 December 2016
SHADOWLIGHT IN TALL TREES BEFORE SOLSTICE
Snow came with its beauty, but it came early,
and the cover-up was only partial. Going alone is paradoxical,
as it includes mail, and while mail is no guarantee,
it is packed and cared for as survival gear.
Side light, then. Mid-afternoon, mid-December,
after big snow. Fresh snow.
Real cover this time. Astonishing.
Sunshine hike on skis, in Paradise.
Thighs talking to the eyes, who don't even try to listen.
19 December 2016
BUT WE WILL REMEMBER, AND WE WILL RESIST
Four years ago on this day my grand-kids
were in kindergarten and first grade.
Four of them, cousins.
Fourth and fifth graders now,
getting ready for middle school.
Skiers. Good ones. They ski the steeps.
My wife and I were in the mountains
with immigrants celebrating Las Posadas
when we heard about the children at Sandy Hook.
Kindergarten. First Grade. We knew what
kindergartners looked like, and first graders.
They were like our grandchildren.
I won't show you photos of them now.
As they are. It would be too cruel.
So much has happened in our country.
We can't keep up with violence
or bullies or elections.
Four years ago my wife made a vest
for the children of Sandy Hook.
She put the names of the children
in the lining. The week she made it
one of our granddaughters was home
from school, sick, staying with us.
That week I made a little movie
of my wife making the vest.
They're in the movie as they were.
Those were some pretty dark days.
You know, America.
It's called The Chief Joseph Children's Vest.
The vest that no longer fits the grandkids.
Vest Maker and Art-to-Wear Artist, Karen Bodeen creates a vest for the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School, while caring for a granddaughter recovering from a virus. Both threads honor children everywhere. Karen witnesses, listens to, and honors the children she sews for, as well as the child at her feet and in her lap.