Category Archives: Poetry journal

Questions of Real Estate

“Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?” Elizabeth Bishop

 

When I look at Real Estate in The New York Times,
I am charmed, absorbed by how small the spaces are
how much they cost, how light, how airy, how clever.
And oh!  The things the owners say sometimes:
“It’s a modest little apartment but it’s so well done,”
(Barbara Barrie said) “It has brought me joy every day.”
But the odds for joy on the Upper West Side of Manhattan
are better than even, I’d guess. I really couldn’t say.
I am obsessed with other people’s homes.
I drive by houses and picture myself there.
Would I like it? Are the people inside happier
or sadder? Do they want to stay or go?
I think I could be happy anywhere.

I could be happy anywhere but here.

_______

I suppose it’s possible that last line is true, but more likely it’s the poet in me having that line occur to me and going NICE TWIST.  In any case, my house in small-town Wisco is pretty sweet sometimes:

a pic my husband took this morning

Dream Song #4 (a fat sonnet)

The trees and hills are at that awkward point
of winter, snow on the ground but nowhere else,
a bald guy with new implants too spread-out
to be attractive. I can’t wait until it all melts.
I had a dream once of climbing a hill like that.
I stubbed my toe, looked down to see bright pink
instead of white—blood mixed with snow—I think
that’s why hills look like heads to me still. What
dream book should I consult for giant head
with tender scalp and kicked-up bleeding crown?
I was part of a dream journaling experiment back then
and had a wicked crush on the therapist who led
the group. He had snake dreams. We all said
a snake means sex. He said no, not always. It doesn’t.
At 22, I was a nearly-manic mix of depressed
and horny and drank too much one time and tried to find
his house. I knew it was by a lake. If I found
his house, he didn’t answer the door. Which is good.
That night felt like a dream, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.

Dream Song #2

I almost never want to leave the street
where my dream is taking place, but things
move fast so I can’t linger. The other night
I was in Butte (I think) and everything
was Irish, St. Patrick this and Brigid that,
mint green signs and throbbing drums and drunk guys
and a sense that things were turning dangerous
and I was walking, not driving, down a very narrow street.
That’s it. That was the end. I wasn’t afraid.
A man I know who lost a tooth in Butte
(for real) has cancer. I dreamed about him last night.
A gallery show, collages of himself, most naked,
which he called “The Ravager_________.” Next to the cheese tray,
he was selling tiny brown cloverleafs he’d crocheted.

_____

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Big Drummer Man

What if the Little Drummer Boy grew up
to be Big Drummer Man, a butcher perhaps,
with skins aplenty to manhandle across the tops
of barrels and pots and one precious little cup
that someone drank some special wine out of,
(Jesus maybe, yes, that’s who it was),
so that all along the Via Dolorosa,
every single, sorrowful step, there rose a
tattoo (the skin kind is the second definition,
thank you very much), a pummeled out
percussion code, spelling with every beat
not “inadequacy,” but “indignation,
causing Mary to nod to the beat and from
up high the grown-up baby smiled at him?

I know the little drummer boy did his thing in Bethlehem, not Jerusalem, but hear me out–any kid who plays a drum for a baby isn’t going to just GO AWAY, especially not after mother and child both encouraged him. I figure he stuck around and made a nuisance of himself, kept in touch, essentially stalked the holy family, drumming the whole time, and I picture them feeling about him the way I feel about the song–partly charmed, partly annoyed.

Not happy yet with the title. I considered these:

OK WHAT WISE GUY PUT A CROWN OF THORNS IN THE MANGER

WE CAN’T HELP SEEING A CROWN OF THORNS IN THE MANGER

ON THE HEAD OF THE BABY IN THE MANGER LIES A CROWN OF THORNS

HEY DRUMMER BOY I CAN SEE YOUR HOUSE FROM HERE

CHRISTMAS IS SALT, EASTER IS PEPPER

Behind. Alive. So Bright.

New snow and hoar frost and every cliché
about crystals and diamonds and stars—
my commute the other morning was bright
while my mood was altogether grim, standard
mid-semester stew of “I am so far behind”
with big chunks of “I live in squalor” and
an extra soupçon of regret. Remonstrance
aplenty as I set out for work and yet
those damn sparkles everywhere,
especially on the red blackberry canes,
and I won’t say the grimness diminished,
but I played like each spot of silver
shining in the morning sun was one more thing
I needed to do that wasn’t yet done
and honestly I’ve never felt more alive.
_____
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The snow, thankfully, is mostly gone. But the bottles in my garden are glowing.

Routine Magic

Attention, please–both from and to the very best
of audiences any company could ever hope
to play to, so we hear–that cellophane
you’re crinkling deci-bells itself far, far beyond
your little ears–and also, when the music starts,
post-intermission but before the actors
reappear, that’s not your cue to talk
a little louder–no, it means shut up.
What’s more–I could go on. I won’t. It’s just–
we’re so lucky that it feels routine.
Each night they crank up the volcano, test
the atom bomb, make love from paper, walk
a cobweb tightrope, grow trees from lowly beans….
We’re privy to it all, all summer, face to face.
There is more than routine magic in this place.

picture of lit path with nearly-full moon

American Players Theatre on a moony night.

_____
This is the last weekend for up-the-hill shows at American Players Theatre and for most of the shows in the Touchstone Theater. A Doll’s House, Part 2 begins later this month and runs through the middle of November–I’m super excited to see it.

It was a fantastic season and I’m so happy it’s not quite done.

The first bit of that very nonce-y sonnet up there–that’s me being crabby. I’m more and more comfortable being crabby. And then the sestet–that’s me being appreciative. Which I’m also more and more comfortable being.

So lucky to live down the road from this routinely magical spot.

Everything.

Like when there’s a good-looking man on a tractor
driving on the shoulder and he’s bouncing
because it’s an old tractor, a Farmall, the best kind—
before I got up to him, he was in silhouette, all black
because the sun behind us was orange and pink, a peach,
the whole sky was a peach, the sun a bright red frisbee,
on probably the last truly muggy day of the year,
the last day of September, before the cold in October—
I’m telling you it was hot and he was hot and I was hot.
Everything was on fire—that’s what it was like.
What? What was like that? Everything.

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