All posts by Robert Reeves

Grade A: Train, Pueblo Land

Addressed to Sari Krosinsky.  Written on the New Mexico Rail Runner during one of our monthly trips to Santa Fe where Sari had an appointment with zir psychologist, in January 2016.  Published in The Shining Air.

Train, Pueblo Land

 

The snow defers to the black bushes

but the sky has a thickness in its color.

Slopes and gullies fold upward into it,

grieved by eras of lost stone.

Then the choking little roads and driveways

spasmodically white, with here and there

taillights on crouched metal.

Beside me you work on your story—

one of the ways your head is a downward head this morning.

Inkmarks and cuts on your thumb look like each other.

The city starts to push into the window.

After sex last night, in that sleepy together sprawl,

I told you “This is the best part.”

You made a low smile sound, too drooped to disagree.

I know you thought I meant the best part of sex.

I meant the best part of my life.

Grade A: Weekend Work

Written in Albuquerque, living with Sari on Tijeras NE, sometime in spring 2014 (I quit keeping track of month-of-composition a few years ago).  Before I was diagnosed hyperthyroid, my daily supplements for hypothyroidism kept being reduced, which increased my fatigue.  “The park” is Spruce Park, the locale of further poems written on later walks.  Karen is Karen Davis, my girlfriend in 1975-76.  Actually her mother told me about Karen’s bad reaction to our breakup in person, not on the phone, when she came at Karen’s request to return photos, love letters and such.  Published in Small Amounts of Blood.

Weekend Work

 

The thin heat cupping my scalp through the blinds this morning was kindly,

not yet brave or starving enough to trample the city.

Revisited by guilt and bereavement I know are just my lower thyroid dosage,

I enter the park where a black blanket folds over a tree groin.

A girl stands behind a sitting boy and braids his shoulderlength hair

and an elm, precariously tall, has a ripped main limb

serrating the sight-grimed sky.

A sturdy wind starts pumping the leaves.

Here colors could be alone, but want to be on things—

the odd-picked brown and green of the playset

rooted in sunny sawdust.

Today’s guilt was about Karen, whom I actually don’t think I treated poorly:

she found me wrong.  She gravely willed me away.

Then lay in her room and wept for a month,

her mom breathed to me on the phone.

I think she’d been hoping

she’d ended it too soon for love to take,

like a poison.

Whatever I made die in her,

may it be nothing she needed, the forty years since.

A yellowjacket’s notice whips me up off the bench.

Lawns need mowing

from a halfhour of rain the other day.

The homeward hill is so paused,

the highway a mile off is the loudest sound.

Grade A: Hurricane

Written in Albuquerque (Terrace SE), June 2012:  addressed to Sari Krosinsky.  Some of the incidents described have been moved slightly to have the verses take place ten years apart.  “Lee” is my ex-wife Leora.  “An Officer and a Gentleman” was filmed in Port Townsend, WA, where I moved in 1982.  The monastery in Chama Canyon near Abiquiu, NM is called Christ in the Desert.  My summer camp counselor’s name in the early ’60’s was Nick Meyers.  Frank and Lucy are my older brother and sister, and Steve and Kathy Lewis the children of my mother’s friend Peg.  Published in Irretrievable.

Hurricane

 

In the last month of the first year of my seventh decade

I’m hoping after this sleep

you can wake to another flavor in the air of yourself

brought and uncovered by the G-d you pray to

whom I’ve considered praying to for you

after thirty years of atheism,

at least holding you in my mind before him,

holding you out in my mind

in my losing dark gulf of what passes in me for thinking

before whatever can give you rejection

of the wish to die.

I can’t add words to these apparent prayers

because I have nothing to say to anybody but you

and in case I’m unheard

and have to live without you again,

these words will be over.

 

In the last month of the first year of my sixth decade

I see you less frequently since you split up with Nate

but also see how heavy and colorless that was for you,

you bring me the heavy colorless thing to see

on your shoulders,

in front of your walk,

far into your eyes.

