Monday, January 16, 2017

Seta’s Cafe

In Seta’s café on Belmont Street
the menus scorch our hands. Arriving
by trolley bus in a blue

shower of sparks, we left
our fellow passengers tired
of the grunt and grind of crawling

from Harvard Square to the suburbs—
the gaunt rumple of Mount Auburn
pimpled with thousands of headstones

grimacing as we passed. We order
mezze to munch while we talk.
Hummus, metch, yalanchi, stuffed

cabbage washed down with espresso
and trimmed with slabs of za’atar.
We should never leave this warmth

and street view, should recuse
or refine our lifelong quarrel
so we can work in the kitchen

together, washing dishes, chopping
vegetables, sleeping on the floor
after hours when the buses

have parked behind chain-link fence
and the commuters snore all spooned
against each other. You fear me,

though, fear my agnostic silence,
my subtle readings of Emerson,
my lust for expensive power tools,

my disbelief in photographs
my nostalgia for the whiskey death
Dylan Thomas so deeply enjoyed.

The café hums with pride in itself.
The plate glass windows shiver
as another bus passes. Cups

and saucers rattle. Other patrons
grow intimate with each other,
but we lean back and order

spinach and cheese turnovers
to anchor us to conversation
shaped by duty rather than love.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

What Would Jesus Say?

Power tools crouch in the cold,
radial and table saws alert
in muck of sawdust. Fringed

with yesterday’s snow, the scene
features two green unfolded
A-shaped Fiberglas stepladders.

Atop one, the carpenter,
laden with tools, examines
the slot where the next board goes.

Replacing this rot-damaged
oriel window’s not easy.
I wish I had the skill and drive

to correct whole worlds of decay,
rasping and crosscutting lumber
the mills have badly undersized.

Two-by-fours are an inch and a half
by three. Six-inch trim is five
and a quarter. What would Jesus,

an honest carpenter, say about
such crass and cheap imprecision?
This fellow in maroon hoodie

works without complaint, ripping
boards to exact measure, scrapping
a lot of scrap. I’d like to rummage

through that barrel of wood-waste
and take home something to use.
He probably wouldn’t object,

but I’m too shy to ask. Edged
with tough black paint, new glass
looks crisp as ice on the lake.                                                      

Behind slabs of particle board
the restaurant hums as usual—
old gossip, fake news, politics

chatty as migrating birds.
I could treat myself to coffee,
but I’d rather watch this work:

the new framing emphatic enough
to affix a single perspective
that could force us all to agree.

Monday, October 3, 2016

So’s Your Mother

Jacked up on cribbing, a house
on the lake looks so vulnerable
I’d like to topple it splashing
roof-down into the water.
What does the Indian name

of this grave lake mean? A friend
translates it, “So’s Your Mother,”
so maybe So’s Your Mother
undermined this structure and forced
the owners to rebuild it

with a poured concrete foundation.
What if we squatted up there
a couple of stories above
the workday autumn fleecing
ordinary people with taxes

and insurance and huge bills
for pumping out their septic tanks?
What if workers back on the job
found the house inhabited
by people who otherwise never

could afford to live by a lake?
Sunday’s a good day to squat.
Christian benevolence overflows,
so trespassers rarely get shot.
The mud-bottom smell comforts

with sighs and bubbles of gas
from leaf decay brown as the shoes
I wore to our wedding. Tonight,
while rain occlude the moonlight
and sizzles in the bluestone pit

where the new foundation will go,
we could listen in stilted dark,
perched like two pagan deities
far enough above the loneliness
to seduce it without thinking.