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Thread: As I promised to do.

  1. #11
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    Re: As I promised to do.

    Crosstown

    As the riders step out into the glum,
    deadbeat day, greasy, thick, and the dingy air
    crawls from the door to my seat—I think
    of the time hands tightened around my throat
    and face. How from the off-white wall,
    my legs dangled, and he slung me to the floor.

    I could not read it, the word that got me beaten
    and bloody. Sounding it out ruh-ing—
    knocked upside my head for not knowing
    what I was spelling meant, r-i-n-g. I step
    onto the grid, Western Avenue, where on either side
    of the street the guts of houses still stand,
    rickety on their foundations.

    Work 6 blocks, on the corner of McKinley,
    where inside I stack dishes, clean grease traps
    and flip burgers. Two blocks, through an alley, craggy,
    shattered bottles of Mickey's, the smell of grease.
    I see a mutt, its coat almost cinder-gray, mangy
    at the tail and neck, sniffing its way through a bag
    of trash it must have gnawed open with its teeth.

    Mobbing out of the alley and onto NW 23rd,
    a store—every window barred, folks out front,
    leaning up against the wall, paper-bagged bottles in hand.
    I walk to a cooler of beer and find the tallest,
    cheapest can of malt. Rattle of change,
    the beeping door, back out on 23rd.

    Twilight, 90 degrees, some kids shirtless,
    licking Red Bomber popsicles, ice-cream truck
    chiming its way up the block. As I make
    my way through McKinley Park, I remember
    the time, amid an onslaught of lights,
    the cops found a teenager in the parking-
    lot dumpster, shot through the dome.

    How do I sound it out, even still, dreading
    a barrage of blows coming after every misread
    word? How do I spell grease popping
    up from the grill and onto my face and hands?

    On break, cigarette burning on my lips,
    wheeling a load of soggy-bagged trash
    to the dumpster, reminds me that the bus driver
    said the victim was a kid that lived on 10th
    and Kelly, and that the gunman is still a mystery.
    .






    In a perfect world, our dreams will be fulfilled. There would be no hard work or planning ahead, because everything you want would be given to you. In the real world, where we all live, rewards must be earned. The problem most people have is in the day-to-day details of accomplishment. Accomplishment takes a lot of time, sacrifice and effort, and that’s the real rub for a lot of people. But, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

  2. #12
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    Re: As I promised to do.

    Stranded

    There he was puffing his way toward
    me, smoke at his lips and out the nostrils;
    his face scrunched under a potato-chip hat,
    shirt hanging from his shoulders sweat
    heavy.
    Behind him a constellation of workers
    crouched near the strawberry vines in their
    wide-brimmed hats; one woman had a baby,
    sheet-wrapped to her back, and a teenaged
    girl
    walked the field rows, barefoot, with a pail
    and dipper of water. Behind me sat my lemon,
    overheated and parked in the knee-high grass,
    the hood propped up. No habla español,
    I said,
    hand over my brow, the other in my pocket.
    No one spoke English, but as we walked
    toward shade and I was offered water, I knew
    to drink, and hours later when offered
    tortillas,
    pinto beans, and potatoes, I knew to eat. As
    the bright day gave way to sounds of cicadas
    and the reddening set of the sun, the man
    approached me again and led me to his
    truck.
    And driving to the nearest town, he talked
    to me, pointing to the fields on either side
    of the road, and I knew then he was talking
    of work, and the long, slow days picking fruit.
    .






    In a perfect world, our dreams will be fulfilled. There would be no hard work or planning ahead, because everything you want would be given to you. In the real world, where we all live, rewards must be earned. The problem most people have is in the day-to-day details of accomplishment. Accomplishment takes a lot of time, sacrifice and effort, and that’s the real rub for a lot of people. But, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

  3. #13
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    Re: As I promised to do.

    August

    i from the sketchbook

    I thread the blackberry thicket for the shaded stone.
    August has shriven the grass, the green sargassos of June,
    And summer's alfalfa is lusterless gold in a nimbus of heat
    Waiting the baler. It wavers, helpless, a phalanx of light.
    August drums as bright thunder trumpets the field,
    And the maple's khaki undersides lift in brisk salute
    To shadows stalled against the pitiless scope of the sun.
    Rain will riddle the valley, strafing blistered grains,
    And black-eyed Susans in unison rise like the girls of St. Anne's.
    Where foxglove in her petticoat has crowned the hill—
    An indolent cotillion girl who tosses gold
    From her shoulders, and proudly rustles yards of crinoline—
    Freckled goldenrod assembles, choir boys,
    A drift of anise, bobbing over their churchyard gate.
    A sunflower's ovate leaves become the rough arms
    Of a drowsy fieldhand, leaning on a split-rail fence,
    Whose mouse-brown eye, alerted, lashed with gold, translates
    The clouds as victory, the wind's voice as rain.