Every night my own weight squeezes out of me

through a gibbering farthole

and I pour in it, in me,

the wine

and the slander of love

and the night I can’t take

and the day I love to leave.

 

In the last month of the first year of my fifth decade

Lee and I have made it through our little crises

of health and of fidelity

and it looks like the remaining bumps ahead

will involve the decision where under the sun

to put Lee’s strong garden,

seeing our shady smoke-licked rooms

have the strength of green growth anyway.

A thing in me, a great thing, dreads a house

which would smell like the past not the future,

an experience for my twenties, pointless then

let alone now.

But I seldom look any further than this weekend’s couple of sixpacks

and been awhile since we did that one puzzle—

 

In the last month of the first year of my fourth decade

we arrive in the same Northwest town, I realize,

where “An Officer and a Gentleman” was filmed.

This little blue motel’s corny name’s unmistakable.

Maybe if I land a job and have any money left over

they’ll let me stay in the room where that Gere-Winger sex scene happened.

I don’t think I’ll worry about a job very soon though:

the liberty I feel’s even better

than being near the sea air again.

I miss my baby son

but his hate of being handed back and forth was getting violent.

I can walk everywhere.

At night, double the number of stars as Albuquerque

even with the vast yellow dial of the courthouse clock.

 

In the last month of the first year of my third decade

I walk up the thirteen mile dirt road

back into Chama Canyon to the monastery.

The monks are in awe.

I tell them if a car’d come by I would’ve snagged a lift.

I’m glad one didn’t.

That road was my opportunity to lay dramatic distance

between my life and theirs

which I’m now joining for a week.

I know from previous trips it takes a few days

for the world to sift down low enough in your body

that it can’t be heard,

and God and his mother and all the saints and angels

fade in,

hard in the sunlight.

 

In the last month of the first year of my second decade

my counselor strips my cot three times

and tosses the mattress on the floor three times

and three times makes me make it again

perfect, hospital corners,

he’s that mad.

“If you’d stuck to the first lie” he says

“no matter what, even when you had to elaborate it

  and it got more outlandish and flimsier,

  that woulda been one thing,

  I coulda thought, this kid’s a pathological liar for some reason,

  I hearda that, not the kinda thing someone can help …

  but tonight when you all of a sudden admitted the truth

  and denied you’d ever lied about it at all …

  that made me think you were evil.

  And you’re not.

  You just like to lie.

  It’s your goddamn hobby.

  Make the goddamn bed again.”

 

In the last month of the first year of my first decade

my father prevents me

from charging into the room where the older kids are playing

and snatching up all their toys and charging off

by feeding me peanut butter on a spoon

or in my language, pin panner onna poon.

My brother Frank says

on behalf of Lucy, Kathy and Steve,

“Thanks for dealing with the Hurricane, dad.”

Grade A: To a Dead Ex-Friend

Written in Albuquerque (Terrace SE), April 2012:  addressed to Pat F., RIP.  I heard about Pat’s death of a long illness (which I’d also been unaware of) from my ex-wife Leora on her return from a trip to India.  She said she wanted to say something to Pat’s husband Mike, but couldn’t begin to think what.  I wrote the poem immediately after learning the news.  Published in Wings of the Gray Moon.

To a Dead Ex-Friend

 

The day, always the adobe colors

of the earth and walls around here,

is such a flood, it’s laborious

to think of you taken into the night

of your small dwindling bones.

You always appeared to me,

even after we quit speaking,

with the gleaming edges of someone

I used to be infatuated with

and/or lusted after, and it seems this morning

a proper way to mourn your death

would be to jerk off:  but that’d be

the me you knew, the cutely unsafe one

you liked and totally distrusted

and when I divorced your best friend

cut off without a word, without wasting breath.

I want to react as I am now,

a monogamist, at peace, understanding

your deep marriage, deepest I’ve ever known,

and be able to say something (something unimaginable)

to your widower, something that wouldn’t defile

the pure and final secrecy of his new life.

