Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon

9/15-9/19

 “To be honest, I was a bit shocked. Yes, I see a different side of you. Many times I laughed out loud; in between I was suddenly silent, too, and my heart was tied by the words you wrote.”

Marian Orton

I wrote these poems during the five-day cycle of the “harvest moon,” September 2016. I walked out into my front yard during its waxing phase, as I often do to view the full moon, which always comes up on that side of my house, because I find it so invigoratingly beautiful. It was such a clear night, the moon so big and bright, that it just kind of hijacked my head, which it held captive for the duration. I composed this series day by day, long, languorous, loopy poems, as you will see when you get to them, like nothing I’ve ever written before. I had a blast. I hope you will, too.

 

Here is a printable PDF of the whole collection:

Harvest Moon Full Word Print Version

 

 Here are my readings of the whole series:

Here is the full text of Harvest Moon:

9/15:   Now that I’m on this side of that

 

The moon tonight is full, so full, I mean really full,

overfull, of light, yes, and of itself, that look of surprise

on its face, not quite Munch’s “Scream,” more like, mouth wide,

hands to cheeks: I can’t believe it’s so dark and I’m so bright.

 

Then the crickets (I didn’t notice them at first,

that huge moon taking up all my headroom)

but now I’ve settled down, the crickets,

pretty loud, a singing sound, so pleasant,

not like last night, all those eyes crying.

I guess the moon makes all the difference

to them, too, a singing-out-loud night like this.

 

So today I’m thinking, god, I can’t take it,

this life, “too much with us,” WW might say,

but no-o-o-o, “too less with me,” PK says back,

yes, too less, way-too, today, than yesterday,

and yesterday way-too than the day before,

and, god, tomorrow, if that’s way-too, too,

well, what’s even the point thinking it through to . . .

 

(If you’ve been on this track you know

pretty much where it goes, just follow it

like I did all the way today to . . .

 

.  .  .  THE END)

 

 

OK, now that I’m on this side of that,

full moon bonkers with light tonight,

crickets crooning like there’s no tomorrow,

well, at least right now I’m thinking: Why

should I care? Yes. Thinking: Why should I?

 

 

 

 

9/16: I just couldn’t stop

 

 

So this morning I just couldn’t stop

laughing, I mean couldn’t stop.

I think it was knowing how now

for some reason I happen to know

way more than you’re supposed

to get to know while you’re still here,

and I’m not sure how it happened,

maybe it was “just bad luck,”

what that doctor told me

when “a couple tough weeks”

turned into months and months

of misery and I still see his face,

that half-smile flash frozen

into his cheeks hoping I’d

laugh instead of lunging at him,

throat-throttling, and I don’t remember

if I laughed, but I’m pretty sure

I didn’t strangle him or I’d be in more trouble

now than I am knowing just this much,

 

and, sure, I could tell you some of it,

if you pushed hard enough, thought

you could take it, but then, like they say,

I’d have to kill, well, at least one of us,

and today I’d prefer not to have it be you,

 

so I’m off now to the woods,

my walk, all those trees,

well, they already know

all of this, I know, for sure,

way more I think, too,

so if I happen to start blabbing

instead of laughing, at least

they won’t be like,

yikes, Munch’s “Scream,”

 

and I’m thinking ahead to the ones

I want to walk by today, hoping

they’ll be where they normally are,

which is no sure thing in my woods,

that big black cherry, flaky-shingle

bark up and down, so charming,

like a fairy-tale dollhouse

I could walk into for a little kiss

and one of us would wake up

and the other wouldn’t still be a frog,

but I can never find the door,

and believe me I’ve walked around

and around it lots of times looking

and I never, ever find the door,

 

or that monstrous oak right out

in the open six feet at the base at least,

like a ten story leg, so long

I can’t see what it belongs to,

so I just guess from that huge foot,

two-foot toes grasping ground,

one side a brontosaurus maybe,

head way up there somewhere,

munching on, what, who knows

and the other side a couple elephants

leaning into each other, still asleep

leg-locked together, so sweet,

and I always pay close attention

passing, in case one of them decides

to take a quick step and I have to jump

out of the way, but not too far, hoping

I can get a glimpse of what’s been kept

secret all these years under that big foot,

 

