Maybe we put too much faith in the heart
when any blockhead knows everything falls apart,
turn to mush the storied administrations of the brain,
there's no statue that won't eventually dissolve in rain,
the continents are in pieces, the empire a mess,
the fleece full of holes, the rivers distressed.
Not what we promised and swore, didn't and did,
not the terrible things that happened to us as kids
makes much diff. We're the types
who bring parasols to gunfights.
A dove backfires, a dump truck coos,
everything's out of whack since I lost you.
Worse than a job chicken-processing,
worse than a courtroom of the deaf addressing,
like trying on a shirt with the pins still in it,
listen to the heart you'll soon regret it.
The photos in their oval frames bestow blame and frown,
whatever you used all your might to heave into the air is due to
come crashing down.
Not the hatchet job you wanted but the one you took,
you stagger from the feast for a look
at a polluted brook, rather polluted yourself.
You feel like something fallen from its shelf,
a yo-yo with a busted string, chipped ceramic elf
because all you can think about is not there,
the eyes not there, not there's hair.
You still don't know what to say
and keep saying it, still trying to give your hiding place away
making a silly commotion with the leaves
of the tree you're falling from. But once that paper's creased,
there's no uncreasing. Once the numbers are deleted,
there's nothing to add up. So time for the tarry slumber
of so what who cares what's it matter,
what should be open closes, should be soft hardens
while the next set of fools scampers into the puzzle garden
detonating with laughter.


How to Clean Practically Anything

Yes, housework can be a chore

A day, a day rinsed free of night

everyone enjoys a clean and orderly home

a table wiped clear of crumbs and spills

the best way to do the maximum amount
of work, without becoming overwhelmed

floor swept, dustpan emptied into plastic
bags which are placed inside sealed metal cans

is to perform it in a systematic fashion

dishwasher emptied, opaque and stainless

blot the stain, wipe away any residue

whites now sorted, his socks, his shirts
old egg-yolk yellow under the arms

try these to ensure results
reward your efforts:

his underwear, the boxers faded and frayed
repeating their pattern of angular hearts

be sure to remove any hooks or weights

their scattered and miniature x's and o's
openings measured for admission or exit

don't overload the machine, and remember

his colors tangling in a tossed-off pile
of mostly darks, mostly black and blues

fabric becomes much heavier when wet

while here and there a spring green
a tremulous yellow

protect from strong sunlight
and abrasive objects

a newborn pink, streak
of surprisingly deep red

warning: damages may not be covered

like fresh blood, a raw and unsutured cut

try a product that claims to hide
surface scratches

to be rinsed and wrung, dried and folded and piled
into the thing we call a long marriage

if the marks have darkened
use a sharp knife

these daily removals, these many attempts
to wipe clean the counter the table the slate

if the burn is deep use filler
smoothing it to match the surface

the windows now free of fingerprints and smears
as if there were no glass no barrier no space

work carefully to avoid
damaging the paint

in which to revisit your own faint reflection

this coating should last for years


Whack Report

A woman at the gym today said to her friend, Most people are whack.
Whack meaning crazy, displeasing, undesirable, stupid, of poor quality,
appalling, masturbatory, laid off, weird, or dead.
Most poets, as it turns out, are generally pretty whack
as in mentally ill. Anne Sexton, for example. Robert Lowell, also quite whack.
I myself am whack about sixty-seven percent of the time,
not counting nights and weekends, when it's more like eighty-two percent.
But let us focus on the beautiful wine glass, eighteen percent full
of sane, delightful, and intelligent fruit and acid. A whiff of rose petals.
Black cherry, pomegranate, cassis, devil's food cake. And limestone. Drink me
and taste my ooids, my hot buttered toast. For we must be ceaselessly whack
as in deranged said another whack poet who became a whack gun runner.
Guns are whack. Much of the world population experiences the whack factor
ninety-nine percent of the time, which can cause excessive thirst, diarrhea, death
and other side-effects. After a while, if you keep saying a word, it kind of loses
its meaning. Whack. Whack. Here come the weed whackers, beheading the grass.



Richard in his field drives a hired loader
between a dumptruck and his spoil-
heap, and digs away at the established order

we've known from our window, that bank of earth and ordure.
Its topsoil,
or whatever he's driving at with the tyre loader,

is colonised by grasses, foxgloves, rhodo-
dendrons and a Chinese parasol-
tree happy to dig in, their self-established order

like a peace. He has felled a forest of cedar
sweeter than oil—
he's having a field-day as he drives the tireless loader,

Gilgamesh in a Lada.
I stretched in the medicinal milfoil
and hoped—but he digs away. He has disestablished the order

of us who sat like Buddha
under his banyan with its trunks in a coil and moil.
Richard, in the field of words they derive the tiring loader

from Old English lād: a leading, a road or
journey, a carrying. By toil
you hope to dig away the established disorder.

