A sampling from HOUSE OF MIRRORS

A sampling from HOUSE OF MIRRORS

CITY LIMITS

You’re like wildwood at the edge of a city. And I’m the city: steam, sirens, a jumble of lit and unlit windows in the night. You’re the land as it must have been and will be—before me, after me. It’s your natural openness I want to enfold me. But then you’d become city; or you’d hide away your wildness to save it. So I stay within limits—city limits, heart limits. Although, under everything, I have felt unlimited earth. Unlimited you.

*****

INTERNAL COMBUSTION

I’m a responsible man, and so they load me up. Seems they think I’m a truck with a big engine, thick tires, strong shock absorbers: a little gas, some water, battery acid— they think it keeps me happy.

But it happens I’m also a lamp with a chimney of glass and a bellyful of golden spice-oil. It happens my tongue is a wick, and when the longing flames out from my furnace heart, I speak, and those who listen burn. Or I don’t speak: I swallow the fire, and it sinks down writhing in my scrotum like some demon. It’s that demon who lights my way. The demon they name if they mention me. The demon who drives me around in circles, roaring like hell, eating my own sweet dust.

*****

CROSSING THE RIVER

for Susannah

The sky, after last night’s wind, is bright as the eyes of a child who’s learned a new song, and she comes to her father crying, “Listen!”

So he listens. He attends. But it’s hard: to hear what she hears, he must learn to love. I noticed a woman on the bus one day. A red birth-shadow flared across her left cheek. She saw me staring; we each looked down; the aisle became an impassable river. If we’d talked? Oh, I’d never have risked telling her what had first crossed my mind: “I’ll bet it tastes like strawberries.” Strawberries offer their seeds frankly, not folded away in the core. My eight-year-old likes them with cream, a dust of sugar. They taste so good that she can’t keep from singing, though her cheek’s plump with fruit— which I ought to remind her isn’t polite. But I listen instead. I attend. I am learning how to hear the beauty she hears as she sings with her sweet mouth full.

*****

AS THE LATE SEPTEMBER DUSK COMES DOWN

for Brian

In the grassy slush of the Fall’s first snow, my son, age three, is dancing. He’s dancing this boot-heavy jig for joy— or simply to drive out the ache of an idle day indoors. He stamps oblongs in the lumpy whiteness, now and again gives a shout made of steam. Then he halts by the sagging apple tree and stands a while, head back, gazing through the ruined fruit, into the failing light. Sure, I should call him in. But I want to savor that glad, forgiving look that glows on his upturned face.

*****