1. Men at Fifty
(after Donald Justice)
Men at fifty
learn not to listen
to the music of their twenties.
Idling in traffic they hear it
coming from high windows
luring them to shipwreck.
Deep in the melodies they rediscover
the faces of the girls they loved,
and their cheeks grow warm, awash in shame, regret.
They are mothers, now, the girls,
and the men look like their fathers.
Something is draining them,
something like a lemon press
inside their leased Land Rovers
filling the air with bitterness and sweet perfume.
2. Guardian Angel
(after Stephen Dobyns)
The angels did not immediately tell the Deity
of the unexpected turn of events in the garden.
Uh-oh, they said, someone is going to get it.
And they were right. One of them was chosen
to wave the biggest sword in all creation
at the entrance, to frighten away the children
and the children's children forever.
The other angels forget about him and never visit.
The sword is infinitely heavy and glows white hot.
No wonder he curses God under his breath
and secretly helps whatever children he can.
Half sewing machine, half tank,
it was the closest thing I knew to a holy relic.
Elders fetched it from the closet
like the ark of our covenant with the past.
First came the ghosts of those who lie in the ground,
jerky simulacra dancing to staccato chatter.
Then came the famous line-up of the nine cousins,
four in diapers, three crying, all with chicken pox.
Then here we are, recognizable at last,
watching dolphins leap in a Florida amusement park ...
O maker of humanity in its image,
O moving art,
you made light of us all.