Without Trying

Posted: February 14, 1992 in Poetry
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I
I can wish as hard as I want without trying.
Maybe it takes a nervous breakdown
To examine the croak of a frog.
A rich man tapes his hands to his sides
Drowning in treasures but refusing to decide
Which pearls he wants to wear for eyes.

II
To the grey lands to search for the sunken man,
Glowering in the shadow under a rock.
“Come in under the shadow of this red rock –
“I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
Of ash, of bone, of moon, of stone;
Cadaverous, skin a dizzying kaleidoscope of veins.
I screamed, hands clenched to my eyes, alone,
Falling apart under that brittle stone.

III
pretending to have misplaced my watch,
I asked a current friend for the time.
she looked at me curiously, sadly,
then asked why I no longer rhyme;
walked away as I demanded an answer
from myself; I never saw her again.
time to find another friend.

IV
Sweating and dirty from working,
I keep forgetting to steal some of the diamonds
I’m mining for other people.
At home, I’ve got this dusty blowtorch
Right next to my aspiration to smelt the world.
Been a long time since I burned anything
On purpose. Last time it was my wings.
Pushing the dirt around on my face
With the same oily rag, I promise
Again to go on a picnic in a forest,
Then pause, shaking my head slowly
To get rid of an echo.

V
O black soil, heavy and rich, warm
With the fires of life, thick and moist
Under my nails, in my eyes and ears,
Filling my lungs with blood,
Burnishing my skull with her coppery breath,
Arms sunk to the shoulders in the forest earth;
Black earth goddess.

VI
A poem incarnate: thee, poet.
Vision, mind, thought, dreams,
Thinking in every sense of a word.

And a blackbird.

VII
I came forth with a handful of seashells
(to the froggy applause
of the people’s jaws
creaking in their mechanical sleep),
Following May, who’s going home
To dwell with her enigmatic stone.
Placing shells to wait on the sill
And for her to discover
Like a faucet-spray of dry flowers.
Walking on the sidewalk I’ve
Empty hands in my pockets,
Imagining how she’ll find them
Over and over.

VIII
Flying through the rain on a wind of strings,
He flew with the ease of a soul,
Tall and clear-eyed with violins in his hair.
I saw him from the shore
And waved him out to sea,
Rushing over the water’s open grave.

IX
The dreams,
they poured their hearts
out into the bowl of my fingers,
flesh and water and soggy stitches,
Lost and drowned
in the ashes of childhood,
the sorry sons-of-bitches.
I breathed into my palms,
Taking each by their tenebrous hands,
And throwing them into the darkened heavens:
stars like two flung shoe-fulls of sand.
Spinning around and around underneath,
Watching them swim, these stars, good-bye;
Constellations of the smiling faces
of my parents,
One on each half of the sky.

X
I ran through the stacks of cars
After him that flew away by the seat of his pants.
I, too, cannot answer the question:
“What is the grass?”
I can no longer remember.

Standing under a leprous moon,
In a field of strobed weeds,
In a circle of garish flowers
Bowing outwards,
Heads trembling in a sort of gleeful fear.
Looking at my arms, my hands,
my fingers,
The vegetation was purple, orange, yellow, green,
turned pale by the light of the stone in the sky
shown bone by the fire suffused in my eye.
The moon grinned, sunken in the dust of a scream.

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