Grade A: Dick & Jane

Written in Albuquerque (Mesa SE), July 2002.  Written in the style of the famous primers from the ’50’s.  This was shortly before I hooked up with my future spouse for the first time, so the wish at the end of the poem did eventually come true, after a bumpy start.  I believe I was reading Mary Renault and Robert Graves’ Count Belisarius, as well as studying Old English with the aim of reading “Beowulf” in the original.  I was listening to Billy Joel’s classical piano pieces, though most of my life I’ve preferred guitar- to piano-based music.  The steps referred to are the stairs up onto the UNM campus at Central and Mesa I could see through my front door.  The cigarettes are Winstons.  Published in my books If I Could Be the Stone and Wings of the Gray Moon.

Dick & Jane


Girls smile at me because

it costs them nothing.


My books are full of

strange blood,

Greek concentrations

Roman absolutes

English savage silver rimmed

with Christian gold.


My music is

(strange again)

healing piano—

it falls on my night

gracefuller than

pangs of wrenched guitar.


Today the spacious bright

was so low on the earth,

the clear heat so hot,

things had only

the names they’d have

in Dick & Jane primers

& could say no more

than those:


See the sky.

The sky is blue.


See the cloud.

The cloud is vague

& hardly in the sky.


See the steps.

They go up if you’re down here.

They go down if you’re up there.


See the three boys

moving into the apartment

across from mine.

See the one with boxes

of cleaning utensils,

the one with a standup lamp.

They are holding the gate for each other.

Squeak, gate, squeak.


See the cars.

The cars are working ovens.

Touch one.


See the pack of cigarettes.

Crumple, pack, crumple.

The pack is red & white

rimmed in silver

like a Christian shield

held against wicker javelins.

Sob, heathens, sob,

your cosmos about to litter

the reddening sand.


See the man girls smile at

because it costs them nothing.

He adores to rue

that his pickings cost him everything.

Rue, man, rue.

Read your disappeared novels

close eyes to the flutter of piano

open the other bottle.


See the women in his head.

See he didn’t know

they were winged they

had the talent of flight

they had norths to return to

while he’d be

bound to July

smeared with ordeal even

if the ordeal was just

returning a couple of videos

halfamile from here.


See his grown face &

sopped hair & how the

clothes droop limp & he

still expects his

furnace life to catch

spark & love to open

sliced & chilly on his

bare tongue again.

Catch, spark, catch.