or the heart-shaped poplar up the hill

chain-saw toppled last year,

too near the power lines,

at least waist high just lying there

on its side, all that it knew

slowly spewing back to the universe

bit by byte by megabyte,

terabytes of it still left there on the ground,

and I think if I sat with it for the rest

of my life and listened close enough

I’d overhear a bit of what it now has to give back,

 

but today is my only whole day

this week to do absolutely nothing

and I’m in a hurry to get on with that

so I keep walking toward a voice,

a real one I promise, a woman

on the phone maybe, just talk-talk-

talking, and then the three of them

walk up single file on the one-lane path,

that fluffy poodle-doodle dog up front

then her, then him, her husband, had to be,

and I can’t tell if she’s talking to him

or the dog and what does it matter

anyway, either way it’s all still love,

and tomorrow maybe he’ll be up front

hearing what’s rushing up toward

the back of his head from her, and she says

to me, don’t worry he wouldn’t hurt

anyone, and I assume she’s talking about

the dog, though I can tell instantly

(I am that good at this, really)

that the guy wouldn’t either, just happy

to be out walking today with these two,

 

and then the little “bridge,”

hardly a bridge, two steps long,

the tiny “brook” running under it,

hardly a brook, two steps wide,

heady today with yesterday’s rain

going over the rocks with a hard

“glug, glug,” like pouring a two-liter

bottle of coke into the sink fast

because it’s too flat to drink

 

and I know right then that this poem

is over, all I have to say today,

down the drain or under the bridge,

whatever, even though you waited

all this way thinking you’d get to know

something you don’t already know,

not just glug, glug, glug, glug, gone .  .  .

 

 

except on the drive home,

a big truck I’m following, on the back door,

a ten-foot, full color bottle of coke,

not the two-liter job like your fat uncle

in too-tight pants but the Marilyn Monroe

one (yes, I am that old) with the waist

you just want to put your arm around

for a long, slow dance all the way home,

all those dew-drops on the dark glass

like maybe her voice would be,

whispering into your ear, I mean my ear,

something that means nothing

and everything all at the same time,

one breathful of it carrying more

than I or all those trees

could even hope to know, now or ever,

and the slogan high up on the right side:

 

Love it!

Again.

And again.

 

OK. I will. And I will. Soon as I get home.

Can’t wait. Thanks.

 

 

 

9/16: THINKING! Whew! Who?

 

 

So there, right then, last second or two,

I was thinking of her, I mean

thinking! Really THINKING! Whew! Who?

No way I’m telling you that because then,

well, like I said earlier, one of us

would have to go and this time

I’d rather it not be me, not at least

until I get done with this thinking.

 

Anyway, what’s so bad about that?

Take that Galapagos turtle I was reading about

today online, the one who’s well over a hundred,

stuck in a zoo until he was my age, I mean,

really, literally, MY AGE, stuck ALONE in a zoo!

and then they let him loose back home,

to make up for lost time, do his best,

get the numbers back up, 800 little turtles

out there with his name on them now, they say,

and he’s still going strong with the ladies, sweet . . .

 

except one article called him a “dirty old man”

because, what? you tell me. And why

I’m wondering aren’t young men

ever dirty, like right now, when they’re

thinking about her, just like I am, I’m sure,

except way more so, because in my head

she still has all her clothes on, I know,

I just looked again to be sure, and,

really, all I was going to do was

ask if we could hold hands, really,

that’s all, for a walk in the woods, maybe,

have a few laughs together, that’s it,

pretty tame, I’d say, or lame, you might . . .

 

but, hey, don’t get me wrong, if she

was up for more, I’d be up for more,

except holding hands is enough more

to get me thinking right now, been so long,

and I’m sure she’s way too busy anyway,

a little dinner, dance a while,

back to my place, hers, either way

to spend the night . . . yeah, right!

 

 

OK, now I’m done thinking about her.

I need to go out and mow the lawn.

This summer sucked that way, so hot

and rainy the grass never stopped

growing the way it’s supposed to,

mid-July, August at the latest, and now

it’s September and I’m still mowing

once a week or more, just like

this “thinking” was supposed to stop,

I thought, mid-July, August at the latest

now, September, well into it even,

it still won’t stop growing, huh?

