Monday, September 30, 2013

30 September 2013

Joanne Kyger [jacket]

from Joanne Kyger's As Ever: Selected Poems:

The Odyssey Poems [excerpts]

. . .

April 23. Possibilities

        Still after 15 years or more she doesn't know
           and still may go off with the likeliest and most generous suitor

                                    The best of the lot comes from the corn and grass lands,
                               wise, and she gives him approval
But what's on her mind?

                                                       She never refuses or accepts
                                                           stands against a pillar of the house,
                             watching and planning.

                                                 Well the men
                                            they give a lot of insults to anyone that comes by,
                          wine running,
                    dancing with the maids, 112 people
                                           eating every day
                                                    She comes and rages
                                quit eating the coffee cake and cottage cheese
                           put the lid on the peanut butter jar
                                  sandwiches made of cucumber, stop eating the food!

              climbing over the rough ravine
   and up an impossible cliff, naked, you mark how high you can go
         coming back to his opinion of her or hers of him
                 listening sometimes
to him raging, you leave me alone.           you dream of me.
                                and there, she withdrew

                                                                      and wept for odysseus
                 until, what bird is it?         that swoops in definite circles in the sky
            comes down and puts her to sleep

. . .


              Here it is, the last day.           and what has happened.
                       Penelope had at least one night with her husband.
                                  And he'll have to go on again to find another city

                          without salt and away from the sea.
                                She takes this as a matter of course. It is interesting to note

how cautious she was, he called her iron hearted, to see if it was really
                                               he that had returned

               until she went to bed. It's good to be clear about what you do.
                    They had a party. The pigman and cowherd, also the son
                           drank wine and danced. This was after the killing.
                                  Not a new marriage as some might have thought
          12 ladies were hung by the neck.
                                     as usual Penelope slept through all this.

                                                                             I think she is happy now.
                                              her household is restored.
               and she knows he will die an old and comfortable death.
                  up to your room now to wait a while he tells her
                                 and she does what he says.
                                                I guess it's good to know where you're going.

May 22, 1964

Sunday, September 29, 2013

29 September 2013

Anne Waldman & Philip Whalen [jacket]

from Philip Whalen's Collected Poems:

Harangue from Newport, to John Wieners, 21:IX:57

What if I never told you
What if I never said what I'm trying
To say now?

A long time ago I thought it would be better
If I hadn't been born
But since I had been it might save trouble
To minimize the same thing:
Play it not only cool but invisible

That doesn't work any more, everybody
Asks:       "What's the matter"       "Are you mad about something?"
                            "What's worrying you now?"

Well, what . . .

        I just saw my landlord go by
                the great carbuncle on his nose
                a sea anemone at low tide, petals retracted
                center full of sand, the circulation
                in his legs is bad so his feet hurt & he has
                dizzy spells because he won't stop eating
                fried fish
                        (athero- or arteriosclerosis,
                        anyway, too much cholesterol)
                being some sort of Swede
Now what?
        My hernia has skidded again
        I found a couple chunks of jasper-agate on the beach
        and one entire family (7 or 8 of them) jumping about
        in the surf with all their clothes on
        being some sort of Dukhobors-in-reverse?
        I should burn the garbage and wash the frying pan
        I should write you something that would
        Scare you, make you laugh
        Or generally turn you on
        I'm doing now: Trying hard to be visible, to be
        Totally conscious of this time and place,
                                  of you
        And every sentient being

        I'm stacking bb's day & night
        Working miracles left & right

        (Log truck poops by in the street while I'm writing — I
changed it into gold: perfect wisdom, perfect compassion,
perfect freedom. . . . Texas-boot red shirt sideburns bodhisattva driver
instantly swung out of the cab to render his bows and performs 
his circumambulations)

        That the landlord still has his carbuncle
        That the family who frolicked in the waves have wet sandy
                clothes which chafe them
        That the frying pan remains unwashed
        That the log truck must go live at Ft. Knox
        And that nobody can see me, I've closed all the blinds
                it being night outside
        But everybody knows I'm here
                the light's turned on
Notice also that you not only see me clearly

                (A MIRACLE)

You understand everything I say.

John Wieners [Poetry Foundation]

Saturday, September 28, 2013

28 September 2013

Midway Through Reading
Brenda Hillman’s Death Tractates

She died before the date
claimed on some certificate,
died when she burned the pots black,
when she fell & hid until the bruises grayed,
died when we moved her
into care at the house where she was born.
The slightest aging
warns us what the worst will bring
yet we go on, hoping for respite —
palatial winter ice, spring mergansers,
summer otter dives —
surely she thought
if only I can carry on regardless
before she couldn’t.

