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Otherwise Elsewhere


I love you
I know as much as anything
for your courage
so companionably invisible
as it is
that it passes mostly
as simple
good sense. I don’t mean you’re
practical at all—god forbid—
only persistent
as far as dying brothers & cold calls
are concerned—not violent,
not weak, but like a lantern afloat on a wave
open if necessary
to sinking your light
offshore. Onshore
I am as you would know
strongly sometimes
impatient & inside a swarm of loud thoughts
self-absorbed & locked-up.
If you were to die
who would remove me
from those thoughts?
When you lean your forehead
against mine
what you hear inside there
are all those
sounds likely, vibrations
like windowpanes rattled by headland squalls
or bullet trains
late forever & loaded down
with passengers green
as hoodie-wearing witches.
I lean my forehead against
your forehead
gently knowing both
will shortly vanish.
“First of all,” says
Virgil, “find
a protected place
for the bees
to make their
honey, a place that’s
safe from wind.”


Like a bit of shoelace snapped-off
and tied back on by tight knot, frayed
each of us lives attached
to the ridiculousness of suffering
according to the Buddhists
needfully, with plenty of precedent & protégés, & of course
just trying to deal. Am I stronger that I once was?—yes—
but is it enough? On the street, parents
with fidgeting babies, students with bulging
backpacks, a millennium or two of ideas
both bone-headed & marvelous—
could I take-up their burdens, even if I wanted to?
What about the smokers? the malted smell of
pipe tobacco a vast stagecraft recalling Chesapeake Bay
and the Eastern Shore as it goes up in smoke.
Or the cemetery staff—the funeral director, hearse
drivers & gravediggers? Aware as they are
that a headstone is heavy enough
to pin the head in one spot,
they subdue the morning
atmosphere. Tho even for them
perhaps childhood comes back into view
changed once in awhile. As the summer reading lists
that once seemed to me a bore
now look to be filled with insight &care,
with mutiny & courage to spare.
Never again will you find me hating-on those particular books.
Probably you too wanted
to be a dress designer, a rifleman or geneticist
or photographer. A life of so-called action,
of consequence. Perhaps you ought to have lived
your story as a French-cuff economist
hell-bent on improving the lives of grim coal miners.
The street is wide enough to hold my oldest
most dazzling wishes, but not to let me touch them.
Put them alongside the sound
of Pablo Casals near flawless in playing Bach’s cello suite tho
and all experience stretches.