 

and another thing, that guy

she’s going to be with tonight,

well, I was him once, and I can tell you,

or her if she’d bother to ask, but she won’t,

he’s got pretty much one thing on his mind

and it’s not her, hasn’t even started

yet to “think,” believe me, and another

thing I can tell you, or her if she’d bother to ask,

but she won’t, I have, I mean I really, truly have.

So who’s the dirty old man now, I ask you,

tell me, who’s the dirty old man now!

 

 

 

9/17:  It’s that line

 

I was just about to drive over

to the farmers’ market,

but now I’m not going to, I mean

I’m REALLY not going to.

 

It’s not the drive, gruesome

at 4 PM Friday, all the rush going

everywhere else at once

or how hard it is to park, gnarly.

 

It’s that line, the idea of getting into it,

those 10 people in front of me,

thought-bubble tomatoes floating

over their heads, or behind me,

well, I can’t see them because

I’m so focused on the sellers,

so slow, three of them, walking

with her, him, her from this end

of a forty-foot table to that end,

waiting to hear, a basket, wait,

no just three of those tomatoes,

how much is it, make change,

stopping on the way back to sit

on the back edge of the big truck,

flatten dollars into a tray, drink water

(OK, it is really hot out, so OK, water),

and I’m thinking if I concentrate hard

I can push the fast-forward button

of farmers’ market time and get up there

before I’m more wilted than I’m afraid

that head of red lettuce I have my eye on

will be by the time I get there.

 

Now if the guy would drive over to my house

and drop off all the things I like to get,

carrots, beets, corn, beans, green or yellow,

but yellow if you have them, snap peas,

any fruit you’re picking right now, all of it,

squash, garlic, even tomatoes, which I’m

kinda allergic to if I don’t cook them a lot,

that would be great, and I’d tip him good,

just don’t make me stand in that damn line,

of course, he doesn’t make me, I do, so

no, I’m not going to, not this week at least,

one line too many today in that way too-

long lifetime of lines waiting for her, her,

to make up her mind, thought-bubbles

I’m fighting to pry my way into,

but they’re always already all full

of tomatoes, forty feet of table,

me sitting at in the middle, and, well,

it just those three tomatoes, not that Paul,

not today, just those three tomatoes please.

 

Me, I take everything, all I can haul

to the car without having to go back

and wait in line again, bags and bags of it,

enough for today, tomorrow, tomorrow,

and you, for sure, if you were available tonight,

I’d take you in a second, twice if I could,

and I’d wait in a lot longer line to do it, too,

so, what-say dinner tonight, I’ll make it

for you, all these bags I hauled, no,

OK maybe some other time . . .

 

 

So tonight I’m gonna make french fries,

out of a bag from the freezer

burnt crisp just like I like them,

lots of ketchup, maybe an egg,

I have that, too, sounds good,

and tomorrow, well, I don’t care

about tomorrow because today

you wouldn’t come over and

no way now I’m going to wait

in that stupid line, no way, just because

there happens to be a tomorrow.

 

 

 

9/17: The rest of this is not a poem any more

 

 

So I’m like five minutes into my walk today

and I’m already going, OK, Paul, gotta

get that poem going, gotta, gotta,

20 years is a lot of time to make up,

and my head is warping into it and then

I thought, there, right there, that’s

the exact reason I quit writing poems

20 years ago, that gotta , gotta, gotta,

until there’s nothing there, except a foofy

white dog yip-yapping, look, over here,

I’m pretty great, and really, aren’t you

just a guy-who-walks-in-the-woods guy

without me, me, I make you

THE guy-who-walks-in-the-woods guy,

they read me and think, wow, you,

and without me they don’t think of you

at all, not one half-second, and that

damn little PITA dog is right,

but so what, I think, yeah, you’re

pretty great–If I do ALL THE WORK

to MAKE you pretty great, and besides,

why would you think you’re even

pretty  great, what have you ever done

for me, you, yeah, you, I’m looking

right at you, and those others, too,

the ones I turned into book after book

I sent out a million times and what?

nothing, a million form letters:

Dear Chump: Thank you for sending us

your reading fee so I don’t have to

really try to sell anything, and SASE

so I didn’t have to walk across

the room to shred up this POS

ms., I mean your work, I didn’t

even bother to read, or did I?

