I, and Not You—To My Son
Not even to these was I always constant--
What escaped my attention. What small hands
of sunlight; what frail and infant breeze, hid
trembling among the trees—and all those so
freely given, those tender, those aching,
gifts I turned from each day. As much as I
loved, I un-loved. I know without counting.
For each and every evening I walked
alone in the twilight; for each time I
paused to consider the moon; or the sun
as it traveled with yellow and pink, to
the distance the color of bruises; there
were softer, more subtle—even sometimes
more glaring, prisms I chose to ignore.
And so it was also with You, my Son--
Argonaut, Tall Lion, Philosopher
King—Prince along the bookshelves, happy and
excited, hunter of knowledge, and friend
to all lost sailors washed onto the shores.
Too often I chose indifference. As
often as duty chose me, I failed what
duties I chose for myself—at least,
if not more. So now in your grandeur--
husband and father; bold Captain—know it
was I—not You— I, who failed to row
to those flares from the waves; I—and not You
—I, and not You—steered away from the call.
Setting Some New Priorities
I no longer worry that my thesis
on the Ghost Orchid and her shameless romance
with a Cypress in the swamps of Florida
will ever reach the desk of the President;
or that Congress will debate my proposal
to hold sessions on the shores of the Potomac
complete with fried chicken and whisky.
Age and resignation have stripped me
of such ambitions, and smaller
more attainable goals consume me.
Mostly I consort with the dead these days:
Confederate colonels on horseback
gathered beneath a shade tree on a hill,
awaiting the newest orders from their General;
or the massacred peasants of Khitan
and their wives and their children that the Khan
sold off into slavery. Yesterday a boy
in Chicago was killed in the crossfire and a twelve
year old girl was strangled and raped in LA.
The President and Congress have troubles enough
I think, they should be forced to read poetry;
but those colonels, those peasants, those kids
in LA and Chicago? Perhaps they might need me.
The Fourth Step
It’s four a.m. on a Sunday once more
and I am sitting here in my socks and my underwear,
taking my own moral inventory and wondering
how I’ll ever find redemption again.
Maybe I’ll just run naked in the rain
as I did when I was a child, do a few cartwheels
on the lawn, or shoot a BB gun at my brother.
Sitting up in a tree by myself used to work,
as I remember, especially the broad leafy
box wood in my father’s backyard.
And hey, this whole pen and paper thing
is getting a bit annoying—something akin
to scoring a baseball game while all the time
missing the action out there on the field.
But I don’t take to heights like I used to;
the BB gun’s gone with my bicycle; and
I was never much good with those cartwheels.
So maybe I’ll just dance a Tango for penance--
take one more elegant woman in my arms once more
—and dare all the gods to do what I do.
Your Grandfather's Love Song
Some less than you expected in your blush
when you read Rossetti and Sidney each day
hunkered in the orange and brown afghan
that you took from your grandmother’s parlor--
without your mother’s permission—the night
that frail and cherubic Nana passed away.
Nor even the random and frolicsome
handfuls of wildflowers Adam,
your very first beau, would gather along
the roadside and deliver to you wrapped
in last Friday’s newspaper, together
with coffee and Danish, while you lingered
in bed with the symphonies of love on
Sunday afternoons wrapped in the sheets
of April. Nothing so comforting
nor quite so capricious as these from my hands
my Beloved—not the faded wool of past
Thanksgiving dinners, nor the flitting bird
of Spring and his fingers quick with daisies,
bindweed and larkspur from me. But only
the pile of coal I shoveled into
the furnace this morning; this envelope
of dollars and coins so that Pat might have
her shoes—this small sweet cup of tea for you.
Sea Scape -- Joy Frangiosa
To escape from an inland asylum, one
must learn first the music of waves—waves that
repeat the rhythms and the sounds of the
waves arriving before them and the waves
that break loose from the pattern and
sometimes establish a nocturne all their own.
So distinct are some waves, the waves become
poems—or the skeletons of poems—poems
slipped away from the beaches of Ireland perhaps:
poems about sad and intricate women,
women with scarfs, standing on the shore
in the moonlight—women who cry, women
who sing, women with answers that no one
can question—women who write letters and women
who are waves and the mothers of the waves.
Perhaps the geraniums and the furniture
have interesting lives entirely their own--
criminal pasts and ferocious political views
beyond our own needs for comfort and style.
Maybe every flower in the yard is a spy
for the Axis, each of them hiding a microphone
in its blossom and reporting our movements
in code to a bunker in Tokyo or Berlin.
Or think about this: what if those supra-cool black
leather Italian chairs you bought for your den
were secretly Fascists, faithfully recording the radical
and avant-garde opinions of you and your friends
and feeding them daily to the Minister of Information?
Could you sit upon them then? Could you ever again enjoy
how entirely hip they are? Could you say to a guest, “Please
have a seat, Benito ‘El Duce’ Mussolini is listening?”
I want to warn you plainly and with some provocation.
Sometimes I steal things—your grandmother’s cameo
for example—the one that you put on the night stand
before you go to bed at night. Or your dead brother’s
bicycle—the Schwinn with the rusted handlebars
and the two rotted tires in the corner of your garage.
Oftentimes it’s hand tools—a screwdriver set or a mallet;
but mostly I prefer the kitchen and the side yards--
that flea-market spice rack and 30’s yellow crockery
—that single sprig of lilac as it droops onto the lawn.