Civilization and Its Discontents
—Circa 112 BC
The sharp green of trees against
a blue sky—greek slaveships
with oarsmen inching over the Aegean.
A dark scudding along the far horizon
like a floating impression of mountains
populated by angry speckled goats. Lightning there
insisting on forward movement, a hastening
out of the blue and into evening
where the oarsmen will be eating quietly
a soft sweet hill cheese and peaches
the sun dried without competition…
For a Friend Living in the Midwest
—September 29, 2016
The molasses helix of flypaper
hangs everywhere in the prison dining hall
and John-Michael teaches there
Tuesday mornings— he dreams
of chasing a white pig
with yellow spots through endless catacombs.
He says he hates
being alone in Rome at night. There’s a little laughter.
I respond—John, it’s just a dream,
how odd it is that they’re
using flypaper dangling
from spent red and black shotgun shells again—
apparently the warden learned that fruit flies
cannot resist it— whole strips
blackening right before your eyes
on a Saturday night. The fresh shipments
of fruit being delivered
John said the breakfast dishes broke against the walls
with the egg yolk still hardening on them.
In prison the riots often begin early Monday morning.
This is our instruction in understanding
the management of hopelessness.
Suicide in Mineral Pigments on Tibetan Silk
The mountain bliss of an old Saint
calming somehow with smoke
from his cave fire of green sticks
the figure of a distant female deer
with purple dogs still hanging from the throat.
It begins like a painting, doesn’t it? And
you had a fondness for dogs, didn’t you?
The wife insisting—but cats don’t slobber
while the Russian blue postures
in the middle of the bench window
that contains wind nudging the miner’s-candles,
shit stalks caught not in kerosene
but in a tranquil and frozen lake.
It is hard to forget. Rising
beneath you the three dogs are still frantic
while they leap seemingly
wanting to untie the white shoelaces
you purchased just yesterday at Target.
The wind again lifts the scrolling snow
into dark sky. The cat
satisfied that a creator
has arranged an interesting
winter landscape with a single red bird
there framed in the corner of the window
your black boot and you sway in air
with the counterpoint stolen from dry weeds,
weeds that are bending above large pickerel,
jeweled planes of rubber axis,
that breathe best in water, blackening
like your face across fifty miles
of wilderness in Montana.
Your ghost is smoothing the cat who’s asked
either for fish at the late supper
or for a dish of the fresh doe liver. You say
to your wife, who cannot hear you, that
the cat, at this very moment, has separated
himself from a long list of mental illusions
or anguish. A clean fat moon
is rising just above the treetops
as if it were criticizing all dance and that toppled chair
that has fallen into the frozen grass without you.
Photo by Matt Valentine
Photo by Matt Valentine