don’t remember, so buy our new

books: “My Grandfather’s Life Sucked

and Now I’m So Sad, Let Me Tell You”

and “I Put In a Few Real French Words

To Make You Think I Know What

Surrealism Is,” anyway, you

(I mean you mean dog over there

now, not the letter-writing guy)

you won’t get anywhere today

unless I say so and right now

I’m not saying so, I’m gonna stay

here, right here, over here,

where I am, my walk, the one

I got to take all those 20 years

while you and the rest of your

snippy-shit friends sat around

in someone else’s posh parlor,

a real poet maybe, books, one

that took you to the hair dresser,

fed you chopped steak from a china bowl,

I’m telling you all I have to do is say

 

STOP

 

and you’re done, yeah, you can bark,

but without me doing the work

that’s really about it, and I’m saying

 

STOP

 

So now it’s 8 minutes into my walk,

and it’s just my walk, and the rest

of this is not a poem any more,

and as soon as I looked here, now,

in front of me, well, one of my favorite

trees, which I would have missed,

if I waited another two seconds

to say stop, that tree, like one tree

for about the first 18 inches up

and then it’s two, but I can never tell

whether it was one that turned into

two going up or two that turned

into one going down, and today

I see this flat stone, wide and long

as my foot jammed down between

the two trunks about 5 feet up

and I think no way that stone

got up there on its own, someone

forced it in there, for what, oh, of course,

so this just-another-tree-in-the woods

might turn into a Robert Frost poem

someday when the trunks grow over

that stone and it looks like it’s part

of the twin-tree, their “shared heart”

or something, but who I ask you,

whoever you are who put that there,

is going to write that poem, me?

I don’t think so, I’m not even a poet

any more, not for the rest of

this poem at least, because this

is not even a poem, it’s a walk

in the woods, and I’m just a guy

not THE guy, and I can tell you for sure

that Robert Frost isn’t going to pass

this way any time soon, so I just

grabbed that stone and wriggled it

out, took a while, it was jammed in

pretty good, and that tree, I’m telling you,

I heard it, said “ah,” that’s all, “ah,”

not thanks, it’s no poet blowing

smoke, but I knew it meant thanks

because now it was back to being

just-another-tree-in-the-woods

and now just-another-guy-in-the-woods

could look at it every now and then

wondering whatever he wonders

until he gets along on his way . . .

 

and about 10 feet down the path

I turn around and those two trunks

are in full embrace, no space at all

between them, just a graceful

serpentine seam, the way true lovers

splice together after long separation,

so grateful just to be close again,

like that Klimt poster, “The Kiss”

everyone had on their dorm room

wall back in the 60s, two people,

but so entwined with one another

that after two or three tokes

you could swear there’s no line at all

and you think that will be me

this weekend, with her, or her,

or her, but it never was because

there was always that flat stone

someone had jammed in there

and neither one of you knew

how to get it out, then one day

you do, and you fall into an embrace

just like that one, two into one,

for it seems like forever, but

it’s not, because one day someone

up there says enough is enough

and jams in a rock the size of

Gibraltar and say OK, Paul,

let me see you yank that one out,

and I can’t, so I turn around again

and get along on my way . . .

 

 

STOP

 

and now I don’t hear any dogs at all,

at least not the ones that can’t write

themselves into poetry books,

on their own, need me, sure,

but don’t get me wrong, I like dogs,

real dogs, I mean, not simile dogs,

already smelling of poem, real dogs,

that one yesterday, say, poodle-doodle

leading the way, that one didn’t

bark at all and wouldn’t hurt me,

or Sadie, say, Bridget’s dog,

who loves her no question,

misses her when she’s gone

welcomes her home, poses

for all the pictures she wants to take,

a dog with pizzazz, razzamatazz,

even that high-pitched bark, well

it’s charming, and she can make

it sound like words if you try hard

enough and listen carefully, I mean

her own words, not mine, not

some poet hearing all that whining

not here but over there and thinking

OK, gotta, gotta, gotta, or who

the hell is gonna care about me,

well, I’m here to tell you,

all of you, you unwritten poems,

I’ve been around long enough to know

that even if I get you pretty great,

and I don’t get that form letter

back, but a real one, nobody

and I mean nobody is gonna care

about me one whit anyway, just you,

you lazy, barky little things,

over there, never here, always over there . . .

