Page 3 of 5
Sealed and silent for the
last fifty years. Laid to rest
in elementary school playgrounds.
Filled with drawings and
essays of the world of the future.
Maintenance men are starting to
pull time capsules out of the ground.
What did your picture look like?
Flying cars? Fishbowls for helmets?
Maybe you drew little green men.
Did you write your essay in
your neatest print? On that brown
penmanship paper. Three blue lines,
one dotted down the middle.
You had forgotten by high school.
But you glued yourself to the television
every time those rocket capsules
went up. Your science project had
an orange for a sun. The president
you wrote about was later killed.
In your heart you knew we would
beat the Russians to the moon.
Your children saw the space shuttle
explode. They painted styrofoam
planets, wrote about flying cars
in the year 2035. Hollywood started
making movies about what you saw
while your drawing stayed quiet in dirt.
In a ceremony next April, sixth grade
hands will raze a steel box. Unfurl
your drawing, tiny red Mars and
blue-green Saturn rings in the distance.
Your school was renamed for that
president, its bricks have faded like
the paper. The cars still arrive on the
ground. Your grandchildren type reports
on computers. They think dioramas
are lame. Not much else has changed.
Set tranquil between 42nd and
a super-giant underwear supermodel
named Nikki, the man in the middle
of Times Square told me that Velveeta
was their masterful plan.
Between sips of Coca-Cola
and an egg salad sandwich at the deli
across from the New York Ballet,
they are burning the pizza as Dirk and I
pontificate the upcoming baseball season.
Swallowed whole in the Virgin Megastore,
somewhere in a swirl between Bon Jovi
and Bach, I know I have no coins
for the trumpeter out front.
Time rushes by as if squared
and the yellow rivers meet the blend.
I stand revolving.
“Poetry is like being on a train, only the track
is being laid out before you with each line.”
--Billy Collins, Pittsburgh reading, 3/2/09
Climb aboard and get out of
the rain. Today’s blue-gray sky
does not offer much promise,
but this train does. Grab your
notebook and get your ticket
punched to a place,
a place where you can be.
This train holds the name of
your first pet, crush, kiss, loss.
It has room for your grandfather’s
fishing gear. The coach that
made you run laps after practice.
Every key and matching sock
that you have ever lost.
This train carries loners and
daydreamers, castoffs, quiet kids.
It seats old souls and doodlers
in the margins. The last kid picked.
The one on the wall at the school
dance. All the forgotten faces in
your first grade class picture.
This train departs from your town.
Near the water tower. A few blocks
from the corner drugstore, the hardware,
the bank. It travels through fields,
past lakes, and over rivers. Take it
to the beach or the mountains. To the
muscular skyscrapers in cities unseen.
This train has seen everyone that
your 8th grade teacher made you read.
Stafford sat right over there, smiled
at everyone. Updike sat in your seat.
That is Clifton and Brooks sipping tea
two rows in front of you. Go ahead,
say hello. Companions for this ride.
This train is laying out blue tracks
on the white horizon in front of you.
Look out of your window seat,
write in rows of apple trees.
A cornfield. The Swiss Alps.
The Serengeti. It goes where you
want to go. Next stop yours.
Bright Light City
If you’re going to set my soul on fire
let me put it all on black.
Standing on the Strip
in a pile of leaflets
that offer broken promises
for a thousand dollars
amid signs that guarantee
showers of slot money
and the $3.99 buffet….
This town could be the death of me.
I see faces filled with cards lost,
fortunes sold out to Kings,
and a ball that fell red
while trying to double
It looks like you could run
forever, to the mountains
in the distance, but you feel
the next pull of the arm grip
you, pull you back to the
chair somewhere between
the Tropicana and the Mirage.
Which is all it really is anyway.
When the last of the free drinks
can’t cleanse the wonderment of
why, the only safe place is 23A
of a United flight to Chicago.
Naked Poems In a Field of Green
it rained shooting stars
and I painted a rainbow on
Elvis drifts in from
the next room.
Laying wrapped up in
the sand, there are
twelve cans in my row.
the music takes me
to a vast green field,
where yellow and purple
Dialogue that never
Thinking about the
alligator and the lion,
I see what I need
The Goddess of Love
lays down her three kings.
It feels the same.
In the kitchen
I stood naked,
smiling all the while.