Environmental love





I wrote to her from the sea shore

that short weekend vacation

when I was six,

a bragging man of inch-high printed letters,

who licked the stamp certain

she would be impressed,

the sea and gulls still aching in me,

the indelible impression of youth

marked upon my soul,

crashing waves and salty air

and broken ship on the reef—

old fishing boat fill of souring fish corpses,

which reeked for weeks,

though to me,

there might have been pirates to battle

or women to save,

swords clashing in frantic glee

before the inevitable Davey Jones,

and for the long ride home,

I imagined her, receiving me like Errol Flynn,

her long five-year-old hair gleaming

like gold from the porch,

small hands grasping my letter on the stairs,

shaking with expectation—

though when I arrived,

there was no one home,

just my letter, stuffed in the mail box marked:

address unknown.





You always were persistent,

your sure step shiftless in the sand,

inches behind mine,

refusing to fade the way mine do,

the wavering water washing up,

sinking in at the toes,

the deep impression of your life,

always remarked upon,

leaving that satisfied taste of completeness behind,

while I, in constant struggle within myself,

looking for ways to make my name,

a Wall Street broker, a notorious book peddler,

a hustling, rustling bandit of the street,

almost ready to wash your feet

or windshield for your secret,

me, the invisible foot on the sand,

my suit, tie and shimmering shoes

meaningless here among the pixies

and gypsies of your imagination,

like a gull's bloated body

in the low hung clouds,

grey upon grey,

while you, stark,

a white gull with black head laughing,

even at the waves that crush you....





When the lines fell during the storm,

there was still hope,

the cold wind blowing rain over the roof,

like fingers prying into our lives,

tapping at the windows,

doors and cracks of floor,

seeking to steal fire back for the gods,

huddling up into the corners, poor,

impoverished Prometheus waiting for the claws,

stepping from the house the morning after

to dangling power lines,

the swaying caucuses of witches from Kansas.





We turn to sleep again at dawn,

the pale glow of morning against the dusty sky,

chipping birds and hooting trains singing,

the entanglement of bed sheets and

oversized pillows around our arms and legs,

the webs of passion,

or roots to some greater desire

of which neither can attest,

wood pressed against wood,

growing in and out of the barriers,

around factory fences,

through cracked walls,

though in dreams,

we brood in own dark thoughts,

in rooms of abrupt awakenings,

like pacing tigers

glaring through the bars of our cage

with self-doubting eyes,

waiting on morning to free us,

waiting on the first flicker of sunlight

through the tiny cell windows to enlighten us—

and in anticipation,

we see blue glimmers of false dawn a thousand times.





the blizzard came

after you were gone,

rain turning to sleet

then snow, during

the long walk

from downtown,

passed huge


homes whose wide

windows had seen

such storms before,

worse, more furious,

lapping white up

against their steps

like foaming waves

upon which my

footprints come and

go, the path

self-made, no one

before me making

those exact steps,

nor (despite many

imitators) will any

exactly follow, my

thoughts, twisting

under my cap with

you, wishing you had

remained one more

hour as to catch the

flakes, me, ashamed

for not having

waited, for having

sent you too quickly

upon your way,

leaving me to this

lonely, terribly

beautiful path

through the snow,

boughs of evergreen

leaning, my step

erased, but not the

memory of you,

engraved beneath,

not so much in ice

as in stone, unmelting

permanent, asking you

to return home






She blew in from Texas twice,

first, sweeping me up from

the cold asphalt, her round eyes

appearing out of the desert dust,

full of storm and passion,

having driver her BMW motor bike

fifteen hundred miles straight,

through rain, snow and bright

sunshine, collapsing in

a Kentucky drug store

from exposure, her father

finding her three days

later, near death, tucked

under motel blankets

like a young child

whimpering more from his

presence than the pain,

ashamed, perhaps, of returning

to her home state where she'd

abandoned him and two lovers,

crying in her fever dreams

for her lone star brother,

finding me, a sheet of used

typing paper between my teeth,

the inevitable paper tiger

leaping through words

for some unknown destination--

the kind of journey that

frightened her to the bone,

drawing her up like an

attacking cat,

snarling, snarling

as she rode me to the

moon, a perpetual trip

of endless miles as

self-destructive as the

one taken between

Kentucky and Texas,

crying in the fit of

passion for her

lone star brother.





