After A Mockingbird
At my open window—the lurching runs
Of mews and whistles, mechanical arias,
Whirligigs of a robin's snatched cheerily, cheerily, cheerily.
Too much, too much
Isn't music, but this mocking-
Bird will not get down from its high perch,
Will not quit calling out, there's no milk, no milk, no milk;
The car needs gas, the car needs gas;
Hurry, hurry, hurry; that tie? that tie? that tie?
Until the bird seems legion,
And mockingbirds look down
From the lilac's every branch, dismantling me
One moment at a time. Yet after
It flies off, no more than the briefest incarnation,
I step away from my desk,
From the hallway clock ticking off the silence,
And, at the window, sunlight shouts in the grass,
Irises guzzle clear blue air down their throats,
The lilac's purple honeycombs buzz with sweetness.
My Uncle's Parrot
It's the voice I hear, the one that comes
When my talk suddenly becomes preachy,
And my class of freshmen begin to nod
Their heads in assent as I'm delivering
Some grand moral claim for Wordsworth's
Leech-gatherer, or declaring there is a way
To live out our lives hopeful and happy.
Or it comes when my wife, stepping
From a bath, her neck and belly and legs
Diamonded in the bathroom light, stands
Before me like some St. Agnes Eve vision,
And I believe that, yes, our bodies are
For climbing that ladder from pleasure
To pleasure upwards to the sublime.
Or when I see on the late night news
How a whole town, businesses included,
Turns out to re-erect a block of
Tornado-tossed houses and think we could
Learn to live in just that state of love,
The beginning of what could be
Endlessly multiplying loaves and fish.
Or even when late at night, alone,
Reading a good book and listening to
Vivaldi's oboes, a cup of tea warming
My hands, I suddenly think, then and there,
That everything in my life has only had
The illusion of significance, that
The truth is absolute meaninglessness.
At all those times and more, I hear
The point-blank voice of my uncle's parrot
Say, bullshit, the only word he could
Ever teach it, though the parrot possessed
An unerring sense of timing,
A pitch-perfect ear for the exact moment
In the conversation when its shrill trumpet
Was required: bullshit, it blared again
And again with the authority of a god
Who knew, as Pascal said, how to keep faith
And doubt off balance as he went on
Balancing both sides of every equation.