 

STOP

 

 

 

9/17: All these silly silences inside

 

I woke suddenly with you still on my mind,

harvest moon, last night’s light,

the time we spent together

out in the front yard, so sweet,

yet how might I continue to write,

my mind asked in my last dream,

with all these silly silences inside?

 

It is 4AM. I was sure

you would not still be here.

But the bright pool of light

on the silk rug in the sunroom

stuns me as I walk past,

that pale glaze on the grass

out back, your so-soft touch.

 

I am sorry I am so shy.

I never understood why words

left when light shone down.

 

I know now, at my age,

what I should not say to you

and why: “I love you,” never,

how it stirs up still-still

water, little waves rippling

across a too-dark sky

lapping fine-sand shores,

brittle white, wearing

thin edges thinner.

 

I know how silly silence

sounds from my side

of the table, that restaurant,

dim as this moonlit night,

so romantic, my heart

full to overflowing,

needing to be free

of the weight

of those three words,

 

and I knew not to say them,

but did anyway,

as I always do, just

pushed them right out

into the soft light,

all that hope and fear,

no place left to hide,

 

and from the other side

of the wide-open sky,

those vast still waters

of togetherness

stretching out forever,

as far as I could see,

well, silence, statue

smiling stiffly, staring

back, saying nothing

at all, and everything

at once, not silly

that silence, I will tell you

nothing silly, except maybe me,

if you were there that night

outside the window looking

in, trying to fill my head

with silence instead of

those three words,

fool, I knew, as soon

as I heard them.

 

And for some reason

we went on eating.

 

Now, again, sitting here,

all these years later,

filled with a silly silence

that tries to hide those words

in its dark waters, down deep

where even I might not

overhear them . . .

 

Such a fool, I tell myself,

every night, every hour of every night

even in my sleep, I tell myself,

a fool, so full of love rippling

through my dreams,

and when I wake like this,

4AM, wanting just to say

the only three words I know,

the last three I remember

you are here with me

listen, smile, but sweetly,

reach out and touch me,

 

all anyone needs

when those words

can’t echo back,

 

just one soft touch that says

I know, I know, I know,

and I will hold this moment

 

forever in my heart,

those words so sweet to hear,

chalice for my joy

 

and sadness, always with me,

and when we part tonight

I will kiss you lightly

on your lips

so soft and warm still

from the few words

 

they let pass between us

here, and mine, forever

silent, you know, but still,

still, this dark water.

 

Fingertip caresses

of moonlight on

the back of my hand,

along my arm

resting here with you,

me in that pool

of your soft light

in the back room, glowing,

another little moon

 

and I know you will be

back tomorrow, sit with me,

all these silly silences inside,

how I might continue to write . . .

 

 

 

9/17: Except for this, so far

 

Everything I read these days depresses me,

even if I wrote it, except for this, so far,

this doesn’t depress me yet, so

I will keep writing it until it does . . .

 

 

9/18: I just had to take off my pants

 

It started to rain just when I got in the car

this morning to go to the woods for my walk,

not hard enough to stop me, not even close,

but I got pretty wet, wet enough

that I just had to take off my pants,

soaked through just on the front side,

which, if you walk in the rain, you know

is how it goes, unless it’s a total downpour,

the cost, I guess, of “going forward”

in this life, clammy on the thighs,

and I’m only telling you this because

I was almost totally silent on my walk

today, which is not how I usually am,

so I need to get this down fast before I

forget it, which is already happening . . .

 

 

I didn’t even notice that until about

3/4 of the way through it, in that section

with huge oak and the huge poplar,

and I tried to remember if I had said

anything out loud so far, which

I always do now, lots of it, and all

I could remember was swearing,

once, right at the top of the first hill,

which I do every day, same place,

without even thinking about it,

because it dawns on me again,

that Carol is not there with me, so

“FUCK!” “SHIT!” “GODDAMMIT,”

loud or “jesuschrist,” soft, and today

I remembered soft and thought about

that Berryman poem where the guy

on the street whispers “christ”

under his breath and all the passersby

behind their rosy-pink glasses can’t tell

if it’s a prayer or a swear, and believe me,

and you can because I don’t wear

pink glasses any more, it’s both, that one

and all of them, they’re always both,

as in hey, how ’bout some help down here,

and yeah, right, I know, when hell freezes over,

and that jesuschrist, that was all I said

out loud today because it was raining,

which is why I was telling you all this. . .

