The City Sleeps

Late February
Rain—tonight snowbanks are fog
Machines quietly
Exhaling—the city sleeps
Through slow vaporization

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My Beard Grows Wild

I see on my forehead the first
Age spot has appeared, like rust
On an old farm tractor parked beyond
The fence and fallen out of mind

While, under it, the way weeds and grass
Untrimmed send up stems and stalks always
In disarray, my beard grows wild
And tangled but no barrier to the cold.

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Saviour Breath

Prayer, that old act of desperate solipsism,
You try to gussy up as love or compassion
Or altruism—mysterious Samaritan stranger—
But just under the thinly applied paint
The grimy seams are streaks of shadow
Tracing an abrasive wish for entitlement;
A pretense that a few words muttered or wailed
Daily change the foundations of the universe.
Save your knees and your breath. Save your
Forehead its years of arrogant abasement.
Strip the worn beads from their frayed strings
And turn your rosaries into abacuses.
Count on this: the speed of light escaping
The increasing density of the sun.

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In A Doorway

What can I tell you? I’m standing
In a doorway you will never enter.

It’s January outside.
The snow is falling straight down, heavy.

At work, the coffee’s brewing.
It’s the only perfume here tonight.

Looking out, everything’s white
As a gull’s wing. Silences fall fast.

What can I tell you? I’m standing
In a doorway. Your lips were warm, soft.

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The Gull’s Wing

Out past the gull’s wing
A ship at the horizon
Sinking like a sun
Into the nothing out there
Beyond the end of our world

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The Moment of A Gull Landing

I heard whispers in the distance
But it was only snow falling
On the wings of crows in trees at night.

I think you missed me once, before
We listened to the ocean and
Its sounding out of names on the sand.

Now we know nothing, more or less,
But how to describe the moment
Of a gull landing on a grey pier.

The sea here is not yet frozen.
It is restless and flecked with white.
I taste it on my lips, slightly bitter.

The sky is clear tonight. I see
The moon running away with you.

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Action At a Distance

About the particulars of a thing they are often wrong
At first, the physicists: beginning, as they do,
With the poorly understood. But they have the advantage
Of equations out of which they build and test
Theories to play out in quantum and gravitational fields.
And the numbers, more exact than any brush
Flourishes of masters old or new, do render
Past, present, and future positions of bodies heavy with inertia
And of their shadows perfectly against the faces of suns
And on the hunched and nebulae-draped
Shoulders of distant galaxies shivering in darkness:
White sprays of air bubbles freezing into
The first thin ice of a winter pond.

You and I, however, whether us in particular
(And you know who I mean—I hear it
In that ribald riff of your laughter), or us in general,
Must work forever with approximations
Thinner even than metaphors of ice. Our ears
Our eyes our hands our hips must always proceed
Through guesswork. Only our lips ever shape anything
Nearly right. Our tongues are always tied.

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