Friday, September 27, 2013

27 September 2013

Lydia Chukovskaya [Wikipedia]

from Lydia Chukovskaya's The Akhmatova Journals Volume I 1938-1941, tr. Milena Michalski & Sylva Rubashova:

The torture chamber, which had swallowed up, physically, whole quarters of the city, and spiritually all our conscious and unconscious thoughts, the torture chamber, crying out its own clumsily crafted lies from every newspaper column, from every radio set, at the same time demanded of us that we should not take its name in vain, even within four walls, tête-à-tête. We were disobedient, we mentioned it continually, vaguely suspecting while doing so that, even when we were alone, we were not alone, that someone never took his eyes off us, or rather his ears. Surrounded by muteness, the torture chamber wished to remain at once all-powerful and nonexistent; it would not let anyone's word call it out of its almighty nonexistence; it was next door, a stone's throw away, and at the same time it was as if it wasn't there; women stood in the queues in silence, or whispering, used only indefinite forms of speech: "they  came", "they took"; Anna Andreevna [Akhmatova], when visiting me, recited parts of "Requiem" also in a whisper, but at home in Fontanny House did not even dare to whisper it; suddenly, in mid-conversation, she would fall silent and, signaling to me with her eyes at the ceiling and walls, she would get a scrap of paper and a pencil; then she would loudly say something very mundane: "Would you like some tea?" or "You're very tanned", then she would cover the scrap in hurried handwriting and pass it to me. I would read the poems and, having memorized them, would hand them back to her in silence. "How early autumn came this year", Anna Andreevna would say loudly and, striking a match, would burn the paper over an ashtray.

It was a ritual: hands, match, ashtray — a beautiful and mournful ritual.

Day by day, month by month, my fragmentary notes became less and less a re-creation of my own life, turning into episodes in the life of Anna Akhmatova. In the ghostly, fantastical, troubled world that surrounded me, she alone appeared not as a dream, but as a reality, even though she was writing about ghosts at the time. She was a fact, a certainty amidst all those wavering uncertainties. In the mental state in which I existed all those years — stunned, deadened — I seemed to myself less and less truly alive, and my non-life unworthy of description. ("It's a good thing that it's over".) By 1940 I had virtually ceased making notes about myself, whereas I wrote about Anna Andreevna more and more often. I was drawn to writing about her because she herself, her words, her deeds, her head, shoulders and the movements of her hands were possessed of such perfection, which, in this world, usually belongs only to great works of art. Before my very eyes, Akhmatova's fate — something greater even than her own person — was chiseling out of this famous and neglected, strong and helpless woman, a statue of grief, loneliness, pride, courage. I had known Akhmatova's earlier poems by heart since childhood, and the new ones, together with the movement of hands burning paper over an ashtray, and the aquiling profile, sharply defined as a blue shadow on the white wall of the transit prison, were now entering my life with the same inescapable naturalness as the bridges, St Isaac's, the Summer Garden or the embankment had already entered it long ago.

June-July 1966

Anna Akhmatova [steppe]

27 September 2013

My West & East

Where high above slim arms
the feathery boas of royal palms
jive, where below the wharf sea lions yip
& gray-vested seagulls stand sifting kelp,
the Santa Cruz ocean heaves —
everywhere, debris on sand or drift & sewage seep,
each sunrise golden palette bleeds
into bright day, this autumn
warmer than my first New England autumn —
a wet September —
& beyond, that runaway summer
panned on a black-&-white filmstrip,
when out from my Pontiac’s upholstery slipped
my deft unfurling pupal self.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

26 September 2013

Vista’s Tree

For dropping limbs
the tree will be shorn,
a shaman’s spell
against danger.
man with chainsaw
Not a foot from my eyes
the ruby hummer
flashes for nectar.
Claws curling,
forelimbs dancing
the cat clips my arm.
Chipper, blower
drown the screams.
First his mother’s toes,
then both legs
lopped to the knees.
Drifters next spring —
the screech owl
& countless nesters.
How many cuts
before the heart furls?
Devil-may-care squirrel
billows his tail
not two feet from
the cat’s quiver.
Already I’m forgetting
the shiny green.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

25 September 2013

Brenda Hillman [Napa Valley Writers Conference]

from Brenda Hillman's Bright Existence:

Old Ice

The thought that you could even save the light,
that you could stop it from having to be
everywhere at once.