As if the most urgent thing for me

were to impress you!  I’ll say nothing to Mike.

I know what he wants to do:

yank Nature’s ribs and raw meat apart

and shred her in pieces, and put God on notice

of what he’s got coming.

Someone in the day, like me, has only words

like a useless snow, that’ll only be helpful rain

after a slow long time, if ever.

Meanwhile I’ll hear your small calm voice

and how it never said a single word of forgiveness

and know that you were right, and you were good.

Grade A: The World

Written in Albuquerque (Terrace SE), March 2012.  My original title for this was “A Late Lunch in the World.”  The white house is on Silver SE, the 7-11 on University and Central SE, Jess’s old place and mine and Vicky [Reeves]’s on Tijeras NE, Katie [Greaves]’s on Maple NE, the park on Roma NE.  Published in Wings of the Gray Moon.

The World

 

Firstlife rises.

Dandelions to be specific,

friends I’d rather have than most people.

 

The white house with the big porch hurts me,

but I’m always fooled by the pretense of prosperity.

And it must be pretense

in a neighborhood like this

where the money’s silent and embarrassed.

 

I buy a triangle-cut ham sandwich at the 7-11

and only after chewing the invulnerable plastic open

discover one slice of bread is cracker-tough,

another disintegrating soggy.

 

But the two in the middle taste like bread.

It’s not bad to eat

as I walk by Jess’s old place, and Katie’s,

and mine and Vicky’s, all the crowd

of holes in my life.

 

And now I’m on streets of brash, if unpushy, money.

Right away my nose finds a wood fire

on a warm afternoon.

The hills here are comfortable, though extreme.

Sun heals my white

and across the park a girl I can barely see

sheds sex like a bit more volatile sun.

 

But really only enough to cram the space

between my bottle of Spicy Hot V-8 and my bag of jellybeans.

 

A woman studying at an iron table

lights a cigar,

then collects gear, gets in her car and drives away

leaving the cigar on the table.

 

I don’t know what to think or not think.

Except there aren’t enough black jellybeans.

 

Two guys with a ladder on their truck drive off

and now I have the park to myself.

 

But don’t want it.

Everything that’s happened has been planned.

So was I, mom assured me,

and told the tale of how

before they knew what sex I’d be

everyone called me Little New.

 

I’m very far from either.

Someone I failed to spy before

in another truck with polarized windows

is writing a poem about a potbellied sleaze on a bench

gobbling candy.

Grade A: Julia [from Because: Meditations on the Beatles Songbook]

Written in Albuquerque (Terrace SE), spring 2011.  I wrote a poem for every Beatles song and collected them in a book.  Usually the poems have scant relation to the songs they’re named after, but this poem about my mother was an obvious stand-in for John Lennon’s hymn to his.  The scene is Roswell, NM.  Published in Because and Wings of the Gray Moon.

JULIA

to Margaret

1971

 

Why don’t we like to think of our parents as people who’ve

wanted things, done something about it, suffered the fruit?

whose bodies were friendly to second bodies, third?  I know why.

It makes us questionable.  Not only in the sense that our lives

become crapshoots, might-never-have-beens, transparent blurs,

but in an icier sense:  that we don’t matter, we’re the field for their

excursions, their stabs into choice—that we could’ve been anyone,

so long as they achieved themselves.  This is something of what

went through me when I opened the old velvety cardboard

that held the young photo of you, supine on a sofa, naked.

Grade A: Shadows

Written in Albuquerque (Terrace SE), July 2009.  A second attempt to poetically digest photos of my childhood and nuclear family.  The first is uncollected (later discarded).  Published in my books Tender Mystery and Wings of the Gray Moon.

Shadows

 

Childhood was a fever where you leaned against someone

who watched you painfully.  The time and the person

are lost in a golden smell, like a rare breakfast.

