With Some Poets In Baltimore, 2003
Only now in America could such a harbor
be empty of ships save
one moored permanently
and lighted for tourists, for our tips.
We walk by the water until the snow becomes heavy;
the poets are the ones who
come in from the weather
and drink in the bar, others out walking
are homeless. All of us
have lost loves, some lost families;
but the worst losses even poets are unable to name.
Our hands push money across the bar.
The seafood is from somewhere else,
not from this water, and never will be.
Some stay here forever and wait, some move
inland and try their luck. Others
simply wonder why things continue. Look,
the president is on the TV above the lobby
like a talking clock. You look
at your watch—you want to dispute the time.
And there's always more news,
isn't there? A rumor of war
means there is a war. There's always
more harbor, rumor of harbor, always more dark.
What is it about mirrors that some folks cover them
after a death in the house? They're removed
from the baths of zen centers during silent retreats
as if they made clamor, complained, told jokes.
Only monkeys and humans of all animals
know themselves in a mirror. Only humans
give a damn, bargain with them, practice themselves.
Yet, how gently it replies, You, while you wash
the night's hell from your mouth.
It says more to your lover, and kinder.
What? Put one over my bed? you snort.
I'd wake and think my soul was escaping.
All right, the mirror is not your friend,
not as symbol, or metaphor, or actual fact.
You might even cover the importunate thing
if you're sure it won't cost your life.