You stood in the ice cream shop
and from the street, in a group
of silly glass trumpets
light came,
and broke into millions of itself, shattered
from the pressure of being mute who knows how long.

There also, leaning against the counter
the child who saw nothing
but the bins of sweet color
separately rimmed with silver.

Behind you, thoughtfully placed by the owners, a photo
of an avalanche, its violence
locked in blue spears . . . The ice moved cruelly, one way only,
and behind the avalanche, and behind
the posts that held it,
the cars went back and forth like mediators.

You who do not exist:
you stared along the edges of the freezer:
frost glistened and clustered.
Suddenly it looked as if one act could be completed,
mounting over and over, even under terrible pressure.
Perhaps the tiny crystals would last forever.

Once it seemed the function of poetry
was to redeem our lives.
But it was not. It was to become

indistinguishable from them.

The Rat

When I can't write, I go in and play with the rat.
Come on darling.
I open the cage and pick him up under the arms,
loving him so much, though I am his jailer —
the little head strains forward,
the body hangs down until the budlike penis
emerges from the tender belly.
Come on, I say to him,
I'm taking a break;
I'm going to stop trying to find myself in poems.

Probably I'll be having no more children
so when I look in his eyes, which are always clear and wet
like salmon roe
I say my son, all day, my son
and let him do all kinds of things:
put his whole head in my mouth,
eat crumbs in the bed,
shit in the laundry basket . . .

This is the bourgeois view of rats, that they are pleasure;
I have the rats of the poor in my attic —
hard for me to love them —
and the rats of the poor in my dreams,
in the barns of childhood,
eating the hot, closed milky ears of corn
till they are shot over and over,
until their magic skulls light up with flame . . .

Come on darling.
I hold the rat close, too close;
let him dig the pink commas of his claws
into my neck, lie for hours on my inadequate breast —

and then he starts this purring or clicking
such as must occur
at the center of the universe,
the sound acacias make when they split
their seeds on a hot day,
a tiny snap as what is dark and curved
twists into openness —

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Philip Levine & Donald Justice

Philip Levine [Beatrice]

from Philip Levine's The Bread of Time: Toward an Autobiography:

Much to my horror, my Petrarchan sonnet was selected for discussion on that third meeting. (I believe the poem no longer exists; I had the good luck never to have had it accepted for publication.) Actually, it was not that bad: it was about food, which had been an obsession of mine for several months; I was running out of money and so ate very little and very badly. To be more precise, the poem was about my mother's last Thanksgiving feast, which I had returned home to participate in; since my mother was a first-rate office manager and a tenth-rate cook, the event had been a disaster. John [Berryman] discussed four poems that day. The first was not a Petrarchan sonnet, and as far as he could determine had no subject or any phrasing worth remembering. The second did have a subject, but John went to the board to scan its meter. "This is NOT iambic," he said. After getting through four lines, he turned and headed directly toward the cowering poet, suspended the page over his head, and finally let it fall. "This is metrical chaos. Pray you avoid it, sir." I was next. Much to my relief, John affirmed that, yes, this was a Petrarchan sonnet; it was iambic and it did possess a fine subject — the hideous nature of the American ritual meal become a farce. He paused. "But, Levine, it is not up to its most inspired moments — it has accepted three mediocre rhymes, it is padded where the imagination fails. If it is to become a poem, the author must attack again and bring the entirety up to the level of its few fine moments." In effect, John was giving us a lesson in how poems are revised: one listened to one's own voice when it was "hot" (a word he liked) and let that "hot" writing redirect one toward a radical revision. "No hanging back," he once said. "One must be ruthless with one's own writing or someone else will be." (I tried but failed to improve the poem. Even at twenty-six, I had not learned to trust the imagination.)

It was clear that, among those poems considered, mine had finished second best, and for this I was enormously relieved. What follows is the best, exactly in the form we saw it on that late February Monday in 1953:

Sonnet by Donald Justice

The wall surrounding them they never saw;
The angels, often. Angels were as common
As birds or butterflies, but looked more human.
As long as the wings were furled, they felt no awe.
Beasts, too, were friendly. They could find no flaw
In all of Eden: this was the first omen.
The second was the dream which woken the woman:
She dreamed she saw the lion sharpen his claw.
As for the fruit, it had no taste at all.
They had been warned of what was bound to happen;
They had been told of something called the world;
They had been told and told about the wall.
They saw it now; the gate was standing open.
As they advanced, the giant wings unfurled.