You can build that tall bewildered person however you like

and that tall time, when trees you couldn’t begin to guess

might as well have been a stone-columned porch

and made fun of your galloping clinging kind.  Someone

was your brother, with a slow smile:  someone whose toy you stole

screamed like wind.  Closed sun of sulks

must have littered on you, whole afternoons

in an unjust bedroom.  You can’t say.  If anything,

you’d like the brush of short hairs on the neck

of the man toting you, the silent heat of the woman

next your bed.  But even the bed (how that kept you,

whether it suffered) is down underneath the light.

You know these people from songs at most, not from photos.

The photos show a living little boy

with only a distant face, and still grass (stiller

than any world) and shadows on the land.

Grade A: Simplify

Written in Albuquerque (Terrace SE), June 2007.  “The stranger” recalls a man who showed up, very drunk, and rowdy but somehow dignified, at that month’s reading for our zine Central Avenue, when the coffeehouse had double-booked us with some dancers and we had to hold the event outside on the sidewalk.  Published in my books The Hardest Thing and Wings of the Gray Moon.

Simplify

 

We have to come upon the sleep of the animals

before men and women’s sleep can be available to us—

sleep not a relinquishment but a gathering,

in the slots of sun between high shadows.

We wasted our yells on the wind

which is never over,

our feet are shaped to its sand.

We wanted the stranger gone

who stood up too straight, whose smile was too jumbled.

We should’ve kept a table for him.

He is the tomorrow we escaped, when death is just the next room gleaming

and breath is forgotten and forgotten.

The mystery that was our blood

runs down the insides of our ears.

We will have to come upon the sleep of the animals

before anyone can imagine the sleep of angels.

Grade A: Peace

Written in Albuquerque (Terrace SE), April 2007.  “Deep down the high brightness” is a conscious echo of a line from Hopkins’ “God’s Grandeur,” “there lives the dearest freshness deep down things.”  Published in my books The Hardest Thing and Wings of the Gray Moon.

Peace

 

Not quite noon,

the earth still toppling away from night,

the dead middle of night

where the sun sits.

The dead housefinch in my driveway

hasn’t been disturbed by any violence,

even a death in midair.

Really, it looks like it walked there

and huddled asleep like a human,

a shoulder lifted a bit

to shade the glare of cracked mud,

its onedimensional feet flung limp

as if sleep finally couldn’t be fought.

I scrape it into a bag

of course

and convey it to the dumpster

saying I’m Sorry to the empty world

and it fits and falls there,

this time it falls,

between a pizza delivery box

and the box a pump-up air mattress came in.

Another slit of harsh redbrown

deep down the high brightness.

I think

I am thinking of peace.

Grade A: Earth [from Yossele]

Written in Albuquerque (Terrace SE), February 2007.  After the threat to the Jewish community is removed, the life is taken out of the golem.  These are his meditations slightly before that event.  Published in Yossele and Wings of the Gray Moon.

Earth                                                                                                          The Golem

 

I know it will be soon.

 

I would like to go for a walk in the whistling air.

 

I would like to hear the boys sounding out the funny Hebrew

that isn’t so funny to me.

 

I would like to run my finger over petals again.

 

I would like to lean on a tree

as I have done,

two still living things, unprotected.

 

I would like to clap my shoes on cobbles.

No clap like it.

 

Cloud shows and hides, shows and hides the moon.

I think it is a brilliant eye that tries to see us

but the night is too black

and after a month of trying it dozes off.

 

I think the houses are shells for the breaths of children.

 

I think the roads are one road plotted by rain

which is the dream of the ocean.

 

I would like to have seen the ocean.

 

I would like to have had a bird in my hands for a moment

so my hands could be ears.

 

I would like to understand why it’s a matter for laughter

when a man chases his hat.

 

Why real laughter dwells in the eyes unheard.

 

Why ten men don’t gather around the small dog smashed under a cartwheel

to say Kaddish.

 

Why the new smell of bread makes me shake and shake.

 

Why no one has ever addressed a question to me.

I would like to be unable to answer.