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Thread: Sleekit Cowrin’

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    Sleekit Cowrin’

    When a caught mouse lay dead, for a week,
    and stuck to the floor, I started setting
    the traps on a few of my ex's and my old
    floral salad plates. Late
    one night, when I see one has sprung, I put it on the
    porch, to take it to the woods in the morning, but by
    morning I forget, and by noon—and by after-
    noon the Blue Willow's like a charnal roof
    in Persia where the bodies of the dead were put for the
    scholar vultures to pick the text
    of matter and the text of spirit apart.
    The mouse has become a furry barrow
    burrowed into by a beetle striped
    in stripes of hot and stripes of cold
    coal—head-first, it eats its way in
    to the heart sweeter than dirt, to the mouse-bowels
    saltier, beeswax and soap
    stopped in the small intestinal channels.
    And bugs little as seeds are seething
    all over the hair, as if the rodent
    were food rejoicing. And the Nicrophorous
    cuts and thrusts, it rocks and rolls
    its tomentose muzzle, and its wide shoulders,
    in. And I know, I know, I should put
    my dead marriage out on the porch
    in the sun, and let who can, come
    and nourish of it—change it, carry it
    back to what it was assembled from,
    back to the source of the light whereby it shone.
    .






    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: Sleekit Cowrin’

    Love of Lines: Notes for an Apprentice Shingler

    The injuries are small ones,
    the blade slips from the cedar
    slat to the kneeling knee,
    or the plane slides
    off the shingle's edge
    and shaves the thumb knuckle.
    Splinters are surprisingly
    rare, but when the hands
    are cold, the hammer glances
    the galvanized nail
    and slams the horny one,
    pinching and blistering
    the pellicle. This
    is the worst.

    What we labor over,
    a swayback beach house,
    rests on a rheumatic wharf,
    our task to pluck
    the worn wood scales,
    add new bridgework, a shield
    of George Washington teeth,
    clamped against adversity.
    We begin with the shingle iron
    slipping it along the virgin
    backside of loose dentures,
    and pull so shakes fly off
    in our faces, crack and splinter,
    the sharp dry notes narrating
    fifteen-plus years of weather.
    Like dog years, this is ancient
    beyond thinning and brittleness.
    Where we find rot, we chisel out
    the grainy porridge and fill
    the gap with new pine,
    thick wedges for warmth.

    Wood chips in our eyes
    make us cry a little,
    but mostly we keep right on
    through the small disasters
    to batten down before nightfall,
    our eye on the suture—
    horizon stitching low
    grey sky to our dark Atlantic.
    Tar paper (or a new slick
    synthetic stock that doesn't rip
    and bears a name too New Age
    for song) is whack-stapled
    to weary ship-salvage boards,
    top layer always over bottom
    to keep rain water from seeping
    back to wood. Then the sweet
    new cedar shields we extract
    from fresh bundles and fit,
    side flush to side
    and hammer in twice, milk
    oozing from flat four-penny
    heads, the soft white fur
    of mold, like premature infant
    fuzz, rising from wet wood
    into the crisp autumn
    turn of air.

    Chalk lines are best
    when workers hold each end,
    one reaching to the center
    to snap, the blue powder
    mapping a million points
    along a line so straight
    the day's doubts are deleted
    in its sure direction.
    But a course of shingles
    followed by another and another
    parading up the house—these
    hands saluting, soles of tree,
    puerile soldiers sweet
    as puberty, pressed side to side
    so no one stands taller,
    though some are fatter,
    "hippos," and some are "weasel"-
    thin, their bodies set
    like brickwork so no two seams
    meet—all the bathos of the week
    is buried here. Lines
    link lines to what we love
    in these long hours, the wood
    wine of it, the weighted plunge
    and smack of hammer and nail,
    the hard grip, hammer handle
    to palm, the knock knock knock
    answering back from neighboring
    houses and street, wood and nail
    and wood, even the smeared blood
    marking the rough facade.
    We swing and drum the day.

