The Quince Tree is Finally Flowering
They all agreed I was sick. As much fizz of insect as boy
who first knew bewilderment as world, as love.
They moved between stern looks. One minute mother was mother,
the next, mother father. One minute father was father,
the next, etcetera. They moved between their looks
in the unreadable context. One minute one of them
expected this, the next, this. They changed places.
What one expected was then expected by the other,
crosshatched in need. One minute mother saw Weevil
as rival, not son, the next there was a little of Weevil
in the son, the next a little of son in the Weevil.
Sometimes, Weevil knew, there was a little of the mother
in the mother, and when he knew it was there, dreaded
it would vanish as quickly as it appeared.
At times there was nothing of the mother in the mother;
sometimes a little of Weevil in the Weevil.
The quince tree was not, the quince tree was, in the garden.
It was there in its pale flames. Was it there in its flames?
The quince tree seemed to change itself around, one minute
had roots, the next had none. Each blossom promised,
but did not burst open, lush petals. But what is the flowering
of the quince tree should it happen? I loved to fondle
the white hairs of each leaf, how tangible was tangible?
One night, the flowering took me by surprise.
Rainstorm as Altarpiece
Emboldener of the bulb, its hubris, for this
Storm, you sulk, sulk. Energy to be rid.
Each phase of yours must choose
one of our three windows, sulk to left
and right, concentration at the centre. Glass
had to be invented once these rivulets
of rain were. Storm, you are
a masterpiece, smoke
and charcoal-smoke, like something wet
burning itself away. The long view—
rolled up in your ardent darknesses.
It could be the light of Golgotha,
its creepy-crawly billow of soot
like a clouding of insecticide
against the rank shallowing out of which
you mutter softly, to yourself.
First, a getting used, to place. Then
you change the place into another place.
Forgive us. We watch. We talk
with hushed, reverent voice
behind the steep glass. Soon, you will be gone.
The engine of the world
is reducing compression
at the core. Cyclone, cloud-crawler,
shoveller of the tall hotel
and of everything in its path,
maker of new light, new air, maker of new us,
above the brightening brake lights
on the long road north.
The Natural World
I will not hijack your rainstorms
when you become the dark that fills the tall hotel.
I will not crash your soirée with the constellations
where they intensify the moment you lie back.
I will not gatecrash, nor chaperon, your love affair
with your end-of-summer crickets when they begin
to sing though they seem disembodied.
I’ll not shanghai your reverie, your private walk;
I will not ambush your swimming towards your God
nor barge the prayer each falling leaf answers.
I know the place you go to, where the noise of world
cuts out and the sun bleeds horizontal,
the woods eat their own echo, the whippoorwill
calls with a note so unendurable it is clean,
where the air, like the sharp grass, slits like a blade.
I’ll never haggle for your peace, I swear,
but will hear, I will see, through your taste-buds,
sticky with afterbirth, the fern unravel;
I will smell, through your dilated pupil, the asters,
the mulches of your Fall, the grass after rain.
Self-Portrait with Chromium Motorbike
You show up, Uncle Ruth, or I dream you do, in flying goggles,
gauntlets, leather which creaks as you move. The goggles make you strange.
The leather belabours supple, each elbow-fold cylindrical,
each bending of arm robotic. The goggles go up, and leave
their impression behind like a second pair of goggles.
With that huge hand, its gauntlet shed, you tap and I wish did not
tap my brow with the huge cuff…Outside, your huger motorbike
ticks cool in a promo of chromium which gleams in the sun;
you hoist, you carry me (…I am four) you ease me down
through the roof of the sidecar. When you kick-start, the bike springs to life
like a box of old nails at the mic, jerks forward. Its vibration
on the road passes up through my feet. I shake, am swung
at length into world…the rush of cumuli and trees that stoop,
bends that lean me to one side. Sky, pouring at the sunshine-roof…
From where you sit astride the bike you look ahead at the road,
then down at me, still grinning: though you shout so very fast
the bike is so loud I cannot hear a word. You’re like a man singing
to the deaf the song that only he knows the lyrics of;
or, matching each word to a face, a vaudeville uncle expounding
on Lavoisier’s principle of conserving mass.
‘A Life of Forgetting to Eat’
The future lives in a thought. And the thought blows the future like glass
and look, casts its long shadow across the lawn
if lawn it can be called, when so rampant, so chin-high;
its seed-head explosions implying something more serious
offsets its unmannerly growth, and takes the form
of pens that squeal, of keyboards in need of water to cool,
a larder down to its last, uneatable thing.
We ruin another American summer by staying indoors.
The thought, which is a dream, becomes the grass
over the overrun tops of which convolvulus knots
and grapples a raft—dazzling white upon viridian.
The peepers in the pond’s grasses, an electrical charge;
the crabgrass almost obscuring the mailbox.
And, on the bricks still, the old wheel-less Buick
which may, or may not ever, start up again.
The smell of honeysuckle reaches
only so far from its root.
On Returning from a Trip to West Virginia the Father
Brings his Daughter a Jar of White Lightning
or Italian-American Tough Love
“…All I got was this lousy moonshine,” you say,
but something in that clear-standing liquefaction
magnified by the curvature of its jar
talked of mischief as an intimacy, an in-joke;
it was a nod to good as much as nod to bad,
a blessing to moody, monstrance to happy;
assent to you as son, as much to you as daughter.
Less than thirty days old, the moonshine dreaming
the radiator of some hillbilly rustbucket
jacked up on bricks with catchweed for blinds,
though it had such clarity, forty percent pure,
as clear in glass and ominous as the devil’s gin,
its depths of ions sparkled, gases rose,
magnified in the curvature. World, be pleased
with what you throw. Amazonian tribesmen,
warily, wade the river to be offered gifts.
A trio of craters gaping a hundred meters wide
surfaces, in North Siberia. And here is love
at its very clearest, brewed at eighty proof
behind its own label, named in a goofy font.