are heavier than Mennonite bibles, more elegant
than baby alligator head letter holders, solid
as prayer, calm as clear stones. Inspirational
paperweights will never lose their shape, will anchor
a note to your desk even with all your windows
thrown open against wind; come pre-inspired
with a favorite psalm or Norman Rockwell Jesus,
your name or names of those who wait at home.
Inspirational paperweights will never arrive C.O.D.,
never tarnish, crack, fade, fog or yellow: when arranged
carefully across your desk, each torn scrap will finally
stay, every small and daily list weighted with meaning.
Emancipation Day: Negril
We're out of bulla cakes, Alfred, and one of the natives
has stolen your blue pocket ace right off the beach
where you practiced handstands in turquoise surf.
The shirt off a man's back! Dinner will be half
jerk chicken, festival, ginger beer and a Ting to go.
Then the ocean, sand ghost stingrays slipping
over our toes. Let our skin burn and peel away
like almost transparent maps of an earlier life,
let us grow darker the longer we forget our fathers.
I want to survive a hurricane, plant myself
before my shattered house wielding a curved machete
and take wild swings at the barefoot looters stepping
closer. But we're not of this language. Our words
clatter and fumble like a handful of foreign coins.
Maybe we'll transcend ourselves like stunned lovers
parasailing the jagged reef. More likely not. Instead
we'll track sand around a rented cabin for the maid
to sweep tomorrow. And tonight, returning from the sea
to rinse our feet in the great basin set on the stoop,
we'll spook a sandy-eyed cat drinking there: a question
quick in her spine; chewed ears, skittish, ribs
showing through like a wrecked and empty boat.
The Museum of Famous Outerwear
Inside: Molière's mole hair
slouching on a wire hanger.
Inside: Rimbaud's wool trousers reeking
smoke fish, tobacco and blood,
a tangled knot around his ankles
as Verlaine snarls into a gray pillow.
Inside: Frank O'Hara's torn khaki swim shorts
still screaming in the boudoir.
Emily of lace and long dash,
your pilgrim bonnet, your pursed lips,
a simple bow tied at the throat,
one thousand simple knots, we couldn't find
any of your clothes, we could not dig our way
any deeper into that recipe coffin.
Lorca left nothing but a rumor of knives
scraping a dirt road, the sky crowded
with shuffling, somber cattle.
Who will press and fold Burrough's Tangiers overcoat
before washing his tall skeleton with kerosene?
Who will finally arrange those scattered knuckles
neatly in a row?
Inside: who will choreograph the lighting
for Plath's last house dress, fluorescent
and domestic, the sky blue collar worn thin,
transparent as a veil she would lift to her mouth?
And who will reassemble Piccaso's shattered cravat
to exactly resemble the fractured voice
he wore loosely at his throat?
My entire family has taken up residence in a depression-
era office building downtown and now roam the gray halls,
sleeping on wool couches, dreaming in low fog off the great lake.
Now they speak to each other through an elaborate network
of pneumatic tubes hidden behind the walls. Finally a place to catalog
the ghosts, handwritten lists and a congress of stuffed chairs.
The most fragile inheritance: a thousand mirrored windows, my small
reflection in each. Tonight I approach the city through an interchange
of horn blast and brake light, the sun draining pink over coal barges
and mountains of salt. The air thickly sweet with hops and chocolate.
In the distance, the first silhouettes are already waving.