TO GET THERE FROM HERE
To get there from here, cut a stick
as long as you’re tall, kiln dry
for six months, peel and sand, finish
with turpentine and linseed oil.
Vault, don’t walk, the entire ten miles.
You arrive in midsummer dusk.
Shingle-sided houses festooned
with Dutchman’s pipe, wisteria,
and clematis greet you with sneers
of dying sunlight reflected
on windows too dusty to see through.
A church abandoned to Satan
stoops to examine your passport,
if you have one. A general store
offers gallons of cheap red wine
to bathe in rather than drink.
You wave your stick at the bats
flocking in the twilight. Crude
flight patterns punctuate air
too earth-toned to easily breathe.
You vault the last few yards to knock
at a friend’s door. Your last visit
ended in a bell-shaped quarrel,
but you’ve forgiven yourself and hope
your friend has finally ripened
into whom she should want to be.
The plank door creaks open. Plaster
has collapsed in the vacant rooms.
Mice nest in the torn carpet.
Your friend, you realize, also
cut a stick, kiln-dried and finished it,
and vaulted ten miles the other way.
You passed each other on the road
but didn’t recognize the loping vault,
the style. The shingled houses
gloom and gossip. The general store
closes at nine. Better collect
your required ten gallons of wine
and wash yourself so thoroughly
your friend will recognize you
despite the moss and lichen
spangled on the local tombstones
against which you lean gleaming
with stark marmoreal leer.
TERROR, NOT SEX ALONE
Posed before a blue cheese salad
in the faculty dining room,
you affirm that you’re pregnant,
and shatter in a thousand tears.
You expect me to comfort you
in public, but the faces turned
our way suggest Easter Island;
so I’d prefer that the father
of your theoretical child
assume the role he has earned.
On Harvard Street, magnolias
whisper in the creamy glare.
Strolling home after ditching you
at the door of your lecture room,
I note how traffic has rutted
a trough into the avenue,
making it difficult to cross.
Also the new skyscraper droops
like a runny nose. Also the drug
addicts who line up at dusk
at the methadone clinic has dressed
for dinner, their Rolex watches
ticking, their strung pearls glinting.
I cross by hopping on taxi roofs
and reach my condo and find
a line of strangers waiting to use
the one bathroom. Disgusted
by the whining children attached
to bulky mothers, I believe
your tears, believe that terror,
not sex alone, fathered your child.
Seated on the front stoop to watch
feral cats play in the shrubbery,
I compose an apology
to send you telepathically
and hope that you’ll forgive me—
hope you won’t name your unborn child
for the blood-pink sunset people
I’ve hurt in my oafish way
confuse with their open wounds.