Follow-the-loader, follow-the-leader,
sing not here the pastourelle.
Richard in his field contrives the tired loader,
the heap is dug away, he has re-established order.


Blue Window

You are an arc of light in sycamore leaves,
churned-up dust, the sun's disturbance,
beside workers and workday traffic.

Bronze light in every space we inhabit.

This big sky we are under,
a portal without law.
Even poetry can't sample it.

It goes round rosy, always in motion,
like weather's coliseum lights.


One cloud changes the whole feel/field of things.
Afternoon indoor fluorescence, that silky envelope,
just a corner of blue window to see.

Pillars of smoke in our toxic and inefficient world,
smaller than it seems to be.

Outside, sounds approach like a shudder
without fantasy, a signal that we must go on
in fuzzy cubicles, a fraction of private space.

Light's decoy registers, safe in anybody's arms.


The brightness doesn't end here.
The filters don't stop it from coming through.
Particles invisible. Blue or gray day.

It is the way shrinking/rising things
can't be made dire enough.
I like your smile, I'd like to see it live on forever.

A line of cars and cars from here to vanishing-point's brown.

We cannot say sun, or sunlight, terminus,
stop where you see a sign.



I find a rusty horseshoe where skylarks
Rise from the sheepshitty path, God-sparks,
Sound-glints for bridle and bridle hand.
I am the farrier in this townland.

The Lifeboat

I have imagined an ideal death in Charlie Gaffney's
Pub in Louisburgh: he pulls me the pluperfect pint
As I, at the end of the bar next the charity boxes,
Expire on my stool, head in hand, without a murmur.

I have just helped him to solve his crossword puzzle
And we commune with ancestral photos in the alcove.
He doesn't notice that I am dead until closing time
And he sweeps around my feet.
But it's Charlie Gaffney
Who has died. Charlie, how do I buy a fishing licence?
Shall I let the dog out? Would the fire take another sod?
The pub might as well be empty forever now. I launch
The toy lifeboat at my elbow with an old penny.


The Chicano Manifesto

this is in keeping with my own physical condition
for I am tired—too tired perhaps for this rendition . . .
but la raza is also tired
and la raza cannot wait
until I rest
she wants her rest also
but there is much catching up to do.
anglos have asked (I think sincerely)
what it is that you chicanos want?
those with power to be,
influencing our lives, have asked . . .
is it understanding?
is it that you want us to tolerate you?
is it admittance?
and when I heard those questions
like remote control my chicano anger took over
and I answered the arrogant questioning . . .
no . . . we do not want any of that
or the question "what do you want" either
you see, you can afford to sit in libraries
and visit mexico and in a way
learn to understand us much better than we do ourselves
but understanding a thing
and comprehending are two different matters . . .
tolerate is a word we use
in reference to borrachos,
we do not wish you strain
yourselves with toleration
of our, supposedly, intolerable ways
and . . . yes . . . question of admittance
is a fine one for it puts you inside and us outside
asking like cats and dogs in the rain to be let in.
the nature of your questions
assumes you have something to offer.
but there is one thing I wish
you would do for us,
in all of your dealings with us,
in all your institutions
that affect our lives
deal with us as you openly claim you can,
justly . . . with love . . . with dignity.
correct your own abuses on la raza
for your own sake and not for ours
so you can have some peace of mind
for . . . you see . . . we only lack a piece of bread
which comes cheaper according to your own value system
let me tell you what we want,
not from you but from ourselves and for ourselves . . .
we want to let america know that she
belongs to us as much as we belong in turn to her
by now we have learned to talk
and want to be on good speaking terms
with all that is america.
from government we want to become
visible and not merely legislated
and supervised but included
in the design of laws and their implementation.
from education we want the most that it can offer,
a history that tells it like it is,
principals, teachers, counselors, college professors . . .
and all this from chicanos a la chicana
and this we are not asking por favor
but merely as an overdue payment
and we might even forget the previous score.
from the church we very piously ask
less sermon and more delivery
more priests to preach Christ's merciful justice,
less alms and tokens in the name of charity
and more pinpointment of the screwing going on.
from los chicanos del barrio y de los campos
we also have some strong demands
(among ourselves there is much more confianza)
we want you to plot a clean escape but very soon,
lose your habit of speaking in low voices
and of walking with cabezas agachadas,
you are poor only in material
for your heritage is very rich.
from chicanos with a little
bit of wealth and power les
pedimos una mana
but to give los olvidados
not a damn thing . . . they are asking
for your hand . . . but only in amistad
as brothers that you, even if you don't want to, are.
and finally to the draft board
we have a few words to share with you
no la jodan . . . metan gabachos también . . .
our manifesto I know is general
but we saved the especific for the end
for the chicano migrant is about
to become like your American buffalo . . . extinct . . .
those who claim that was a crime with animals
are now in good position to prevent one with humans
or will the migrants honor come as always . . . posthumous.