Lines for the Gates of a Cemetery
We had bound volumes of Persian
geometry and guitars made of cedar.
We had loose talk and shivering
as snow fell from the Eiffel Tower.
We had dishes and the bloody dream
of a flea sleeping in an eyebrow.
The sadness of being was it turns out
a kind of joy and everyone suffered
as they disappeared. We had rivers
flowing over top themselves and green
molecules and the slow eyes of sheep.
We had a use for things. We knew
the names of a thousand kinds of tea.
We had the white possum in the dark
with the other tiny possums holding on.
It's sad. We didn't know what we had.
And we had iodine in tiny blue jars.
We had eucalyptus trees and the planet
Mars circled with us through mizzen
dot-light of the distant stars. We had
the tintinnabulation of bells and a word
for everything. The pink dumb
moon rising and death with a top hat
quietly laughing at us as he passed.
Even that we will miss. Even that we loved.
On the Occasion of a Haircut on the Fourth of July,
Charlestown, West Virginia, 2007
After Terrance Hayes
I come from a long line of jackass halfwits
Stumbling toward America forever
Until one fell into the broad cleavage
Of the customs officer's bride
On Ellis Island in the summertime.
It was the Atomic Age until we spoke
In anything but a broken way
Our hands waving at the world.
I come from a long line of angry
Chimney sweeps and drunken barbers.
Men with tongues as smooth as mirrors
And women dumb as hope
As one thing slowly led to another:
Our traditional cursings of god
Leading to a begging for mercy.
I come from a long line of the dead
Now collected in one placethe hold
Of a ship lost at sea in a storm
That makes me dizzy. My skull
Aches and I know they are in there.
If someone punched me in the nose
They would fall out of their chairs.
I come from a long line of dabblers,
Cobblers and hunchbacks,
Delusional mooks and fools.
I come from the swirling lights of
The barbershop wanting to cry
Right there in the parking lot.
Big open-faced crying in the parking lot.
Oh children, look at us!
No matter what our hair sticks up
And there was never any reason
For love. You can wonder why
You were born and who
You are and I'll tell you this
You come from the parking lot and
The factory and days so hot the air
Shimmers and nights as cool
As the cottonmouth of a snake.
We came from nothing one day:
A fish, a protozoa, a lightning strike
Suddenly in the dead calm of a lake.
The jagged line of brightness time
Is started everything to move
Toward the drawing of a breath.
And the drawing of your mother
Someone did years ago, and which
We see everyday in the hall,
Still shines. We come from sleep
Every morning and see it is true.
We carved toothpicks from pine
Trees for the captains of industry.
We killed thousands. We died.
We mumblers and mouth-breathers,
Humdingers and breeders.
We'll be fine.