Thursday, April 19, 2018

An April Genre Scene

Shipping containers heaped six
stories high shade sunbathers
at Pleasure Bay. Commerce smiles
more convincingly than the sun
as I savor colorful boxes
of cheap goods shipped from China

to cripple our shy economy.
The old stone fort on the island
doesn’t challenge the huge black
container ships that arrive
once or twice a week to shed
loads trundled through Panama.

It also ignores tankers churning
further up the harbor to Chelsea
to vomit oil from Baton Rouge.
The sea-horizon crinkles in mist.
Wind shucks through the playground
where toddlers chitter and howl.

The curved line of beach flexes
a single great bicep to assert
the power of form over function.
A man walks a tiny dog along
the weed-line stitched by the tide.
The dog noses every shell or scrap

of trash, every torn strop of kelp.
I want to fold this genre scene
into my pocket and take it home
to examine under lamplight.
But those half-naked sun-lovers
forcing the season would object.

And the container ship unloading
its red and green and blue boxes
would shudder and tilt in the wash,
the ripples expanding all the way
to China, where someone important
might file an official complaint.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Shopping Center Gray

You wonder if my recent
photos affix the weather
in grays of absolute gloom.
The shopping center parking lot

draped in a spume of raincloud
looked flat enough to sadden
the brightest childhood Christmas.
I’d gone to Pet Smart to stock

the larder for the cats, but caught
this slump of landscape full-bore
and had to share it with you
to spread and thin out the pain.

But what if instead of gray
snapshot weather those clouds
were bursts of shellfire toppling
the sheaves and reams of culture?

The two worlds wars have faded,
and collective memory fails
to account for school shootings,
police executions, politics

that discolor all discussion
like madmen wielding crayons.
I say madmen to exclude
women like you who render

with exquisite color sense
a world parallel but distant,
one in which I’d like to live
if I could ever afford the rent.

The sky didn’t look at all
like photos of the Great War—
shrapnel and flung dirt sprouting
in organic sprigs of monochrome.  

It looked as sullen as a child,
bored with itself and everything.
I thought that photographing it
would lend an aesthetic dimension;                       

but then I remembered my errand,
and thought of cat food instead
of keeping my good eye focused
on the sorrow and pity of light.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The River in Winter

The river in winter looks a mile wide and an inch deep. No ice on it. Clapboard and battenboard structures lean toward the corrugated silver flux, but none are about to fall in. I’ve crossed this stone-arch bridge many times on foot, slinking from the college to the coffee shop where a famous poet clutched his notebook and passed out with a sigh. Trying to revive him, I inadvertently inhaled his breath and saw huge worms devouring the cosmos. He revived, but I didn’t. And now those worms have strangled my heart so I can’t love the landscapes I used to love.

The river groans over pebbles, sacrificing itself for the sake of gravity. That famous poet has gone back to Pennsylvania where we’re all going to die. I wish I were in Philadelphia in a sleazy bar sipping a pint of decent ale. Maybe the streets there aren’t as slick as in this cubic little college town. Maybe the crimes of the cosmos don’t involve huge greasy worms that sneak through open pores to strangle one’s favorite organs. The cosmos isn’t inside me, but I ‘m digesting it anyway, the worms writhing and my stomach churning the way the river churns over dams and waterfalls before smelting itself in the sea.