    ii

    I knew the river wasn't theirs at all. Just once
    When January sun on snow had made us wince,
    When hickory and juniper were frosted cakes
    On Barker Hill, my father tracked the Squanicook
    With one gloved hand above the valley's heart—a braid
    Of shattered mirrors bridging fields and barns and roads,
    Through yards resigned to her encyclical despair.
    In watching shards fragment those stalwart gabled spires,
    I saw a fractured picture of our town and knew
    I heard an ancient, urgent fury break the snow,
    A fierce quicksilvering of winter's crusted dyke.
    I watched it runnel gently where we crouched; its wake
    Defied the valley, joyfully sped from where we gazed.
    I felt the shrugging off of nature's deep disguise.
    The river favored us. She lived and leapt the gorge.


    iii from the notebook

    The shadblow sheds it purple fruit and spills its seed,
    The linden bartering yellow bouquets for a necklace of gourds.
    Unbraided pennons, catkins of the willow, fill
    Like ragged sails. A towering cumulonimbus patrols
    The eastern skies. I watch magenta clover drone
    On sleeping epaulettes and know the sun-soaked earth
    Is breeding still: in torpid pools, in stagnant ponds,
    Rebellious nature sets her offspring quarreling
    For food and territory—in-bred stone-flies riot
    For their rations where the water striders run
    Their useless marathons; inflammatory toads
    Attempt a revolution, all in vain. In time,
    The planet's microcosmic battles merge and fail,
    Leaves of drying blood consumed, a season's compost.



    iv

    We walked the property a thousand times, as if
    Without our walking there, the landscape might dissolve.
    His trees were young. A drought-summer spark had cleared
    The western third some time ago, and when he could,
    He meant to have that forest back. He planted spruce
    The size of children's pencils, fifteen hundred sprays
    Of evergreen, each year as spindly as the last.
    It hurt to watch him tearing up the ones he'd lost.
    We carried water from the brook sometimes. It sluiced
    A dozen clotted paths, where once an ancestor sliced
    The forest open, and oxen, yoked, had dragged a road.
    This was ours. New Hampshire, north of us, was broad
    And diffident as France. With vague disdain, at six,
    I knew our woods was better—even my burdocked socks
    Belonged to Massachusetts. And I loved our field
    Whose hundred-year-old hair had not been cut; it filled
    With captivated birds. A thorny orchard kept
    A dozen wizards prisoner. I watched their script
    Of runes engrave the granite sky with ancient debt.
    Everything the woods could teach, my father taught:
    Delight, exactitude, a faith, his journeyman's doubt.


    v Fire

    Father, I'm dizzy in shimmering August, rising new
    As summer's mistress from a field of corn. She now
    Is married to the heat-swept grain. Her ripening breast
    Is a thicket, bright with blood-berries, her body dressed
    In flame. The red god of the salamander sandals her foot,
    A monarch touches her lip, her coppery hands fit
    Petals in a chain. She knows she has chosen to burn
    At noon, as nature intends. The thrust maize, unborn,
    Has made her heavy and drugged as a bee. A tawny wood-
    Dove sleepily croons what her tongue cannot: the subtle wound
    That too much plenty makes. She doesn't know that winter
    Ravages, that grief and habitual wind will tint her
    Skin and break the tender stalk of her body. She stands
    Impaled by arrows of afternoon light until thunder stuns
    Her—she slips like smoke into shade, behind the burning stones.
    .






    In a perfect world, our dreams will be fulfilled. There would be no hard work or planning ahead, because everything you want would be given to you. In the real world, where we all live, rewards must be earned. The problem most people have is in the day-to-day details of accomplishment. Accomplishment takes a lot of time, sacrifice and effort, and that’s the real rub for a lot of people. But, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

  4. #14
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    Re: As I promised to do.

    Narcissus incomparabilis

    Lean down, lean down
    while the light's abducted,
    its last skirts caught
    then torn through the trees.
    Keep your own eye still
    so no one catches you.
    When it's gone, it's everywhere—
    air a memory of light,
    incident turned ambient,
    and it never takes long
    for this nacre to grow
    over each absence or intruder
    and become the world.
    Lean down now,
    creel of starlight and moon,
    and reflect again
    your inherited light.
    World may ripple—
    pearl, scale, pebble, bone—
    behind all memory,
    may ghost you, stranger,
    where you don't belong.
    But lean down now,
    as memory hardens
    its incomparable light.
    Don't let the sun
    set on you again.
    .






    In a perfect world, our dreams will be fulfilled. There would be no hard work or planning ahead, because everything you want would be given to you. In the real world, where we all live, rewards must be earned. The problem most people have is in the day-to-day details of accomplishment. Accomplishment takes a lot of time, sacrifice and effort, and that’s the real rub for a lot of people. But, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

  5. #15
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    Re: As I promised to do.