    *

    And when we finish, the lines,
    stacks of horizons, paths to
    an exacting place, meeting at trim
    and window, foundation and roof,
    are what we've made. Lines
    where cold, rain, wind,
    sleet, sun and snow end. Lines
    we step across the street
    to judge, and when they're fine
    they're fine, and when they fail
    they haunt. Order is easy to
    plan for, hard to achieve. This
    is what houses are about—
    planes that meet along degrees
    we trust. Lines that say,
    The weather is up to you.

    We unfasten our nail aprons
    as the sun sends its light
    into China's day. Toss
    into the toolbox tape measure,
    plane and knife,
    hammer, chalkline and coping
    saw, and head home to husband
    or girlfriend or dog, or house—
    house, bless it, though it
    doesn't save us from ourselves.
    And when we sleep, it is
    the sleep of lines well made,
    or lines that are not well,
    marginally mis-measured,
    but in our dreams slanting
    earthward or rising toward
    some inevitable convergence,
    the confusion of infinite touch,
    and so we return like some
    floating angel to the house
    and remove by glance alone,
    five fresh courses
    to correct our quarter-inch mistake.

    When we wake, the error
    dissolves into morning,
    compulsion keeling into
    the undefined plane of day
    and its incorrigible knots.
    In a year the high wheat
    of the wood will fade to blue-grey,
    the seams will open a crack,
    for the wood has dried and shrunk.
    The smell, once fecund as forests,
    will be salted, and somewhere else
    staging assembled, a house
    stripped, a dog amused
    at what trouble humans go to,
    dangling their booted feet
    at the face of a house
    as the hammers hound the quiet
    of day, as the afternoon arcs
    around our deep imperfections,
    and we measure with expectation
    another course, another line.
    .






    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: Sleekit Cowrin’

    Coaching Pitchers


    I. Little League

    When my only pitcher went wild
    against the league's worst team,
    I knew we had a cushion, hell, ten runs
    at least. Time for a life-lesson. Like Zeus I towered
    over him on the mound and poured the positive
    into his anguished eyes. Said I wasn't taking him out
    no matter what. And he walked the runs
    in and in and in. Before the second inning
    I should have known nothing would help him
    but another sunrise.

    I was raised to believe will
    could do anything, lift you out of any kind of slump.
    The short kid got shorter as the long day waned,
    his eleven year old brow crawling with wrinkles.
    I was Lear, now, had given my word,
    and even my smart-ass centerfielder knew
    not to come between the dragon and his wrath.
    Trapped in my sovereignty,

    I turned to stone
    as the runs added up and we lost 29-27 and
    the lesson sank in like a dull blade
    just above my top vertebra, the one known
    as the Atlas.


    II. Pony League

    When my only pitcher lumbered off the mound
    at the perfect bunt and threw late to first,
    I saw the other coach's eyes light up.
    Next bunt, also perfect, also beat out,
    bases loaded.

    I moved Molasses at third
    into concussion range, and still they bunted
    straight at the mound past Molasses and later
    past my stumbly first baseman, too,
    and the runs poured in.

    This one, I said, is Fate,
    not my incompetence. How can anyone be that slow?
    I can see him even now waddling toward the puffball
    lolling in the grass, too late, oh my God, again,
    too late.


    III. Junior Varsity

    The leadoff man for the team I'd never heard of
    drilled a triple to right center, as did the next guy up.
    What are the odds against two pitches and two triples
    in the top of the first? Number three lined a mere single,
    the cleanup, a double. Where do you get sixteen-year-old bats
    like these? I stared at my new black shoes and then at
    the tight face of my former shortstop in his mound debut,
    only guy on the team who could really play. What have I done
    to him. His shoulders sag already, but he wings another strike
    and—Hallelujah!—it's dribbled to second where it holograms through Collier's glove
    and rolls into right field. Throw to second's
    fifteen feet off the ground and nobody's backing up.
    Next guy homers. We had no slaughter rule back then,
    and I'd die before calling it off. I walked back and forth
    to the bench, passing their perfectly uniformed coach
    who never tried to catch my eye. His guys were classy,
    never jeered, never even smirked. They pitched, they fielded,
    they jogged in fast after each inning. They circled my star
    dispassionately, their eyes blank as Greek statues'.
    Another case of pure bad luck. True, pitchers, quarterbacks,
    field goal kickers—I never liked them. Too much relish
    on those hotdogs. Maybe Fate, too, is an old lineman,
    aching all over even in his youth, and maybe, between us,
    we were trying to teach poor Bobby Levinson
    how to suffer, how to lose.
    .






