Some say the internal logic of events
will speed up just before the end
but I wouldn't grant that idea
much credence—“no street cred,”
someone said, and I concurred,
the way you do to a clever remark
heard in passing. Meanwhile,
prepare for me a smoke from a bag
and that sort of thing, I was just thinking
about pastel shades of green and purple and blue
with the best vibrations coming from yellow,
famous for its wholesome camaraderie,
its way of rallying the troops,
often making babies grow placid.
“Someone should bottle and sell it,”
as Granny used to say when in her cups
and about to inveigh again
against the man in office, whose
sweating brow and beady eyes
would cause fitful dreams. Once,
she said, she dreamed she flew
but in the end awoke as an anaconda.
“So that should teach you,” she urged.
I never knew what she meant to say,
I simply rationed out the pills
and emptied the slops, you know,
on a whole ’nother level.
Whenever I look back
at the bliss of those days,
it's as if someone else
starts speaking—I think
it's the kid who owned
his own motor scooter
and had nothing
for a boy and his tree,
me, in other words.
I wish the truth weren't so fishy,
could be reached in plain words
or at least with no fancy grammar,
but whenever I catch a hint
of those little corrections
for the sake of form or etiquette,
I can never get back to believing
what I'm told. It's a sham,
and we're all sitting ducks in range
and there's no help for it
but to push forward into the moat,
out beyond the bridge abutment
and further—past those shadows
in which others would be happy to pause,
but not us. Forgive me
if I take the liberty of saying
your left eye twitches a little
when you get excited.
No, no, pay no mind,
it's really quite charming.
And there you have it. It's not as if
any of us will be called before Caiaphas.
There's no point pretending much rides
on what we say, as now I hear,
you know, the long, withdrawing roar
of history in the widening gyre,
and all those things poets have said
to sound profound once it's clear
the jig is up. Cancelled, if this were TV.
But it never is, or not really, though
we're often told we can't tell the difference
by those who are supposed to know,
and yet one can't blame them
for wanting to be popular
since what else have they got,
poor dears. No, it's best to sit in the tub
after lights out, concocting choice means
for revenge. There should be
a special program for that or at least
an advice column. I'm not judging,
have no statuettes to hand out,
and I'd be the last person to ask
for what I'm owed. I'm like that,
she said, I always hold open the door
for others and never ask for payment.
After all, isn't sleeping the best way
to avoid speaking? There should be
people who still say “Go to, caitiff!”
on occasion, but, alas, no more.
Whatever was untoward has been
phased out, as if some central
planning committee is looking out for us,
really wants us to eat and sleep better
and think of the children. And maybe
it's so, maybe I simply missed missives
that would have alerted me in time,
too busy looking for bulletins in clouds,
discarded scraps, desktop scratches,
traces of lint and dust that mark our passing.
“Everything conspires to ignore us,”
someone said, or was it “exploit us,”
I'm sure it could go either way, but
what I mean to say is that, at that level,
well, you do the math, it pretty much says
no one is exempt. See you in hell.
I wouldn't want to be accused
of accusing you of something,
I don't have cause for complaint,
you've been just swell, but the shoes
I wear pinch my feet sometimes
and nothing you say helps. We're always
on a road with a long way to go
each time I see you and you like to pretend
you know where it's going and that irks me,
the way a repeating drip or car alarm
punctuates the rhythm of my breathing
and implies that systole, diastole
is a rather quaint and creaky way
to get on. The pleasing economy
of such moments is what makes them
memorable, Chuck said, and it was as if
someone had beat the bushes
to make birds fly up so they might
be shot. If we're not careful
I'll begin to feel sorry for you
and then where will we be, adrift
like two survivors of the sinking
of a major vessel, holding to
lanyards or something, whatever keeps
the raft from coming apart
like bread in water, a sugar cube in tea.
One gifted morning
there were motor cars
for the first time
and it's useless pretending
it makes no difference we weren't there,
but I like how my memory of it
always features sporting gents
and gay ladies all decked out.
The sky is very blue, the grass
electric green, and the smoke
so very black and generous.
I'm always nervously holding
mother's parasol in that scene,
worried about dirt on my flannels
and hoping the tiresome chat
will soon be over
and we'll be motoring
past the hedges
with some clever and rakish chap
at the wheel. Oh yes,
we all remark
the steeple in the distance
and how swiftly we arrive at its foot.
There's an impression left in the carpet.
You can see that something sat there
of considerable weight and bulk,
but now it's gone. We too had
leaded windows once, maybe even
an escarpment, but never a chandelier.
There was a special room for your boots
and for all the fruits of so many seasons
stored in jars. “No one shows love
like a woman who preserves,” Gramps
would say, and then the festivities
would begin. We all knew our place,
they tell us, but I never see myself
among their number. Was I hiding
behind the door or beneath the bed,
or are there more sinister reasons?