After reading the poem aloud, John returned to one line: "As for the fruit, it had no taste at all." "Say that better in a thousand words," he said, "and you're a genius." He went on: "One makes an assignment like this partly in jest, partly in utter seriousness, to bring out the metal in some of you and to demonstrate to others how much you still need to learn. No matter what one's motives are, no teacher has the right to expect to receive something like this: a true poem." Class dismissed.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

22 September 2013

Self Portrait in Traffic

Perhaps this silver pickup before me
is parked, it’s so likely I’ve chosen the wrong lane,
no, we’re moving, no, alas, we’re stopped again
while from my left a Focus inveigles
between me & the Silverado, cranks for

the right lane, no, it stalls halfway, that way
everyone’s blocked, like a bathroom drain
from which we can be pleased no further filth
oozes — where can all these vehicles be going?

that is to say, not going, in pouring rain
while a homeless pair gains ground faster than
traffic can, the sidewalk clear, their filth,
some of it, washed away, wet hair dragging
like weeds from river stones, their brown & gray clothing
browner & grayer, where can they be heading?
Suddenly the right lane speeds forward
as if the earth’s cracked open ahead, a rift
to pour gridlock into — here a gap, after a Ranger
& before a pockmarked Camry, deftly
I swerve, better to be swallowed by a rift than
frittered away, light change by light change
tailgating an OnTrac van, now I signal for
the right turn at Laurel, at California right again,

left on Bay, finally, I’m parked at home, warm
engine ticking, pressed against the kitchen window

the cat, all anticipation inside.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Stevie Smith

Stevie Smith [A Longhouse Birdhouse]

from Stevie Smith's Collected Poems:

Brickenden, Hertfordshire

Sitting alone of a summer’s evening,
I thought
Of the tragedy of unwatered country.
O little village of Brickenden,
Where is thy stream,
Translucent drain of thy manorial sward?
Thy sward is green,
Its source of verdancy guessed but unseen.
Where is thy stream?
I have beat every bound of this wild wood.
I have trod down its spiteful and detaining undergrowth,
Seeking a broad stream and contented fish,
Seeking but finding not.
Now that the sun
Sou’westering in the sky
Tells me that everything is come,
I rest
By the wood’s profligate viridity,
By thy wood’s sap,
Child of moisture that I cannot tap.

O woods of Brickenden, you have confounded me
By your appearance of humidity.
I see the pashy ground,
And round and round
My tired feet the rushes twine,
And frogs croak and the sweating slime
Is moved about by an ambiguous brood
Of low and legless life.
Hadst thou thy stream
O wood of Brickenden,
This had been

But thy sap’s virtue comes from dank earth’s sweat,
And to be wet
Is not enough, O wood.
Hadst thou thy stream,
O little village of Brickenden,
Thy stream
had salined thee
By virtue of destinatory sea,
And thou hadst been

a Paradise.
But lacking stream
Art but a suppuration of earth’s humours.
Sitting alone on a summer’s evening,
I wept
For the tragedy of unwatered country.
Take thou my tears, O Brickenden,
They are thy rank sweat's sea.


I am that Persephone
Who played with her darlings in Sicily
Against a background of social security.

Oh what a glorious time we had
Or had we not? They said it was sad
I had been good, grown bad.

Oh can you wonder can you wonder
I struck the doll-faced day asunder
Stretched out and plucked the flower of winter thunder?

Then crashed the sky and the earth smoked
Where are father and mother now? Ah, croaked
The door-set crone, Sun's cloaked.

Up came the black horses and the dark King
And the harsh sunshine was as if it had never been
In the halls of Hades they said I was queen.

My mother, my darling mother,
I loved you more than any other,
Ah mother, mother, your tears smother.

No not for my father who rules
The fair fields of Italy and sunny fools
Do I mourn where the earth cools.

But my mother, I loved and left her
And of a fair daughter bereft her,
Grief cleft her.

Oh do not fret me
Mother, let me
Stay, forget me.

But still she seeks sorrowfully,
Calling me bitterly
By name, Persephone.

I in my new land learning
Snow-drifts on the fingertips burning,
Ice, hurricane, cry: No returning.

Does my husband the King know, does he guess
In this wintriness
Is my happiness?

A Complaint

A Complaint

A madman is painting the bathroom
after dinner, eight o'clock at night
while I try a poem.

All day he seems to do nothing
until three pm, when I claim
my day’s work done — only then
he begins.

Do you mind? he asks
spelling his brush along the wall.
I marvel at his pace, wonder
if he'll paint the night long.

