Poems from Frozen Spring and
Reading the Night Sky
It takes seven strong men to drag the six foot
heart of a blue whale across the deck of a
Beads of sweat well up on the sea-
stained faces of the seven men
who bear the still warm heart
of the blue whale to the boiling vats.
The men are deliverers; they tug,
rip, tear the heart
across the deck to the seething pots.
But their hands stick to surfaces
like flypaper, and recoil,
the red matter teething into fingers
as if leaching out the blood.
Ventricles, gaping mouths,
stand ajar; red smoke rises
in the darkening mist. Harsh wind
raps against crevices, something
trying to get back in,
tapping out an aberrant beat,
an unknown code, and something whines,
long and low, a sea moan.
Only a crane can lift
a six-foot heart, and as the last
inch of the raised organ
recedes into the stewing vats,
dismembered parts of the heart ascend
and billow over the deck.
Seven men inhale the vision, their hearts
slackening with each breath.
First published in The Webster Review. Also, published in chapbook, Reading the Night Sky, Riverstone Press, 1996; Frozen Spring, Mid-List Press, 2002; and in the anthology, Dolphin’s Arc: Poems on Endangered Creatures of the Sea, edited by Elisavietta Ritchie, Scop Publications, 1989.
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Conversation with Bertolt Brecht
Solely because of the increasing disorder
in our cities of class struggle,
some of us have now decided
to speak no more of cities by the sea,
snow on roofs, women…
As if the Chilean songs of revolution
would bring back the gray fishing boats
sailing through frail, deepening waters
at dawn and the seagulls making earthly sounds.
As if these songs could restore the balance,
the driven leaf, nail old
and rusted, shoved through the bent bough.
Each step through mirrors brings us
back to the pitch of sleeplessness,
the unstrung dream, an oil slick
on an ocean still and black.
As if all the songs of revolution
could bring the murmuring tree back,
could restore wind to the rigging,
full sail to the morning light.
How many years, messages, wars,
strange incidences, ironies?
The wary eye of the mother
wanted to protect her child,
promise more, cities near the sea,
clear waters, full sail,
the morning light.
First published in the New England Review. Also, published in chapbook, Reading the Night Sky, Riverstone Press, 1996; Frozen Spring, Mid-List Press, 2002; and in Voices for Peace Anthology.
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To be willing to sit here like this,
with nothing, nothing on my mind.
To be willing to waste this time,
day after day, as if my life
meant nothing to me.
Muggy, measured air of late summer
leaden with cicadas, the circus
of insects, the symphony
of their short time left.
To hear the birds weigh down
the apple tree, to watch dahlias
brown out in September, the infested
fallen blossoms on the weed-choked lawns–
so many would give up everything
everything for what I have–these worms,
split and drying on the paved avenues,
yards and yards of worms, millions
and millions, too many to count.
Think of the 50,000
earthworms in an average backyard,
their moist underbellies,
every night rising,
curling over the lips of
their individual holes.
Think of their vast chasm of tunnels.
They riddle the ground with their castings.
It’s always the leaves I come back to,
because I stare outside,
and it’s always the leaves pressed near windows,
ghosts trying to get back in,
it’s always the leaves I see.
When I lie down at night
above the bitter opening of sleep,
the sad pines, the sad crooked pines,
and the birds, listen, hear them,
as if their song were made in heaven,
something almost somnolent,
something almost cold in the darkness,
coming out of the green door,
coming out like this, out of nowhere.
First published in the Seattle Review. Also, published in Reading the Night Sky, winner of the 1996 Riverstone Press Poetry Chapbook Contest, and in Frozen Spring, Mid-List Press First Series Award for Poetry, 2002.
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