Troubadour Song and other poems

Troubadour Song and other poems

Troubadour Song

                                  I woke this winter morning  
to the smell of the sea
and hummed a song for nothing,
                                        how nothing came to me.

                                  I dreamed I mounted a horse
                                        along an empty beach 
                                  where we galloped far away 
                                        ‘til I was out of reach.

                                   We trotted past the lighthouse 
                                        abandoned on the dunes
                                    and paused by a small stable
                                        that was now in ruins.

                                    I woke this winter morning
                                         to the smell of the sea
                                    and made a song for nothing,
                                         how nothing came to me.

                                    We rode to the starkest edge
                                          of nowhere, by the sea.
                                     The horse was all that remained
                                          of what I’d longed to be.

                                     We had somewhere deep to rest
                                           and nothing left to see,
                                     and so the two of us walked
                                           into the cemetery.

                                     I woke this winter morning  
                                           to the smell of the sea
                                     and sang a song for nothing,
how nothing came to me.

To Poetry 

Don’t desert me
just because I stayed up last night 
watching The Lost Weekend.

                             I know I’ve spent too much time
                             praising your naked body to strangers
                             and gossiping about lovers you betrayed.

                             I’ve stalked you in foreign cities
                             and followed your far-flung movements, 
                             pretending I could describe you.

                             Forgive me for getting jacked on coffee 
                            and obsessing over your features
                             year after jittery year.

                             I’m sorry for handing you a line
                             and typing you on a screen, 
but don’t let me suffer in silence.

                             Does anyone still invoke the Muse,
                             string a wooden lyre for Apollo,
                             or try to saddle up Pegasus?

                             Winged horse, heavenly god or goddess,
                             indifferent entity, secret code, stored magic,
                             pleasance and half wonder, hell,

                             I have loved you my entire life
                             without even knowing what you are
or how—please help me—to find you.

The Keening

All morning he heard a faint thrumming
In the distance, a wail, a wild cry—
Atonal, primitive—

Almost too far away to hear,
A frequency nearly beyond us now,
Yet ours alone.

All morning he tried to blot it out
And follow the news breaking
Like a fog over the day,

But he kept hearing it rising
                                  And coming closer, a chant,
A plea from the dead

Suddenly burning inside him, 
One of the grief-stricken ones,
Wearing a button-down with a tie

And walking the hall with a notebook
As if he belonged here, as if
He had something else to report.  

I Was Never Able to Pray

                                          Wheel me down to the shore
where the lighthouse was abandoned  
and the moon tolls in the rafters.

                                          Let me hear the wind paging through the trees
and see the stars flaring out, one by one,
like the forgotten faces of the dead.

                                          I was never able to pray,
but let me inscribe my name
in the book of waves

                                          and then stare into the dome
of a sky that never ends
and see my voice sail into the night.

Black Rhinoceros

                             The Black Rhinoceros at Brookfield Zoo
                             Eating sweet potatoes, carrots, and bread
                             Looked like my uncle’s extended family
                             Crowding around the table at Thanksgiving.

                             Mrs. Movehill suddenly started crying
                             On the second-grade bus, which often stalled,
                             And the next day we had a substitute teacher 
                             Who said that rhinos have poor eye-sight

                             And swivel their tube-shaped ears in all directions
                             So they can hear their enemies approaching, lions
                             And people who carve their horns into daggers 
                             Or mash them into pain relievers.

                             My parents bought my shoes on discount
                             At Wolinsky& Levy, and so whenever I raised
                   Either foot my sole said “Damaged.”
                             That’s why I kept my feet close to the floor. 

                             When Mrs. Movehill returned, she wore dark
                             Dresses and told us that the Black Rhinoceros
                             Is the same muddy color as the White Rhinoceros,
                             Which is strange, if you think about it, and we did.

                             What does it feel like to have two horns
Tilting up on a huge head, Mr. Rhinoceros?
                             You lumber around in your skin of armor
                             Like an exiled general or a grounded unicorn.

Everyone knows that a pachyderm in peril
                             Would still rather live in the open savannah.
We can’t tell if you are trumpeting forward
Or backward in your scrubby house.


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