He’s painting yellow
though I call it cream —
the paint chip spells HINOKI.

While the cat reads the closed door
I read Chaucer.
We're both confused by the night's tail.

Friday, September 20, 2013

20 September 2013

Philip Shepherd [Philip Shepherd]

from Philip Shepherd's New Self, New World: Recovering Our Senses in the Twenty-First Century:

Whenever a gap is encountered in our regimen of doing, for instance, we tend to fill it with waiting. Waiting is a peculiar state in which doing doesn't cease; it is just restrained, like an impatient horse. We wait in lines, we wait at bus stops, we wait at red lights, we wait for elevators, we wait for elevators, we wait in elevators — we wait for the show to begin. Such waiting puts us in a kind of limbo in which we can't stop doing even though there is nothing to do: closed off from the energy of Being, our hearts grow tense as we strain towards a better future when we will finally be able to start doing again, as if by so straining we could hurry time along. We are addicts and doing is our fix. . . . [we] have so thoroughly forgotten how to just be . . . as if life itself were up ahead, waiting on the horizon. . . 

I have often found that if I really want to get at a deeply established personal pattern such as waiting, or the incessant need to 'look back' and grasp at perspectives, . . . I have a handful of questions I return to, simple potent questions that reliably disclose my own abstractions — questions like "What happens if I let my heart open now?" or "What happens if I stop doing and just pause?" . . . The essence of such a pause is to release us from the confined, driven agenda of doing, allowing us to float through the heart's gate into the nourishment of the world.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Catherine Barnett

Catherine Barnett [Jacqueline Mia Foster]

from Catherine Barnett’s The Game of Boxes:


We didn’t believe an elephant could squeeze into church
so we went to church and waited while the priest
kept saying listen and forgive and the animals all around us
listened, or didn’t listen, some strained against leashes,
some wore disguises that made them look like people we knew,
people we should forgive or be forgiven by,
we didn’t know which, even the elephant
looked like someone we knew, flooding the doorway
like a curtain of light, swaying from side to side.
Her hide was cracked down to her feet and her eyes,
they shone like glass before it breaks. She looked
like she might fly but only walked down the aisle
in a dirty gown of wrinkles, so wrinkled and slow
and vast and silvery, the whole galaxy shivering.

Of All Faces [excerpt]


Never will I say
ok, yes, so this is it,
this is love.

He’s only homeopathy,
a little lust —
tincture, overdose,

vials of must —
an outrage to human reason,”
nothing to trust.

In the Cabinet of What’s Expired

Salves, creams, dreams in their shiny metal tins:
the balm of yes
is now the balm of no —

But it’s a pretty silver hope,
and I still swallow it —
I let it wash down my throat,

my chest,
down my desire vortex
to my smooth wild feet,

I let it wash my feet —

16 September 2013

Tom Andrews [Blackbird]

The Hemophiliac's Motorcycle
by Tom Andrews

                   For the sin against the HOLY GHOST is INGRATITUDE.
                   — Christopher Smart, Jubilate Agno

