Poem – Man of the House

It was a misunderstanding.
I got into bed, made love
with the woman I found there,
called her honey, mowed the lawn,
had three children, painted
the house twice, fixed the furnace,
overcame an addiction to blue pills,
read Spinoza every night
without once meeting his God,
buried one child, ate my share
of Jell-o and meatloaf,
went away for nine hours a day
and came home hoarding my silence,
built a ferris wheel in my mind,
bolt by bolt, then it broke
just as it spun me to the top.
Turns out I live next door.

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Poem – Mortal Shower

I met my butt in a Pittsburgh
hotel room. My face
still looks like my face
but not my butt, my hair

no longer resembles an ad
for Jell-O pudding, people thought
it was chocolate pudding for years,
so thick

and rich. There was fog
in the bathroom and then not fog,
I faced my face
and then not my face, the mirror

staring at my ass
winked at the mirror
staring at my face

and the future was defined
as an effort
to use the word sag in my resume.
Have sagged, will

sag, am looking for a position
in which to maximize my sagging
potential. I once cared
what went on back there, about

the extent of grip and rise, just
as some birds crave
the reddest plumage, and I propositioned
mirrors, watched women’s eyes
follow, turned in shop windows
to see if my pants
fit their purpose. Then love

and car payments, love and the sofa
needs to be moved, love and her grandmother
dies, my grandmother
dies, love
and she comes home and I’m thrilled
by her coat and voice
and the brown habit of her eyes. She

likes my ass and lies
about its travels, how it’s lost
focus, and there are wattles
to come, please God
if dentures
only partials, may Depends

be cheap in bulk and the earth
generous with its telepathy, I’m

in Pittsburgh tonight
and with her,
mirrors don’t scare me,
room service is a gas
because she’s alive, I’m a giant,
a tight-assed
titan because she’s alive
and says

come home, the Honda needs
new brakes, a robin flew
into the window today
but shook it off, just
dizzy, stunned
by reflection.

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Poem – In the Loop

I heard from people after the shootings. People
I knew well or barely or not at all. Largely
the same message: how horrible it was, how little
there was to say about how horrible it was.
People wrote, called, mostly e-mailed
because they know I teach at Virginia Tech,
to say, there’s nothing to say. Eventually
I answered these messages: there’s nothing
to say back except of course there’s nothing
to say, thank you for your willingness
to say it. Because this was about nothing.
A boy who felt that he was nothing,
who erased and entered that erasure, and guns
that are good for nothing, and talk of guns
that is good for nothing, and spring
that is good for flowers, and Jesus for some,
and scotch for others, and “and” for me
in this poem, “and” that is good
for sewing the minutes together, which otherwise
go about going away, bereft of us and us
of them. Like a scarf left on a train and nothing
like a scarf left on a train. As if the train,
empty of everything but a scarf, still opens
its doors at every stop, because this
is what a train does, this is what a man does
with his hand on a lever, because otherwise,
why the lever, why the hand, and then it was over,
and then it had just begun.

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Poem – Full Flight

I’m in a plane that will not be flown into a building.
It’s a SAAB 340, seats 40, has two engines with propellers
is why I think of beanies, those hats that would spin
a young head into the clouds. The plane is red and loud
inside like it must be loud in the heart, red like fire
and fire engines and the woman two seats up and to the right
resembles one of the widows I saw on TV after the Towers
came down. It’s her hair that I recognize, the fecundity of it
and the color and its obedience to an ideal, the shape
it was asked several hours ago to hold and has held, a kind
of wave that begins at the forehead and repeats with slight
variations all the way to the tips, as if she were water
and a pebble had been continuously dropped into the mouth
of her existence. We are eighteen thousand feet over America.
People are typing at their laps, blowing across the fog of coffee,
sleeping with their heads on the windows, on the pattern
of green fields and brown fields, streams and gas stations
and swimming pools, blue dots of aquamarine that suggest
we’ve domesticated the mirage. We had to kill someone,
I believe, when the metal bones burned and the top
fell through the bottom and a cloud made of dust and memos
and skin muscled across Manhattan. I remember feeling
I could finally touch a rifle, that some murders
are an illumination of ethics, that they act as a word,
a motion the brain requires for which there is
no syllable, no breath. The moment the planes had stopped,
when we were afraid of the sky, there was a pause
when we could have been perfectly American,
could have spent infinity dollars and thrown a million
bodies at finding the few, lasering our revenge
into a kind of love, the blood-hunger kept exact
and more convincing for its precision, an expression
of our belief that proximity is never the measure of guilt.
We’ve lived in the sky again for some years and today
on my lap these pictures from Iraq, naked bodies
stacked into a pyramid of ha-ha and the articles
about broomsticks up the ass and the limbs of children
turned into stubble, we are punch-drunk and getting even
with the sand, with the map, with oil, with ourselves
I think listening to the guys behind me. There’s a problem
in Alpena with an inventory control system, some switches
are being counted twice, switches for what I don’t know—
switches of humor, of faith—but the men are musical
in their jargon, both likely born in New Delhi
and probably Americans now, which is what the flesh
of this country has been, a grafted pulse, an inventory
of the world, and just as the idea of embrace
moves chemically into my blood, and I’m warmed
as if I’ve just taken a drink, a voice announces
we’ve begun our descent, and then I sense the falling.

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Poem – Send me a Leaf

Send me a leaf, but from a bush
That grows at least one half hour
Away from your house, then
You must go and will be strong, and I
Thank you for the pretty leaf.

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Poem – Mack The Knife

Oh, the shark has pretty teeth, dear
And he shows them pearly white.
Just a jack knife has Macheath, dear
And he keeps it out of sight.

When the shark bites with his teeth, dear
Scarlet billows start to spread.
Fancy gloves, though, wears Macheath, dear
So there’s not a trace of red.

On the side-walk Sunday morning
Lies a body oozing life;
Someone’s sneaking ’round the corner.
Is that someone Mack the Knife?

From a tugboat by the river
A cement bag’s dropping down;
The cement’s just for the weight, dear.
Bet you Mackie’s back in town.

Louie Miller disappeared, dear
After drawing out his cash;
And Macheath spends like a sailor.
Did our boy do something rash?

Sukey Tawdry, Jenny Diver,
Polly Peachum, Lucy Brown
Oh, the line forms on the right, dear
Now that Mackie’s back in town.

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Poem – Radio Poem

You little box, held to me escaping
So that your valves should not break
Carried from house to house to ship from sail to train,
So that my enemies might go on talking to me,
Near my bed, to my pain
The last thing at night, the first thing in the morning,
Of their victories and of my cares,
Promise me not to go silent all of a sudden.

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