Small, unassuming, dusty gold,
their wings swept back like jets,
we called them "millers"
years before I heard
of human mills and millers.
Little skippers built for speed,
you had to be lucky and lightening quick
to catch one. When released,
they left a fairy powder
on our fingers, flecks of gold
more finely divided than dust.
I knew what it meant to catch a fleeting thing
before they ever taught me how to grind
the flour of the word. Before I ever heard
of Chaucer's miller, windmills,
Don Quixote's reckless charge
before I ever threw myself, headlong
against the whirling beauty of the world.
Sonnet on an Elm
There are times when an elm tree's life seems good to me.
The never wondering what you're going to be
Is part of that: an elm tree never tried
To add another cubit to its height
By taking thought. Times, like today
When water, air, and light
Are all that I could care or dream to ask
Of life, how I have wished for roots
Tree roots, gnarled but never overwrought.
Tomorrow, not to get up again for work
Where livings are so grudgingly given
And got, but take for food
These elemental pleasures of the heart
Here root my life, upon this very spot.
Perchance to Dream
The piano recital is going well, except
That I've never studied piano, and
After fifteen minutes of shuffling, I
Still can't find the music, and
The audience, which might be growing restive,
Is, instead, intrigued
By my lack of clothes in certain crucial places.
For years, I missed the school bus every night
And took exams I never cracked a book for.
It could have been worse,
And waslike being chased all night by Nazis
With machine guns. My waking life is spent
In the soft, green South. Asleep, I mope
In the concrete slums of freezing Northern cities.
Surely, these ill night winds
Blow someone good. Is there a thief of dreams
Who lives in nightly luxury at my expense?
Perchance, in the Dark Age of sleep
It takes a thousand wretched serfs
To make a king. Perchance
The crushing tax I pay each night
May go to keep a Shakespeare or a Keats
In cloud-capped towers and gorgeous palaces.
If you, perchance, should know the castle keep,
The chest wherein my fairest dreams lie heaped
I do not ask the key. But if thou be
An honest knave, please write down one, just one
Of my lost dreams for me. A pittance, all I ask.
Keats or Shakespeare would have done as much.
Noblesse oblige, as they would say. And anyway
You owe me.