    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: Sleekit Cowrin’

    Double

    Three and a half decades now, and my heart still tightens
    because I'm trotting giddy toward checkout
    in the Old Gothic Gym, my precious punchcards
    fanned like a royal flush—
    Ryle, Russell,
    Beckett, Kant, Fielding—when they vanish

    up into a huge fist stared at by Coach Dole, autocrat
    of linebackers and foghorn stupid. How long does it take
    to read "PhiILang," "Epistemol," "BritNov,"
    "ContemDram," "Aesthetics," and the others?

    When his eyelids droop, something with sharp fins
    banks in my stomach. My face burns. "Smitty,"
    he fogs down at one of the cards, "Can't take this class.
    Be late to practice on Wednesdays."
    A ceiling fan
    helicopters his head like Vulcan's halo.

    My entire aching life holds its stinking breath.
    "That's the Senior Seminar in my major," I say.
    He pushes those big, empty eyes at me.
    "Change your major," he says. "Major in sociology

    like Dimmski and Dollard." In this memory I reach up
    in silence like Augustine stealing a pear from paganism;
    I pluck my cards from the fat fist; I wade through
    the heat to the long table near the door.
    I have bled,
    benchpressed, blindsided, wildcatted, wedgebusted,

    whacked, crunched, crashed, crapped in my pants at
    practice, pissed in fourth quarter huddles, piled on and
    been piled up, been All-American stomped and gouged.
    I have farted in my own face. I have bounced my brain

    against my own skull, have squatted, squashed, broke-down,
    bearcrawled, duckwalked, slashed, swooped, and by God
    levitated, I have trapped, kicked out, blitzed, and firestormed.
    I have forearmed ferocious forever,
    eternally bang-up
    butted, have split giant triple teams, lips, chins, supraorbital

    ridges, sprinted and wheezed and puked and
    puked and sweated and puked for ten fall seasons, year-round training,
    seven hellish, heroic springs. Though you zombie the zone
    of the well-rung bell, though they stitch you all over

    like Shelley's Monster, though you break the breakable,
    sprain the sprainable, dislocate the dislocatable, it is best
    to keep your swollen mouth shut and play the hand Mars
    and Minerva have dealt you. None of the coaches ever spoke
    again of my education. In 1970 I came fifteen minutes late

    to practice one day a week and slipped on down
    the linemen list. But, I told myself, I've still got
    Philosophy and British Literature.
    I thought
    my double major was my secret, my ace in the hole.
    .






    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: Sleekit Cowrin’

    To His Mother, Whose Name Was Maria

    Invoked every sundown, it's you, painted on clouds
    rouging our treasured plain and all who walk it,
    with leaf-fresh kids and women damp from traveling,
    city-bound, in the radiance of a just-stopped shower;
    it's you, mother eternally young, courtesy of death's
    plucking hand, rose at the fragrant point of unpetaling,
    you who are the alpha of every neurosis, every torturing anxiety,
    and for this I give you gratitude for time past, time present, time future.
    .






