Awful Arthur’s Oyster House
A mermaid burnished with a shellac from Akron,
juts out of cheap pine paneling—the restaurant’s
trophy for people unlocked from the Midwest,
their hands soaked in lemon pulp and fat.
Few notice her hanging on the wooden wall—
a man cutting steak slips the knife delicately
into his thumb and his potato turns into a pink purse.
The bone exposed is translucent, otherworldly.
Sunburned children ooh and ask to see his hand,
his wound. He leaves hurriedly, napkin-wrapped fingers,
head above clouds of kid chatter, stilted romantic desserts.
Servers offer frothy drinks towered with cherries,
and lean in the kitchen—secret cups of whiskey
and filthy mouths undercut couples trying
to bring it somewhere new, where everything
is sifted and slanted to align with the sun.
When everyone leaves, the horizon—stagnant
sky map—slowly bends orange, red, beryl.
Local kids blend sweat and gears, they race cars
at midnight, leave oil slicks glittering with sand and glass.
The sea leaves its trail, but its waves never return.
It migrates miles in tires on grooved asphalt,
an impotent messenger: nearby the ocean is dying.
Ode to Lemons
Little elliptical suns,
the grocer’s shelves,
at noon or dawn,
eyes forever winking
bright yellow peels
steeped and infused;
given to those
who fight for:
blood, beauty, love,
brimming from within
tinted tincture vials.
swallow lemon seeds
and think a whole tree—
white petals waiting
pulp and seed
into a tight ball—
will grow inside them;
small bellies expanding
After Joan Miro’s Painting
The Lark’s Wing, Encircled with Golden Blue, Rejoins the Heart of the Poppy Sleeping on a Diamond-Studded Meadow
Thick tangle of green moss
debased with the face of a poppy,
do you lament your segregation?
Bisected away from the sun,
cinctured by a slash of black—
can you hear those Mediterranean voices,
that near-silence of Catalan, whose x’s
move like wind over l’mari,
on so many red-tinged lips?
Beneath you, the earth’s star, or worse—
an advancing alien sea—
blinds a cerulean swell harboring
the eye pit. The pupil long dead,
no longer widens with the image
it recalls—Roman marches in Barcino;
strong chants trailing the sea:
ad manes fratrum, to our brother’s
spirits, let us live, let us die.
Boston, November 2006
We find a broken pumpkin, still immaculate
pulp and pith shine delicious—
days until decay snakes a downy path.
Seeds and strings web through our fingers,
fevered to crush and smash such bright flesh
before air and mites and street shit cause its collapse.
Maybe the fight, or a moonless night sky tide
compels this flush, this departure from censure—
our hands and arms lush with slick, glinting guts.
Tips for Bear Proofing Your Home
Old Westerns and hotel sheets make the best defense.
Hang em High projected onto garage doors or siding—
guests wrapped like little goblins in high thread counts,
sipping gimlets; bears recoil from such phantasmal excesses.
Bears eat clouds and clover patches, but will settle for pasta.
Store food in anything non-cumulous and wait.
If your kitchen is untouched today, you must protect it again;
wear a sheet shroud and let True Grit ring through the nightwatch.
Loud crashes encourage bears, brothers to Bacchus that they are,
but whispers attract them even more. Their hearing is poor
and they worry about being made fun of. Their growl and roar
grew as delicate evolutions to protect a winter’s worth of feeling.
Naturally curious, bears masquerade as lewd, furry garbage men;
but they wander, poets in the night, looking for material
and star-sanctioned connections. Paint Your Wagon plays
tonight so they will slip past your house, unnoticed and alone.
slung too static
in their quiver—
the nock never knows
what comes next
plucks it to place.
Arrowhead points blast
first, splintering pine
or spurring skulls—
the fletching feather’s
waver should wisp back,
but even if it does,
the nock must wait.
Like the slinky’s last coil
a slight second of stillness—
love doesn’t hear that love is bled
the splatter of spill
and then, the lightheaded
lift of death.
The pink slip
or a slip left in your bed
happen just after
they were never expected.
It will take 8 minutes
and 20 seconds
to see the sun has gone
to some, 8 minutes
and 20 seconds never
sounded so good.