 

I just kept it all inside my head today,

and what I was thinking about most of the way

really was “silence,” maybe because

yesterday I wrote about how even if

the only three words you know are I love you

sometimes you wish you had just

kept them all inside your head . . .

 

So I spent most my young life silent,

really silent, like this family story about me

my mother told, how I didn’t start to talk

until way late, cried continuously for year one,

then shut if off at the main and was just placid

for year two, “low affect” they might say

these days, and she wanted me off diapers

but I never said anything, so every so often

she’d take my hand, off to the bathroom,

and I’d sit there and either do it or not,

so one day she takes my hand and I say:

you don’t have to come today, I can take

care of this myself, and she’s dumbfounded,

having started to worry that I was dumb

in more ways than one, and she asked

why didn’t you talk before this, and

I said, because I never had anything

I wanted to say until now, and I can tell you,

that is how I was, then, now, exactly,

and going to school back then, well,

you never needed to talk except to say

Torricelli, or 7, or predicate nominative,

so that’s pretty much all I said and I was

so good at that, I mean fantastic, that

teachers stopped asking me anything

because they figured I knew it so why

not put somebody else on the spot,

and today I was thinking, yes, I bet

that’s exactly why I got fantastic

at that, so I wouldn’t even have to say

that much, and college, well, back then

they hadn’t invented student-centeredness,

so all I had to do was say manifest destiny,

or, [an elaborate equation here that

won’t copy into WordPress, dammit]

or irregular Pindaric ode, and they’d

leave me alone there, too, but obviously

when I got into this line of work

I knew I’d have to say more than that

because you can’t, for example, go in

on day one, fold your arms, and wait

for a great course to uplift itself

like one of those push-button

umbrellas, or stand up at a conference

and just say epideictic, well,

you could, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t

go that well and pretty soon you’d be

silent on your own dime, and I didn’t come

from a family that had enough dimes

for that, so I taught myself to talk,

the point being, for me at least,

what I told my mother 65 years ago

is still true: I have to have something

I want to say to say anything, and now

that I’m thinking about it,

I’m going to SAY those three words

when I WANT to say them

no matter who misunderstands,

and I. A. Richards might say that rhetoric

should be the study of misunderstanding

and its remedies, but I’m here to tell you,

Ivor, you can study misunderstanding

all you want, and I guarantee you won’t

find the remedy anywhere in rhetoric,

not for this one at least, and really,

not for any of them, the ones that most

matter anyway, because you know what,

misunderstanding doesn’t start with

words, you mean this, I mean that and

“we need to talk,” that kind of thing,

no, it starts way beforehand,

like the one all these years ago,

that one started before either

one of us even learned how to talk,

and I’m thinking if she saw me

here now with my pants off

she’d misunderstand that, too,

and for some reason I’m swearing again,

LOUD, into the WABAC machine,

at her, and I know it works

because now I remember on the street

walking home alone that night

I heard all this swearing, LOUD,

and I swear no one else was there but me . . .

 

It’s just pouring now, I mean really pouring,

and you know what, when I’m done

with this I’m going to go out for a walk in it,

just around here, like Carol always did

when it poured and I didn’t want to get

drenched in the woods, and she’d just walk

normal right through it, I’d see her coming back

up the street, soaked through after an hour

in it, that floppy hat she always wore

rain or shine sagging, walking like it was nothing,

the way she walked through all the rest

of the pouring rain in her life, just head up,

OK, this is how this world is and, me,

I’m going to keep walking and walking.

not going to speed up or slow down

because in the end it doesn’t make one bit

of difference anyway, and you know what

there are probably 10 or 20 other things

she did all the time that I never did

when she was here, and I’d be thinking

why do you do that, care so much about that,

whatever, and now, you know what, I do

every single one of them, all the time, and, well,

what more can I say about that that you can’t

figure out for yourself. . . jesuschrist

 

 

 

9/18:  I was just thinking

 