    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: Sleekit Cowrin’

    Poverty

    la cólera de pobre
    tiene dos rios contra muchos mares.
    — César Vallejo

    Vallejo wrote that with God we are all orphans.
    I send $22 a month to a kid in Ecuador
    so starvation keeps moving on its bony burro
    past his door—no cars, computers,
    basketball shoes—not a bottle cap
    of hope for the life ahead . . . just enough
    to keep hunger shuffling by in a low cloud
    of flies. It's the least I can do,
    and so I do it.
    I have followed the dry length
    of Mission Creek to the sea and forgotten to pray
    for the creosote, the blue salvia, let alone
    for pork bellies, soy bean futures.
    Listen.
    There are 900 thousand Avon Ladies in Brazil.
    Billions are spent each year on beauty products
    world-wide—28 billion on hair care, 14 on skin
    conditioners, despite children digging on the dumps,
    selling their kidneys, anything that is briefly theirs.
    9 billion a month for war in Iraq, a chicken bone
    for foreign aid.
    I am the prince of small potatoes,
    I deny them nothing who come to me beseeching
    the crusts I have to give. I have no grounds for complaint,
    though deep down, where it's anyone's guess,
    I covet everything that goes along with the illustrious—
    creased pants as I stroll down the glittering boulevard,
    a little aperitif beneath Italian pines. But who cares
    what I wear, or drink? The rain? No, the rain is something
    we share—it devours the beginning and the end.
    The old stars tumble out of their bleak rooms like dice—
    Box Cars, Snake Eyes, And-The-Horse-You-Rode-In-On . . .
    not one metaphorical bread crumb in tow.
    Not a single Saludo! from the patronizers
    of the working class—Pharaoh Oil, Congress,
    or The Commissioner of Baseball—all who will eventually
    take the same trolley car to hell, or a slag heap
    on the outskirts of Cleveland.
    I have an ATM card,
    AAA Plus card. I can get cash from machines, be towed
    20 miles to a service station. Where do I get off penciling in
    disillusionment? My bones are as worthless as the next guy's
    against the stars, against the time it takes light to expend
    its currency across the cosmic vault. I have what everyone has—
    the over-drawn statement of the air, my blood newly rich
    with oxygen before the inescapable proscenium of the dark,
    my breath going out equally with any atom of weariness
    or joy, each one of which is closer to God than I.
    .






    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: Sleekit Cowrin’

    Remedial Weeding

    You don't need to know its name
    to know it is a weed; if it
    has taken hold between two
    paving bricks, if its thin root
    or complex undermop is wedged
    where the concrete riser joins the concrete step,
    then assuredly it is.
    It is redundant, stubborn work,
    to which you squat or kneel or bend,
    moving lowly in one manner
    or another over the entire area
    to be covered so that, naturally,
    afterwards, you'll ache.

    And yet, what better use
    could you have put these to:
    one yellow-handled tool
    and two tightening circles of thought?
    For those times when the heart, still
    resonant and stunned,
    is dominant,
    this is the kind of work you want,
    mindless work, where it is best to look
    no more than one weed ahead,
    and where the iron inability to set a course
    drills the focus downwards
    with single-mindedness and depth.
    .






    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: Sleekit Cowrin’

    Some Feel Rain

    Some feel rain. Some feel the beetle startle
    in its ghost-part when the bark
    slips. Some feel musk. Asleep against
    each other in the whiskey dark, scarcely there.
    When it falls apart, some feel the moondark air
    drop its motes to the patch-thick slopes of
    snow. Tiny blinkings of ice from the oak,
    a boot-beat that comes and goes, the line of prayer
    you can follow from the dusking wind to the snowy owl
    it carries. Some feel sunlight
    well up in blood-vessels below the skin
    and wish there had been less to lose.
    Knowing how it could have been, pale maples
    drowsing like a second sleep above our temperaments.
    Do I imagine there is any place so safe it can't be
    snapped? Some feel the rivers shift,
    blue veins through soil, as if the smokestacks were a long
    dream of exhalation. The lynx lets its paws
    skim the ground in snow and showers.
    The wildflowers scatter in warm tints until
    the second they are plucked. You can wait
    to scrape the ankle-burrs, you can wait until Mercury
    the early star underdraws the night and its blackest
    districts. And wonder. Why others feel
    through coal-thick night that deeply colored garnet
    star. Why sparring and pins are all you have.
    Why the earth cannot make its way towards you.
    .






