Winter, bitterest season of all:
To me it makes the most sense.
Crushed cornflowers and poppies,
Brown stains in the pages of the notebook
I carried in Greece. I want to grow
A fig sapling indoors. Will it live?
The city is a strange habitat
For any life. And yet its forms too
Begin to seem naturally occurring.
I am jealous of nature,
Its muchness and economy,
The way that it sculpts pebbles
In riverbeds, its scorn for excess,
But then the total needlessness,
The paprika in the sunset, apricots
And clavichords and topiaries,
The secret doggerel of DNA,
The welts of autumn in the daffodils,
The late frost, fractals of light
Spilling through foliage,
And the galaxy of yellow leaves
Blotting the lanternlight sun.
Nature is metaphor for itself.
When the pines lose their needles,
I go walking in the splintered woods;
It is the only time I can think.
The brown smell, the smell of death
And earth—my breath is full,
My hell is other people.
America, I think of you in the stones,
In the clay of the riverbed
—Mother whose children die first.
And when I think of you, I have
A pain in my chest, just behind
My lungs. Little hagiography:
The wren on the branch twitches
With mysterious worries, the
Yellow secret of her mouth
Tightly sealed and songless:
The bird who will not sing.
In old German picture books,
I read about butterfly children,
Astonishment: innocence regained
From the slow magic of inky illustrations,
And the stories they print in your head.
Wisdom unused curdles: the cynic is born.
I wish to turn back to the cynicism of the Greeks:
Live like a dog. My mother sewed me a doll
With a cat’s whisker stitched inside
Where the heart would be. The coming ice age
Will be as distinct as the last, in retrospect,
In the posthistory that preempts its students.
And there are no words to communicate one’s atheism
To the woman at the party telling me she is a libra—
It is best to go home, do laundry, forget about other people.
You go to sleep first, and I stay awake
Alone, sitting at the table in the dark,
Listening to the final act of the Ring Cycle
And wondering about annihilation
And tomorrow’s chores. The canker
In the side of things. I find a malignant
Inspiration torching the back of my retina,
Prying out the apple of my eyes, trying
To oust the secret circumspection
That keeps me captive with worries.
In whose salty palms too much
Revolution, too much sapling
In this acidic soil, in whose fingers
The weight of things is insubstantial,
On whose tongue the taste is ash.
Daguerreotype for an Agitator:
The disgust the wealthy have
For the rest of us; hobbyhorse
Against humility, gold-plated
Civility and greed’s wolfish maw,
And the muzzled jaw of sooth,
And the soothsayers, toothless
With their wares, are made
To look ridiculous—people stare
And point; time is out of joint
With me and threadbare.
I am too many cooks:
I spoil the broth, but I
Am not wrong in recipe;
I boil and stew and simmer.
In me there is a glimmer
That shines like every sinner,
Like hope and pleasure together,
Taking measure of you,
And kissing it better.
There is a feeling that we
Are not long for democracy.
The wealthy will not abdicate;
They will rather eat themselves to death.
Knock on your own door
See who is there; no partisan
But the seizure that answers
Gretchen’s question; the shrug of me
Gives this lurid account,
Betraying the true sense of things.
The pines lose their needles. What is bird song?
Black-capped chickadees may have a grammar.
Parrots learn by imitation just like children do.
What a regret of mine not to be lost in the woods
Until time ends. Running water is heard, then cars.
I arrive on the road. A fawn is dead, small slump
Of broken bones. Its eyes are open. Lucid piety
Of leaves and needles, the wild is careful all around.
The brush is still. Cars pass by. Trammel and cruelty,
I suspect, are everything. The secret interiority—
A great blankness collapsing into itself all creatures
Great and small.
The earth is a carnivore. Go back to the city,
Where I can lie fluently. Where the terracotta eros
In the museum will remind me:
Earth gathered into decadence.
Mother whose children—I think of you
In the streetlights, in the muddy sidewalks.
You whose purple bruises hazard and scry,
Who never sleeps, whose tears don’t dry.
I wish I were a carnivore,
To chew things up. But
I am domesticated; I sit colossus
At the table, hungry, and do not eat.