The dream refused me his face.
There was only Mike, turned away;
damp tendrils of hair curled out
from under the ribbed, rolled
brim of a knit ski cap. He’s hiding
the wound, I thought, and my heart
shrank. Then Mike began to talk—
to me, it seemed, though gazing off
at a distant, sunstruck stand of aspen
that blazed against a ragged wall
of pines. His voice flowed like sweet
smoke, or amber Irish whiskey;
or better: a brook littered with colors
torn out of autumn. The syllables
swept by on the surface of his voice—
so many, so swift, I couldn’t catch
their meanings . . . yet struggled not
to interrupt, not to ask or plead—
as though distress would be exactly
the wrong emotion. Then a wind
gusted into the aspen grove, turned
its yellows to a blizzard of sparks.
When the first breath of it touched us,
Mike fell silent. Then he stood. I felt
the dream letting go, and called,
“Don’t!” Mike flung out his arms,
shouted an answer . . . and each word
shimmered like a hammered bell.
(Too soon the dream would take back
all but their resonance.) The wind
surged. Then Mike leaned into it,
slipped away like a wavering flame.
And all at once I noticed the sky:
its sheer, light-scoured immensity;
the lavish tenderness of its blue.
The One-Armed Boy
has taught himself to play catch
with the walls of his house.
With great difficulty has learned
to open jars, trap grasshoppers,
write in straight lines. Has,
over time, discovered how
not to hear his mother weeping,
or his father roaring drunk.
Has carefully trained himself
to deflect the cutting
comments of his schoolmates.
If only a saw had gnawed it off!
Or some gigantic shark, as in
his recurring fantasies. If only
he hadn’t been born like this.
And yet, near sleep, the arm
that never was reaches out,
touches something even the boy
can’t name. Like rain at midnight
falling into a field of poppies, it
gently bathes his non-existent hand.
Two lovers with no future
going at it: the bed’s headboard
bumps the wall, hung upon which
Van Gogh’s manic Irises knocks
gently; nails sunk into studs
and plaster grow a little looser.
Such punishment is why the house
will collapse someday, the world
being what it is: a planet
full of lovers with no future—
only now, now—and that famous
“it” all of them keep going at.
THE RAIN AT MIDNIGHT
Here I am pretending to sleep, but in truth
I’m eavesdropping on the chattering rain,
hearing it gossip in multiple voices
like three beautiful sisters
after dinner, the dessert half-eaten
now that the talk has turned to miseries
of marriage, and bewildering children,
and mothers who knew no better—
and I wonder if they understood
I’m not really asleep, if they felt
my male listening alive in the bright
circle of their concerns . . . how
they might take it, whether they’d fall
silent, or just go on a bit louder,
a touch more forcefully, knowing I’m there,
knowing who’s lurking in their midst—
or maybe they’d simply blend back
into rain, a dark rain, the lull of it,
the sweet nothing noise and the kiss of it,
the tears and the healing sleep of it at last.