    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: Sleekit Cowrin’

    Once

    A girl ate ices
    in the red summer. Bees
    buzzed among the hydrangea,

    heavy as plums.
    Summer widened
    its lens.

    You would not believe
    how happy she was;
    her mother pulled her

    through the pool till her hair
    went soft. Below,
    cracks spread in the vinyl

    where her mother's long legs
    scissored; above, wet faces
    in the sun smiled . . .

    The home, adrift in sun,
    was square and clean
    with wine and apple pie;

    at dusk, lamps were lit,
    Vs of geese swept past,
    fresh sheets shivered

    on the laundry line,
    and as the nights grew crisp
    our souls unfolded.

    Then winter arrived.
    The parents bent over the daughter
    tucked in her bed . . . .

    Creaking under the cold,
    the old black walnut's roots
    spread beneath the snow.

    When spring came, the home
    had tilted into the tree's
    long, cool shadow. Nothing

    was the same 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.”

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    Re: Sleekit Cowrin’

    The Sand-Castle

    Care in destruction is a form of self-deception

    and fury is blind
    or even the precision destruction
    of a sand castle

    there is no such thing as
    a precision bomb

    the formal finitude of made things overcomes
    our respect for what we have made

    often that our desire to destroy is
    The dark side of the news he brought.

    Unwilling or unable to be
    the curator
    of his creation, the boy swiftly

    returned it to its elements,
    that is, to
    its pure potential

    ready to be used again
    they were
    were internalized

    used in making the castle
    Once the skills

    or, better, learning
    was a mode of memorization,
    as if what he had been practicing

    returning the power of the form back to
    himself, the boy seemed
    to be,

    and using all his physical
    might to do so,
    By destroying the mere thing

    acquire an interiority in being
    a memory alone, but could not
    realize an interior

    Did this object that implied,
    one he felt could be replaced

    easily? Was his castle
    a work of craft

    rather than art, we cannot
    give value to our making,

    always present as the potential
    for unmaking, or at least

    we have to making, for
    without the freedom of reversibility

    enacted in unmaking,
    we have to making,

    that boy has represented
    for me a certain relation
    Since then

    and he skipped off to wherever he was going next
    he grinned (to himself, to me, I couldn't tell)

    But the boy was delighted
    "the lone and level sands stretch far away"

    "Ozymandias," I thought of the end
    of Shelley's
    "come to grief," as we say, Startled,

    feeling that something beautiful had
    then not distinguishable at all,

    barely distinguishable from the sand
    surrounding them as the castle's sandy walls and towers

    his arms and legs flailing like a gritty

    whirligig, he kicked with all his might,

    Reaching it

    turned again, and raced back to his castle,

    stopped, ran back a few yards, turned,

    smacked his hands together,

    then he stood

    and still the boy worked on,
    smaller children began to whine for their supper,

    boney driftwood into emptied buckets
    and spilled the day's find of shells and

    Sunbathers shook out their towels.
    darker than the sky,
    streaked the horizon,

    then darker blue
    Meanwhile strips of red, orange

    tomorrow there it would be
    or a patrolling jeep wheeled over it, or a pair

    of lovers stumbled across it, and unless
    in the dark a drunk,

    his castle would be safe,
    even as the tide came in—

    He had chosen his site carefully
    as well—revisions made with

    the tips of his fingers, the point of minor
    additions and deletions
    were thrown aside,

    for his work had reached
    His blunter instruments, shovels and buckets,

    where the windows would be
    indentations carved

    by a spoon's edge to show,
    turrets, moats, interior walls,

    who was building an elaborate sand castle,
    maybe eight, maybe nine
    years old, I could catch sight of a boy, beyond

    the periphery of its oblong shadow,
    I was reading under a beach umbrella and

    but one late summer afternoon
    which coast, or which sea,

    I don't remember where.
    .






    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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