Each time I circle the grounds
it's a different house at the center
and the exploits of the inmates
become harder and harder to fathom
till I'm quite willing to be airlifted.
Nothing for the sinuses like ozone.
Breaking the reverie
The book you ordered
The moon and me
Tired chickens home to roost
Fix the kitchen
A great adventure
With a becoming rustle
Dark hawks hear us
With this ring
Where the great tree once stood
He'd send in the army
Back there, the ghost-town ghost
As one who had come that way before
Advance the plot
Catch as catch can
A serviceable villain
And now a word from our sponsor
When in doubt
You and me, kid
Tell it to a marine
Come a cropper
Your blue car
Read all about it
First in his class
Take no prisoners
* * *
It's not as if beneath
an amber moon there's just
my love and me, but so what?
She'll still take the train
and I'll wonder why I care.
Hoof beats arriving on schedule
can be quite satisfying, like
pie charts and other impedimenta
of rational discourse, the kind
you were always running out of,
slapping your pockets for a pen,
or the right-sized screwdriver,
no matter, the circling harpies
of your inner vision give you
no leeway, you have to admit
you lost yourself in work,
that staid habitation,
where it was even easier to lose
everyone else. Whose dog
is barking now and why beneath
my window? Oh, the irises
I would plant were there but time!
Fix me an egg sandwich
and I'll be on my way, whistling,
stepping over the dung. Purple
clouds are worth remarking
a bit longer, till all goes gray.
* * *
Silence those polite foghorns,
let my dim ship not foist itself
upon the rocks, dismasted.
does bellyflops in the pool.
Pointing toward the grocery store,
he suggested that what we needed
could be had for a price. Squinting,
I was inclined to agree, and yet
deeper reflection made the entire scene
doubtful. Was I really
grasping at straws, a man of
no country but with a name to come,
or was seed better scattered abroad
like rain in season? Ask my hat
if it can come in or if the talk
I attended had room in the aisles
for acrobats and jugglers, those
old souls reborn in feckless youths.
I'd like to walk a mile in her shoes,
well, no, not with those heels,
but with time to alter conclusions
as seemed necessary, never
believing she could do me harm
or really even want to. There,
I've said it, give her a gun
and let her take her best shot.
And with that, the tall galoot
walked off into the dawn.
* * *
We couldn't find room for all the parties
that wanted to appear,
simply asked those concerned to address
their petitions to other aims,
secure in our belief that the best among us
can take care of themselves
and will never need ironing or aspirin in this life.
And yet the dismal cries
of those left behind can still disturb our sleep,
just enough to be unpleasant
without the silken breeze we take twice nightly,
grateful to tireless workers
in our country's defense for all they have done
that we can't rightly question
or even enumerate convincingly on television.
No matter, if all is free
to be disgorged, then it were well the tide abates.
“Clever is as clever does,”
she said, with her finger on the trigger or button
and all the balancing acts
of our future peril were champing at the bit
to appear to best effect.
Even now I detect traces in our drinking water
but only when the sky is right
and all the proceeds have been properly pledged
to their long shores of day
and the netted catch exceeds my strength
and thy coveted voice
speaks to me with the old chant, the old roses.
* * *
We're in the grip
of tremulous cadences.
Someone send out
I'll make up the spare bed
and hope for the best.
Don't leave the light on in the basement,
it makes the insects angry.
Try now to rehearse with me
the story as they told it,
the old ones who were mostly
all there when they learned it,
and never took back the gold
they left for you beneath the seesaw.
I'm trying to remember where I put it
and why everyone suspected I'd lose it
and why that boy with the squint
was not to be trusted with matches.
Don't stop the tailspin on my behalf,
I'll gladly walk till dusk
then try my luck with swimming.
The puddle in the closet has grown.
Nothing seems able to stop it now,
and not for want of trying,
but whenever I get chilblains
I have to exercise violently
and every tire screech
becomes a sizable investment
in culture. We are fortunate
that's all, you said it,
and now for something
For what are the best reasons for crying
if not this ample piece of cheese
left where none can get it,
and all our yesterdays but temples
in which uncouth heathens
track mud on the floor? Still grows
the maelstrom, and gladioli
bloom on deck against all sense.
The tired positions we've adopted
do us evil in the end, or, sometimes,
justice, depending on who's watching
and which airline
calls your transatlantic flight.
* * *
True, I don't like
the smell of me when I get like this,
but you wouldn't either,
She invited me to try
her açaí berry drink.
Please, take only what you need
and leave the rest for others.
No matter what you do,
you always leave a clue behind.
Close your eyes till you can see it
among the toys you played with
and left out in the snow.
When everyone races for the top
some must fall, and all dogs
clamor for that brief pleasure.
Enumerate your visions
if that gives you patience, tally
your failings, stare into the fire.
A change is coming.
©Donald Brown 2010/2013