I was just thinking about entropy,

and I can’t tell if what I’m thinking

comes from Pynchon or physics, but, hey,

even for him, what’s entropy but two

stories bleeding together toward chaos,

me and him thermodynamic today,

and I have this idea that the brain

is a super-anti-entropic machine

absorbing all sorts of little things,

perceptions, words, everything,

and synthesizing them into complex

systems, day after day, year after year,

lifelong and then, wham, you’re dead

and the rubber band or magnetism,

whatever it is that holds it together

stops holding and all that stuff blows

right back out into the universe

a big plume of smoke, or like that poplar

I talked about yesterday, a slow leak,

but still, sooner or later all that packing,

in school, thinking, loving, all of it,

unpacked, wham, and it’s gone . . .

 

 

And I was just thinking, everything

I spewed out this year, books, poems, songs,

like a 4th of July sparkler,

a million blazing flecks of light

zinging out, every which way,

and I keep thinking, a guy like me,

what the hell is going on, and last week

I mentioned to somebody how maybe

I’m about to die and my insides

are trying to get out fast as they can,

on the record, so they won’t just evaporate

into the ether, what a waste, all that work,

hey, they’re saying, it was hard to get

this together, and I want to get said .  . .

 

 

Then I was just thinking that maybe

I did actually die last year except

I don’t know it yet and neither do you

reading along here like, yeah, a live guy

wrote this, not some smoke-poof

wisping away after all the sparks from that

4th of July sparkler have sparkled out,

nothing but a bent over, gray-hair

stem that if you touch it turns to ash

right there between your fingertips,

so maybe everything in me is flashing

back through the motherboard

into that great hard drive in the sky

except for some reason I get to leave

behind the heat I accreted in this stupid

almost absolute zero of a world,

and you say, no way, that’s not possible,

well let me tell you, I know a thing or two

about what’s possible and not possible now,

and lots of what you now have listed

under one of those belongs under the other,

and that’s all I’m going to tell you about that

because, well, then one of us would have

to go, and since I’m thinking today maybe

I already have gone, that just leaves you . . .

 

 

 

9/19:  And now, right now, I’m calling this one done

 

 

That moon tonight looks a lot like me,

not quite altogether, beachball

the day after, half flat the left

side of its head, migraine maybe,

air gone missing. I have no idea

why we both went from wide-awake

light brimming over everywhere,

puffy-cheeked kid with such a smile,

to saggy, dimmed down, looking out

through vague, smudgy haze

that either seeped out or seeped in,

about as much light as that night-

light I use now, not because I’m

afraid of the dark, because I’m

afraid I’ll get afraid of it if I don’t.

 

Kind of a relief, really, so intense,

too much pressure to keep

the air in, pour the light out,

teaching-head heavy instead of

TV-head light. Hear that hissing?

the air still going out of that moon

from last night, my head, this book,

five days in and it’s already half-

flat, like I’m stuck in all of Zeno’s

paradoxes at once, the half-way one,

faster and faster to go slower

and slower, a book in 20 days,

then a book in 10 days, now

a book in 5 days, and I’m just

saying, I can’t write another book

in 2.5 days, no way, I have chores

to do today that I put off to finish

this one, I teach tomorrow all day,

so you tell me, where does a book

get written there? and even if I did,

you know as well as Zeno does

that sooner or later I’ll be writing

like a million books every microsecond

and I’ll still never get to “done,”

and the arrow one, zinging along

so fast but each instant a standstill,

so which is it, zip-zip or zap?

time turning into space or

vice-versa and that’s summer

in a nutshell, so stop-action

day after day you can’t remember

anything that came before,

so fast it’s like it didn’t even happen,

and the race one, that tortoise

slow as those stones sliding

over mud in Death Valley

when the wind blows and

no matter how fast Achilles runs

he’s can’t ever catch him

with that too-big head start

he gave him, so if I’m Achilles,

and maybe I am for all I know,

I’m thinking, I’m going to make

a cup of tea and let that tortoise

sweat it out wondering whether

I’m gonna catch him at the wire

because he’s too slow to know

that can never happen, no way,

and I’m not even running anyway.