May the Lord Jesus Christ bless the hemophiliacs motorcycle, the
     smell of knobby tires,
Bel-Ray oil mixed with gasoline, new brake and clutch cables and
     handlebar grips,
the whole bike smothered in WD40 (to prevent rust, and to make
     the bike shine),
may He divine that the complex smell that simplified my life was
     performing the work of the spirit,
a window into the net of gems, linkages below and behind the given
     material world,
my little corner of the worlds danger and sweet risk, a hemophiliac
     dicing on motocross tracks
in Pennsylvania and Ohio and West Virginia each Sunday from April
     through November,
the raceway names to my mind then a perfect sensual music, Hidden
     Hills, Rocky Fork, Mt. Morris, Salt Creek,
and the tracks themselves part of that music, the double jumps and
     off-camber turns, whoop-de-doos and fifth-gear downhills,
and me with my jersey proclaiming my awkward faith — “Powered
     By Christ,” it said above a silk-screened picture of a rider in a
     radical cross-up,
the bike flying sideways off a jump like a ramp, the rider leaning his
     whole body into a left-hand corner
may He find His name glorified in such places and smells,
and in the people, Mike Bias, Charles Godby, Tracy Woods, David and
     Tommy Hill, Bill Schultz
their names and faces snowing down to me now as I look upward to
     the past
friends who taught me to look at the world luminously in front of
     my eyes,
to find for myself the right rhythm of wildness and precision, when
     to hold back and when to let go,
each of them with a style, a thumbprint, a way of tilting the bike this
     way or that out of a berm shot, or braking heavily into a corner,
may He hear a listening to the sure song of His will in those years,
for they flooded me with gratitude that His informing breath was
     breathed into me,
gratitude that His silence was the silence of all things, His presence
     palpable everywhere in His absence,
gratitude that the sun flashed on the Kanawha River, making it
     shimmer and wink,
gratitude that the river twisted like a wrist in its socket of
     bottomland, its water part of our speech
as my brother and I drifted in inner tubes fishing the Great
     White Carp,
gratitude that plump squirrels tight-walked telephone lines and
     trellises of honeysuckle vines
and swallows dove and banked through the limbs of sycamore trees,
     word-perfect and sun-stunned
in the middle of the afternoon, my infusion of factor VIII sucked in
     and my brothers dialysis sucked in and out
both of us bewildered by the body's deep swells and currents and
     eerie backwaters,
our eyes widening at the white bursts on the mountain ash, at
     earthworms inching into oil-rainbowed roads
gratitude that the oak tops on the high hills beyond the lawns
     fingered the denim sky
as cicadas drilled a shrill voice into the roadside sumac
     and peppergrass,
gratitude that after a rain catbirds crowded the damp air, bees
     spiraling from one exploding blossom to another,
gratitude that at night the star clusters were like nun buoys moored
     to a second sky, where God made room for us all,
may He adore each moment alive in the whirring world,
as now sitting up in this hospital bed brings a bright gladness for the
     human body, membrane of web and dew
I want to hymn and abide by, splendor of tissue, splendor of cartilage
     and bone,
splendor of the taillike spine's desire to stretch as it fills with blood
after a mundane backward plunge on an iced sidewalk in Ann Arbor,
splendor of fibrinogen and cryoprecipitate, loosening the blood
     pooled in the stiffened joints
so I can sit up oh sit up in radiance, like speech after eight weeks
     of silence,
and listen for Him in the blood-rush and clairvoyance of the
     healing body,
in the sweet impersonal luck that keeps me now
from bleeding into the kidney or liver, or further into the spine,
listen for Him in the sound of my wife and my father weeping
     and rejoicing,
listen as my mother kneels down on the tiled floor like Christopher
praying with strangers on a cobbled London street, kneels here in
     broad daylight
singing a glorious hosanna from the den
as nurses and orderlies and patients rolling their IV stands behind
     them like luggage
stall and stare into the room and smile finally and shuffle off, having
     heard God's great goodness lifted up
on my mothers tongue, each face transformed for a moment by
or sympathy before disappearing into the shunt-light of the hallway,
listen for Him in the snap and jerk of my roommate’s curtain as he
     draws it open
to look and look at my singing mother and her silent choir
and to wink at me with an understanding that passeth peace, this
     kind, skeletal man
suffering from end-stage heart disease who loves science fiction
     and okra,
who on my first night here read aloud his grandsons bar mitzvah
     speech to me,
“. . . In my haftorah portion, the Lord takes Ezekiel to a valley full
     of bones,
the Lord commands him to to prophesy over the bones so they will
     become people . . . ,”
and solemnly recited the entire text of the candlelighting ceremony,
“I would like to light the first candle in memory of Grandma Ruth,
     for whom I was named,
I would like Grandma Dot and Grandpa Dan to come up and light
     the second candle,
I would like Aunt Mary Ann and my Albuquerque cousins Alanna
     and Susanna to come up and light the third candle . . . ,”
his voice rising steadily through the vinegary smell and brutal hush
     in the room,
may the Lord hear our listening, His word like matchlight cupped to
     a cigarette
the instant before the intake of breath, like the smoke clouds pooled
     in the lit tobacco
before flooding the lungs and bloodstream, filtering into pith
     and marrow,
may He see Himself again in the hemophiliacs motorcycle
on a certain Sunday in 1975-Hidden Hills Raceway, Gallipolis, Ohio,
a first moto holeshot and wire-to-wire win, a miraculously benign
     sideswipe early on in the second moto
bending the handlebars and front brake lever before the possessed
     rocketing up through the pack
to finish third after passing Brian Kloser on his tricked-out
     Suzuki RM125
midair over the grandstand double jump —
may His absence arrive like that again here in this hygienic room,
not with the rush of a peaked power band and big air over the jumps
but with the strange intuitive calm of that race, a stillness
     somehow poised
in the body even as it pounded and blasted and held its line across
     the washboard track,
may His silence plague us like that again,
may He bless our listening and our homely tongues.