SECTION TEN
THE POETRY PAGE

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COLUMN SIXTY-SIX, DECEMBER 1, 2001
(Copyright © 2001 Al Aronowitz)

THEY CAME TO THIS PLACE HEAVY AND DISPLEASED
 
A silver screen of rain obscures the trees.
After the storm, fog hangs over the road
like the cloud of flesh that intimidates the world.
Then the porter comes with towels
to wipe dry the rows of deck chairs.
Always he says the weather will improve.
 

Sparrows rummage now among shades of yarrow.
It is not given them to pantomime selfishness.
So few of us are born to be tall boys
on boats who see across the water to a blond
image of all the common world means.
They smile, while others are beside themselves.
 

I saw down the road yesterday that someone
carved a heart into the bark of an old elm.
The letters "BL" and "GR" reside there
with hope this world lasts as long as timber.
Such falling in with words is dangerous.
That's why we got off to a bad start months ago.
 

Besides, what passes for desire in the Empire
does not work its magic anymore.
A middle aged woman, standing alone by the patio
with her bottled water and a hand on her hip,
waits for someone to break the silence.
She squints into the slant sunlight and sips.

  At dusk, I sit and watch the glide of boats.
Time within. Desire without. Nothing I write
makes a difference to the orbit of planets,
let alone who stays or goes. I write it anyway.
See how a breath of wind across the bank
reforms the river's lap to bright starlight.   ##

 * * *

THE ANCIENTS BELIEVED ALL THINGS WRITTEN WERE HOLY

For Dan L.

On campus lawns the leaves are orange and rose,
while hedgerows reach for evening's bony light.
Inside the deanís dark house a TV glows.
Outside, a one-tooth pumpkin grins with spite.  

A long and weary grumble haunts the quad.
Professors grouse, and shake a fist to God.
Their students turn again from will to wonít.
This month the trees give up, but flowers don't.  

It's funny how a man becomes a fool.
He kept his mouth shut while in graduate school,
then married a trophy blonde just for her looks
and now his belly goes before his books.  

So, leaves pile up, the gardener drags his rake,
and plants the bulbs that sleep upon the shelf.
We learn it is the same old give or take--
the knot that is the world, the knot of self.  ##

* * *

EXECUTIVE ORDER

 Some say a flight of birds shot up the way
a flock surprised leaps free from field or marsh.
But no, that flash was not just boys at play.
It was a strike and flame more swift and harsh.
Some say the river stopped its glide of light.
Some tried again the doors, but locks were jammed.
Some say the smoke was thick and dark as night--
The slow and subtle suck of being damned.
There was a crack, a roar, then floor to floor,
They fall--the sides like skin just peel away.
Who counts the stars? Who stripes the map of war?
The nudge of earth just said, "Do come this way."
  And so America both arms and mourns.
  God grants the rose. Be wary of the thorns.  ##

* * *

LIVING THE LITERARY LIFE

November's moon comes up between bare trees.
Look! What a surprise. His roses grow.
The frost has not yet brought them to their knees,
But in a few more weeks they bow to snow.
He lights his pipe, then draws a breath of smoke.
It swirls away like milk poured in the sea.
That home his work would make, its also smoke,
And drifts to gauze and ghostly memory.
He juggled his desire with truth; how long?
For years he built a shrine; how many stones?
Of course, the critics say his books are wrong.
And now the moon taunts, bleached as white as bones.
Like smoke, as well, the names his lips engage
Just marry metaphors upon this page.  ##

* * *

STROM THURMOND SIGHTED ON THE D-DAY BEACH

The ships at sea are like a wall of gray.
I am afraid. I want to run, but stay.
My friend is shot. A bullet clefts his head.
A fraction parts the living from the dead.

The Nazis dragged him from his father's farm.
Like all the boys, he is a mystery to myself.
They hate the food, but wish the French no harm.
He fires...like shooting tin cans off a shelf.

The air and beach are ripped by steel sleet.
The sacrament of war confounds the wise.
Like wind that waves across a field of wheat,
The army's mass sweeps toward his drab disguise.

A shell explodes, my heart pounds in my chest.
I hope my mother knows I do my best.
The shrapnel sings, the wounded moan and wheeze.
I have him in my sights, but then I sneeze.  ##

* * *

CHILDíS PLAY  

A cloud of souls, the mist of all that's gone,
returns to cap with frost the picket posts.
So cold, and still hope burns like iodine.
See now a blanket of white where once was lawn.
December makes our words appear like ghosts.
 

Who comes in youth again to taste love's salt?
In wintertime desire is cellophane.
Once, boys at school, we played, his hand in mine,
but snowbound forts prevailed, time was at fault.
I scratched his name upon the windowpane.
 

The tendrils of our heart's desire all weave
an Eden of ice. We eat. Forgive our sin
that leads from wilderness to blank design.
Such tricks, with snowballs up his sleeve,
or hugs for tumbling down the hill, and then,
 

the glance of God, a fog, so far we fall
into the white and icy glory of His call.
Hold still. The hand of mercy gathers us.
We play again in snow and blue sunshine.
Show me your breath. Exhale. Here's mine.  ##

 * * *

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