Thursday Mar 30

Michael_Collier Michael Collier’s sixth collection, An Individual History, will be published by W.W. Norton in 2012. He has received Guggenheim and NEA fellowships and an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Poet Laureate of Maryland from 2001–2004, he teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Maryland and is the director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.  He lives in Catonsville, Maryland.

The Concrete of Bint Jbeil

Pulverized is another way of thinking of travail
which is why dust rising midday from the streets
is white and burns your eyes and nose.  Great machines
have done this to the mortar, block, and stone,
while smaller forces shovel rubble and rebuild.

Not far from here, south, in green valleys,
the realm of the better guarded has dust the color
of raw almonds, the kind its citizens eat happily
and call dessert or victory, but not with ease,
for dust drifts in scrolling clouds across their borders

obscuring what it will, and almonds unripe in their pods
aren’t anything like dust.  They lie in mounds near piles
of layered grape leaves, bristling with a sheen
of pale-green light so delicate you think the hand
that offers them is God’s?  But the hand is dark and swollen,

just like the one that bundles chamomile in tight bouquets,
whose small bright flowers are not the yellow of forgiveness
but the yellow that casts its shadow on the woman
who sells almonds, leaves, and flowers—the one
who makes an invitation with her hands,

a gesture with her covered head and sits for hours
on the ancient paving stones of Jerusalem, inside
Damascus Gate not far from Bint Jbeil or Dearborn,
in Lebanon and Michigan, where like everywhere, water
and cement mix with sand and gravel to make concrete.

An Excerpt from The Complete Catalog of Dogs

The basset with its dragging ears and eyes like worn wheel bearings;
The Doberman with its prosecutor’s tautness and preference for expensive whores;
The beagle’s stooge tail;
The toy poodle’s sloppy libido and two-legged embrace;
The mastiff whose tail whacks the swaddled baby Jesus from its crèche;
The wiener dog, more properly known as the dachshund;
And its countryman the German Shepherd--black nose like a passport stamp;
And many more, i.e., the ink-spotted Dalmatian; the barrel-necklaced St. Bernard;
The saddle-worn bulldog and frantic, dust-mop setters;
The eager, expectant, never-loved-enough, water-loving black-golden-chocolate

all of them trainable, more or less;
protective, curious of scents, unashamed to squat or lift a leg;
nosing park benches, bike racks, street signs;
tracking squirrels and chipmunks;
wanting to please;
interested in the common stick or tennis ball;
diggers of holes;
shoe chewers, sock swallowers, book gnawers, food gobblers;
haters of sirens;
noble, conscionable, unconscionable;
shit eaters, butt sniffers, crouch probers, ass and ball lickers, tail chasers;
farters, deep dreamers, barkers, howlers, whiners, criers, piddlers, shitters

—and even this one, the perfumed Pekinese that can’t escape its questioning tail,
the shepherd’s crook or crozier hanging over her like a bell above a bakery door;
so many years she slept in an aunt’s warped-open, dresser drawer, she’s her smell;
and when she breathes the tissue sheets she lay on make their papery, emphysemic
and her bug-eyes, O, don’t say it, glaucous—black as  a seer’s.

Danny Meyers

Fucking Danny Meyers, fucking, fucking, fucking, fucking
Danny Meyers, he hosed out a “gook” from the wheel-well
of the transport he drove in Nam, and told us how.

With his piss and the steel-toe of a boot because that’s all
the hose they give you in a place like Viet Nam,
leather and urine, and the spit from the spigot

of his mouth.  You think he’s alive now?  You think
after telling the story a thousand thousand times he’d stop?
It was a gook on a bike loaded down with all his shit,

pedaling away from his emptying village,
when he met Danny Meyers with his darkened
front tooth and his wispy combat beard and his

Fuck-me-fuck-you high-school diplomacy.
Fucking, fucking, fucking, fucking Danny Meyers.
You think he’s alive now?