    Come On All You Ghosts (excerpt)

    1.

    I heard a little cough
    in the room, and turned
    but no one was there

    except the flowers
    Sarah bought me
    and my death’s head

    glow in the dark key chain
    that lights up and moans
    when I press the button

    on top of its skull
    and the ghost
    I shyly name Aglow.

    Are you there Aglow
    I said in my mind,
    reader, exactly the way

    you just heard it
    in yours about four
    poem time units ago

    unless you have already
    put down the paper directly
    after the mention

    of poetry or ghosts.
    Readers I am sorry
    for some of you

    this is not a novel.
    Good-bye. Now it is just
    us and the death’s head

    and the flowers and the ghost
    in San Francisco thinking
    together by means

    of the ancient transmission device.
    I am sorry
    but together we are

    right now thinking
    along by means
    of an ancient mechanistic

    system no one invented
    involving super-microscopic
    particles that somehow

    (weird!) enter through
    your eyes or ears
    depending on where

    you are right now
    reading or listening.
    To me it seems

    like being together
    one body made of light
    clanging down through

    a metal structure
    for pleasure and edification.
    Reader when I think of you

    you are in a giant purple chair
    in a Starbucks gradually leaking power
    while Neil Young

    eats a campfire then drinks
    a glass of tears
    on satellite radio.

    Hello. I am 40.
    I have lived in Maryland,
    Amherst, San Francisco,

    New York, Ljubljana,
    Stonington (house
    of the great ornate wooden frame

    holding the mirror the dead
    saw us in whenever
    we walked past),

    New Hampshire at the base
    of the White Mountains
    on clear blue days

    full of dark blue jays
    beyond emotion jaggedly piercing,
    Minneapolis of which

    I have spoken
    earlier and quite enough,
    Paris, and now

    San Francisco again.
    Reader, you are right now
    in what for me is the future

    experiencing something
    you cannot
    without this poem.

    I myself am suspicious
    and cruel. Sometimes
    when I close my eyes

    I hear a billion workers
    in my skull
    hammering nails from which

    all the things I see
    get hung. But poems
    are not museums,

    they are machines
    made of words,
    you pour as best

    you can your attention
    in and in you the poetic
    state of mind is produced

    said one of the many
    French poets with whom
    I feel I must agree.

    Another I know
    writes his poems on silver
    paint in a mirror.

    I feel like a president
    raising his fist in the sun.
    .






    In a perfect world, our dreams will be fulfilled. There would be no hard work or planning ahead, because everything you want would be given to you. In the real world, where we all live, rewards must be earned. The problem most people have is in the day-to-day details of accomplishment. Accomplishment takes a lot of time, sacrifice and effort, and that’s the real rub for a lot of people. But, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

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    Re: As I promised to do.

    Essay on Novels

    Their shambling power and verisimilitude,
    their mimetic resemblance to souvenir Yuletide
    snowstorm paperweights in which we discover
    our tiny selves shoveling silver glitter,

    or scrimshawed whale's teeth, or
    ships-in-bottles, or breath-fogged mirrors,

    fanciful, delimited, craft-wise, time-bound,
    toothsome and foredoomed as mastodons
    crossing the tundra page by page
    through the last ecstatic blizzard of the Ice Age.
    .






    In a perfect world, our dreams will be fulfilled. There would be no hard work or planning ahead, because everything you want would be given to you. In the real world, where we all live, rewards must be earned. The problem most people have is in the day-to-day details of accomplishment. Accomplishment takes a lot of time, sacrifice and effort, and that’s the real rub for a lot of people. But, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

  7. #17
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    Re: As I promised to do.

    Relax

    Bad things are going to happen.
    Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
    and your cat will get run over.
    Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
    melting in the car and throw
    your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.
    Your husband will sleep
    with a girl your daughter's age, her breasts spilling
    out of her blouse. Or your wife
    will remember she's a lesbian
    and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat—
    the one you never really liked—will contract a disease
    that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
    every four hours, for a month.
    Your parents will die.
    No matter how many vitamins you take,
    how much Pilates, you'll lose your keys,
    your hair and your memory. If your daughter
    doesn't plug her heart
    into every live socket she passes,
    you'll come home to find your son has emptied
    your refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
    and called the used appliance store for a pick up—drug money.
    There's a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
    When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
    and climbs halfway down. But there's also a tiger below.
    And two mice—one white, one black—scurry out
    and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
    she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
    She looks up, down, at the mice.
    Then she eats the strawberry.
    So here's the view, the breeze, the pulse
    in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you'll get fat,
    slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
    and crack your hip. You'll be lonely.
    Oh taste how sweet and tart
    the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
    crunch between your teeth.
    .






