Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Little Men

They behaved just like their names. Mr. Happy
was always happy despite the cloud in the story.
Mr. Tickle learned when not to tickle but tickled
every other time. And when friends righted him,
Mr. Topsy-Turvy turned wrong side up again.

Chinese names, unlike Mr. Worry's, aim
too high. Yang Yang plays for glorious glory.
Swallow Peace, my sister, loses patience.
And mine raises the stakes: Jee Leong
shoots for (don't laugh) universal goodness.

What disappointments Chinese children are! What
a hoot to find out adults are like old cartoons.
There slinks Mrs. Divorce. Here comes Mr. Knife-
in-the-back smiling. And at her father's funeral,
radiant Miss Sun dries her eyes on the flowers.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Squirrel Hill Thanksgiving

for Jason

Believing good friends should not live with ghosts,
though ghosts warm up a wintry student dorm,
bewail a good man’s fall in wedding toasts,
and wonder at coincidence and form,
I came to play the guest to your good hosts,
to your love nest at Squirrel Hill, your home
away from the home dreamed, New York City,
and from Dunkirk of childhood memory.

The ghosts would not leave us alone. Seduced
by spirits, round the table, poems we read
spoke: Wendi spilled a past life, wife abused
for bearing a son not resembling dad;
you wrote of foreign women who refused
to bend under the trash but in the yard
danced and danced in the direction of light;
I read my “Payday Loans.” Called it a night.

Next day, we drove to Dunkirk where your mum
welcomed us three and showed me her Elvis
memorabilia in a back room:
posters, snow globes, baseball caps, ashtrays,
head portrait in red wool, clock pendulum
rocking both quadrant legs and arc pelvis.
Only that room, the brightest, played music
since you left. Other rooms stored her antiques.

Thanksgiving dinner with the family
of Uncle Joe. On the way, you called on Todd
who died in his car flipped drunkenly.
Another desperate grade school mate who shot
and killed a cop might join that cemetery.
Someone remembered flowers; someone forgot.
A fence protected the Civil War tombstones
from restless teens who piled them up like loans.

Joe drove and gave to boxing’s hall of fame
his portraits of the greats, you almost boasted,
proud of one who gave his art a name.
His house a gallery, one small room hosted
baseball images, giants of the game.
Between mouthfuls of Aunt Stephanie’s roasted
turkey, Joe answered me about paintings.
And gave me the Big Blues’ head, Albert King’s.

After leaving your mum’s for Squirrel Hill,
we dropped by your dad’s place near Lake Erie.
Around the house posed photos of him still
youthful behind the wheel or by the sea,
and of his father, both alike as pills.
At lunch, he praised turmeric and tea.
The shots he asked you take of him last year
developed blank. You blamed the camera

but know the mind, better than any machine,
collects the fumes in serviceable shapes:
the killer drinking through a car-wrecked grin;
Elvis watching himself on videotapes;
Joe DiMaggio homerunning Marilyn.
So take heart, friend, the figure in the drapes,
Danger or Need, is a familiar ghost.
Let the lost find in you and Wendi host.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Three Minutes and Ten Seconds

The bus to Pittsburgh rushes down the tunnel
and so I start to time how long it takes
to come up on the other side of the Hudson.

On my right, a boy, of college age, is reading
Genet's Funeral Rites. The book holds him
quite still, his body carved to hold the book,

just as my watch, a lover's gift, holds me
eyeing its hand wiping its white face. When
he turns a page, the bus sees day again.

It is not what you think. I have not been
resurrected through this fair freshman
and his encounter with a deathless art,

but this young man has touched eternity
because in the unheated Greyhound bus, the day
before Thanksgiving, I have taken time.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Night Call

Lying down beside the man I love,
I think of you, your late night call that woke
my body's heat and blood. I think of you,
your tiny hairs curled tight against your head,
your strong back matted like a burlap sack,
your sex rubbing between my legs. I think
love is dreaming while desire's wide awake.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The men I slept with were good

The men I slept with were good
with electronic devices. Troy jiggled
the wire antenna before he came
to bed, and my radio clock sang.
Ren downloaded the latest virus
protection program to my laptop
while massaging my anus. After Nick
climaxed, he showed me how to text-
message and shook his head, laughing
over my primitive cellphone. So
when I message some man whose eyes
sang last night while I jiggled him,
I think of Nick and his tremendous
laugh, and thank in my heart these handy men.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

River Blindness

The river breeds the humped black fly
which stitches in
the broken skin
the worms that slip-swim to the eye,
bear tinier worms which in turn die,
loose from its fin
the pathogen.
The cornea clouds up like the sky.

To stop from going totally blind,
you modify
your hosting body, drug your mind,
or kill the fly,
or climb upslope and leave behind
the river, eye.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Poem out in Crab Orchard Review

A happy package greeted me last evening when I returned home: two copies of the fall/winter issue of Crab Orchard Review, published by Southern Illinois University Carbondale. My modified villanelle, "What's Left," appears in the issue, alongside poems by Neil Aiken, Jeffrey McDaniel, Jon Pineda, and Cathy Song. The review is only $10, so get it if only to make me happy! The review is inviting submissions for its next issue, and for its first poetry book contest.

Monday, November 06, 2006

For More

Don't ask me more than I can give.
Don't ask for more, for more
I cannot give. So let us live
and promise no more.

Don't ask me for my heart my heart
has eaten to the core.
Don't ask me for the teeth-marked part.
Don't ask me any more.

Don't ask me for a steady arm
for rowing to the shore.
A broken oar will do more harm
than settling for no more.

Don't ask me for my voice my voice
echoes in encore,
until it's hard to tell my voice
from yours asking for more.