 

 

And really, you could argue

this is not even a book, just another

half-book, like the last one,

that long line of half-books,

my history, and I was just trying

to decide whether to put checkered

or decorated in front of history

but the only way it sounded

like a poem was if I used both

and you can’t because you end up

with two half-thoughts that can’t

ever add up to one thought

each racing on a different track

toward half-books, and I’m

calling this one Paul’s paradox

and, ditto, a cup of tea, Achilles,

let them run as long as they

want, because so what if I get

another half-book, it’s a

whole-book world I work in,

and maybe that’s why

I never get anywhere

in this poetry racket:

the only box you get

is just too damn big for what

I have to mail in, and sure,

I could unroll a half-book

of bubble wrap, and I got

a headful of it, believe me,

thousands of little pressed-

together polyvinyl pierogies,

keeping this bit of empty away

from that one, and you need them,

really do, because if all that empty

got together at once in there,

there would be trouble,

no way to say where this empty

ends and that one begins

on that long shelf of books,

the ones Aristotle named,

“this is this and that is that

and don’t mix up them up,

OK, because it took me a lot

of work to get them apart like

that,” the superhighway right to

wwwdotbubblewrapdotedu,

and for some reason I can’t

seem to write one whole one.

 

But don’t get me wrong,

I have no bone to pick with wwwdot,

not at all, because if it weren’t

for wwwdot I’d be, what,

Emily Dickinson shoving stuff

in a drawer, where it dies, or I do,

and if I’m lucky, I mean like

lottery-type lucky, some

huge doofus like Higginson

(give me a break, Tom, what’s with

the Wentworth?) swoops in, scoops it

up, says: don’t look at her, look at me,

too big a prick to stick my neck out

for her while she was here and

would have loved it, maybe even me,

and hey, all I’m saying is if

she says to me “I love you,”

I’m outa here, like lickety-split,

not even giving her the fake statue act,

just, well, you know, she’s wacked-

out as all hell and those poems

are like, WTF?  but, hey, now she’s

gone, looky here, slicked up by me,

they look like a good whole book.

I’m so-o-o smart. Well, no, Tom,

you’re not, YOU are NOT!

 

And I know enough now to know

it wasn’t always this way, take

Parmenides, he hardly wrote even

a half-book, and he’s on Amazon,

OK, I know, someone has to write

a long preface and add lots of notes

and there’s tons of white space so it

doesn’t just end up being 10 pages

and when you pick it up you think

it’s just two covers bubblewrapped

around empty, I got totally ripped off . . .

 

or I could just talk, not bother

with all this typed-up hype, like

Socrates, say, never wrote down

one word, just yakked and yakked

with anyone he could track down,

and I would love, just love, to be

yak-yakking like that with smarties

about the soul, say, but the way

things work where I work I could sit

in my office with the door open

now ’til the cows come home,

feet on my desk, and not a soul

would walk through that door

to talk about the soul, all of them

crouching over desks behind

closed doors writing whole books so

they get to stay in the whole book

building here with all the other

whole book people, the ones

I mean who might wave, weak,

rushing by my office while I’m

waiting, but if all Plato had was

 

Protagoras: wave

 

Socrates: wave

 

well, there you have it,

nutshell around nothing, so . . .

 

I’m going to go for a walk. I’m back.

And first thing I noticed was

now all that air is out there was

room in there for me, I know, because

I was there, all of me, on the drive over,

not me talking to me, or pretending

I’m talking to you when, get real,

you know and I know you’re not there,

no one is, not for a half-book

at wwwdot, I mean me just happy

being me, and the drive went so

slow, maybe not slow as that time

in the WABAC machine I smoked

some laced weed and it took me

a week to drive three miles home

and I was almost hoping I’d get

pulled over so I could ask the cop

am I really only driving .01 miles/hr?

 

Then I got there, and

the sunroots I walk through

right when I start are

all just slumped over now,

like their air was out, too,

a few flecks of yellow

still stuck up on the stems,

but summer on the run,

and that was the last thing

I can remember seeing

on that walk because

it was just me seeing

not me seeing so I could

pretend to see you seeing

me seeing. And now, right now,

I’m calling this one done.

and now, right now,

I’m calling lots of things done.

You might be one of them.

All I know is I’m not.

And this is not the end

because like I said: now

I’m on this side of

that. And when I say

now, I mean now.