    In a perfect world, our dreams will be fulfilled. There would be no hard work or planning ahead, because everything you want would be given to you. In the real world, where we all live, rewards must be earned. The problem most people have is in the day-to-day details of accomplishment. Accomplishment takes a lot of time, sacrifice and effort, and that’s the real rub for a lot of people. But, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

  8. #18
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    Re: As I promised to do.

    Sutliff Bridge

    You wouldn't know about the bridge, bar and store
    unless you were local, but now that the flood-
    waters are down, everyone is coming to stand
    and stare at the empty space: half a bridge gone,
    grabbed in the river's fist, twisted and dragged
    downstream to where its dark skeletal tips break
    the gentle surface, pointing awry at the sky
    like rusty hindsight exclamations of distress.

    People murmur that the lost half should be brought back.
    It could be retrieved, restored—just a matter
    of allocating the money and equipment.
    But will the county ante up? It was an old
    bridge with scabrous cement piers, wooden planks
    that roared like thunder when you drove
    over them, and diminutive spans shedding
    flakes at every vibration—the puce metallic bits
    freckling the roadway until the wind blew
    them away. There's a newer bridge upstream—
    it survived this flood and looks good for a few more.

    The Sutliff store used to sell everything from seeds
    to paraffin to aspirin to boots. But it's been fifty
    years and now the high tin-ceilinged room—with its
    bounty of varnished shelves and drawers and marble
    countertops, its glass display cases a remote
    emphasis of emptiness and dust, its spindle
    of parcel string still hanging at shoulder height
    near the silent brass register—serves only as a way
    to pass from the original bar to the recent dining
    addition out back, so new that its exterior
    still reads, KEVLAR KEVLAR KEVLAR, from every angle.

    They do a booming business in Old Milwaukee pencil-
    necks, fried bluegill baskets, and chili dogs. You can
    eat inside while the jukebox skips and mingles
    with talk of tractor parts and DVDs, or go
    out to the riverbank where a few guys
    have their lines in, casting for trout or bass
    around the weeds under the bridge.

    Imagine, after the flood with what newly brilliantined
    suddenness the sunlight must have struck through
    the water where there had been the shade of the bridge
    for more than a hundred years—weeds and fish shocked
    in an aqueous net of umber turning to neon green,
    skated upon by the movements of clouds.

    Visitors in the know write their names on dollar bills
    and tape them to the low ceiling and walls of the bar—
    a glaze of long-forgotten singles ambered by age
    and grease and smoke. The old ladies like it here,
    parking their walkers along the wall, and the farmers
    wanting lunch and conversation, and the Harley
    riders who come through the screen door in groups
    with dust from the gravel road blunting the shine
    on their leather. Since the bridge went out, bar business
    has been even better than usual. No one needs strong
    black thread or lampwicks anymore, but they still
    want potatoes piping hot out of the oil and a place
    to congregate, and this small destruction—no human
    deaths involved—means nature's power affirmed,
    the satisfaction of fretting over an impersonal loss,
    and a blank in the air that looks like change.
    .






    In a perfect world, our dreams will be fulfilled. There would be no hard work or planning ahead, because everything you want would be given to you. In the real world, where we all live, rewards must be earned. The problem most people have is in the day-to-day details of accomplishment. Accomplishment takes a lot of time, sacrifice and effort, and that’s the real rub for a lot of people. But, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

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    Re: As I promised to do.

    False Documents

    They ran the numbers twice for you
    giving you the benefit of the doubt
    but you knew the computer at the other
    end of the officer’s PDA would not find
    your brown number in its little black index.
    You drove exactly one mile per hour below the speed
    limit. You buckled your baby into his car seat according
    to instructions. You signaled for exactly three seconds
    before you turned left. You wanted to hide the Subway wrappers,
    the empty box of Orbitz gum. Evidence of Big Macs.
    You wanted to drink the Mountain Dew before it turned toxic
    in the hot Phoenix sun as you asked, doesn’t this green
    sludge make me American enough? But you didn’t
    move because you knew the officer would have taken
    that for gun-finding or drug-hiding or some other supposed
    Mexican sport. You with your hands at ten and two
    wondered how long the bus ride the officer would take you
    on would last and whether they would provide any water.
    You wondered, as the officer put hand to holster,
    how dangerous it would be to down that Mountain
    Dew then and there, in the wide-open American air.
    .






    In a perfect world, our dreams will be fulfilled. There would be no hard work or planning ahead, because everything you want would be given to you. In the real world, where we all live, rewards must be earned. The problem most people have is in the day-to-day details of accomplishment. Accomplishment takes a lot of time, sacrifice and effort, and that’s the real rub for a lot of people. But, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

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