I keep expecting Spock to step up into my life,

the narrative squeaking out a television speaker,

life as hippie, hermit, writer,

listed in order of their occurrence,

the flaws of character made obvious by the screen,

the craze of millions of witnesses

to the demise of a man,

the embarrassment of wasted talent,

years and years of looking for the key

that fits only me,

flaws waiting like California

for the proper seismographic catastrophe

to set me free from this need of importance,

to live life without identity,

or worth,

or perfection.





Silver track thumping machines

ride the slim line through the meadows,

wearing over the scarred cut

between the reed-heads like a dull knife,

unable to quite press through the surface of muddy lane,

the river, a hidden secret of amber weeds and crying gulls,

swirling ever under the northern gulls

and shadow of Giant's Stadium—

train windows steaming to hot and curious human breath,

business suits frame in metal and plastic,

flat, two-dimensional people

who come and go with time schedules and punched tickets,

muttering of suburban concerns:

raked leaves and rising oil prices,

leaving thoughts of river to the rail road men

who take them from Twin Towers to dusty abandoned stations

rooted in firmer ground.





The wagon ruts run deep along

the up-curved rim of the road,

like lines of age in precious wood,

winding along the bend of river

where bridges intersect,

their spider legs pressed rickety

into the white froth,

rumbling and shaking to the wagon wheels

as they roll across to the mill,

where boys, penny-wise in capitalism,

sell bundles of wet newsprint

back at 2 cents per pound.





We always waited,

lines snaking out into the halls of Plato's Eden,

ignorant, mind-naked children mumbling

the names of teachers as if Gods,

ten years from the last blast,

marred with youth;

they have no history,

only math and English lessons

(French, Chinese, who knows whose face

is whose and which ethnic blend they have taken)

and for the most of us older souls,

we've forgotten this--





Fish, carrots and potatoes,

the fundamental meal of being human,

living on the brink,

dirty dishes thick as roaches in the sink,

burned-pot effigies half-scrubbed,

you-- soft at the table—

a victim of domesticated mockery,

peeler gripped between your fingers like a weapon,

with me, the infatuated villain,

challenging values and necessities,

thinking love enough to keep bread buttered

and boiling water filled with food.





They say we still live like pioneers,

the hard life fading with each break of winter,

when the shape of ice released us

for three more seasons,

freeing the captive river and petty streams

like unstopped wine,

flowing out under the rusting bridges,

chunks of frozen river like ships sailing

finally to the sea

taking their frosted crust with them,

their hard and weary days

of huddling before the gas-stove,

the sunshine playing on the surface of water

in lost jewels,

slow, spiraling leaves of autumn

caught in the eddies,

new, yellow-green budding

on the tips of trees,

waiting to bloom.





The subtle carp never comes too near shore in Autumn,

dancing over dead leaves with spider's tenacity,

webbed-back flat against the brown bottom

where she finds her peace

It is a grubbing catfish with guzzling nose

that snuffles at the edge, raising rude bubbles

among the reeds, like a bull frog snorting as it eats

its own eggs, crewing perpetually its own pointless future

immune strangely to the hook waiting for carp

in deep water, where the tortured white foam

bitterly chooses beauty over the beast.





No trees grow here,

just the brick face

of Paterson Firehouse #3,

and smoke stack fumes

of the General Hospital

pinning this poor house in

like a prison,

cars slanted towards

the street with two

wheels on the curb,

like drunken sailors

swaying in their journey

from the bar,

homeless and hopeless

with possessions stacked

roof to floor in their

rear seats, old men

snoring behind the wheel,

sweating to the beating

brutal sun through

the windshield,

chewing dream-cud,

spitting brown wads

of tobacco to the curb,

shivering, lonely,

waiting for something

or someone,

waiting for rain

to relieve

their heat.


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