When nothing remains of November
But bare trees and thin-stemmed memories
And the moon’s aloft and aloof,
A cool eye surveying the stars
Retreating to the distance of night,
And the white-throated sparrow’s song tells you
The sharp-shinned hawk has taken its hunger
South away from the ice forming
In morning puddles as practice
For January deep incursions
Into salt marsh and river and bay
The hunter returns from his oil rig,
Sits oiling his gun and dreaming
Of the coyote’s gait imprinted
In dustings of snow around pig barns
And of fresh fewmets at edges of woods.
If you happen to question his questing,
Why he scrubs himself in early morning
And refuses to smoke before the hunt?
It’s because there’s no wind that ain’t fickle
And those sharp-nosed fuckers, he says,
They taste each caprice of the breeze
And they’d be gone like an oil baron
Smelling taxes on a politician’s
Morning breath. He’ll pick up the rifle,
He’ll sight down the long barrel, one eye closed,
And consider the consistency
Of droppings rubbed between fingers and thumb.
Might say, And the temperature, John boy!
They’re close if there’s any heat in that shit.
In the garden
the corn stalks twist in yellow ruin
as autumn fades toward winter.
It seems no time since they stood
tall, green, full and heavy
in the sun—but tonight
the light of a full moon
glazes them, opaque.
Close the blinds,
we do not need to watch this.
Our eyes will grow round,
heavy, and white with frost.
I thought about writing
a birthday poem for you,
something sublime in perfect rhyme
that might have something to do,
even vaguely, with the way
the world is and most of us
are in it. But what can pretty words say
about any of us, about the many times
every day we smile at simple things
that a day before we felt
might break us—what can they convey,
for instance, that your smile doesn’t?
There’s really only one thing to say—
Happy birthday. Happy, happy birthday!
Because your glance latches me
to the frame of night
to these posts and lintels of starlight
sinking into earth and cracking stone
I am a door
shut against the days of reason
against wisdom and why and consequence
because your glance slams me shut
against should and shouldn’t
it opens me to tremors
in fingers and gut
my hands to want
my lips to need
closes my arms
against my chest
to hold me against
this blood moving
like a spring wind through
these hollow spaces, my bones.
I’ve always liked peanut butter. I’ve always liked science. One of my fondest memories is of being a child of elementary school age and getting up in the morning before anyone else in the house (which wasn’t easy with eight siblings), and reading science entries in the World Book Encyclopedia while eating a couple of triple-decker peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast. It was a blissful time—though then, as now, big sandwiches were easier to digest than big ideas—when an insatiable curiosity was the biggest motivating factor in my life.
I still like big sandwiches and big ideas though my metabolism and brain have both slowed significantly, leaving me less able to process both. My eyes now are definitely, as my parents used to say, bigger than my stomach. No matter, I still try to take big bites of what interests me.
So here’s an essay in The Guardian (is it the last great newspaper?) about going big or small in theoretical physics, which uses peanut butter as an implicit metaphor, looking at two physicists whose opposing views on fundamental physics are described as smooth and chunky and who are separately engaged in experimental work to find evidence that reality is one or the other.
Of course, no matter what they find there will always be further problems as there generally are when peanut butter is involved—even metaphorically, it’s a sticky business—such as: White bread or whole wheat? Celery? Or just stick a spoon in the jar?
The moon all tangled
In stained clouds after the rain,
Slow trickles cool our skin now,
Leave hints of salt on our tongues
Not much has changed on these mornings:
I still wake, grind the coffee beans,
Fill the basket, press the red button,
Get in the shower while things brew,
Pull on jeans and socks, pour a cup,
Watch as the cream swirls and darkens,
Sit down and roll a cigarette.
But now I stand and leave one room
To examine books neatly stacked
In another long-neglected.
So much has changed. On these mornings
I stroll back into the kitchen
Where what I see in the mirror
Is a reflection on your smile.