Gratitude, and more and more


On my way
into a great city
I thought of the uncountable people
who lived there and wondered
if there was room enough
for me there too.

Nobody knew
I was coming.
How could they have ordered
the right amount of fruit?
Would they run
the endless streets
to find a pear
for the new guy?

When I got there
and nobody stopped me
said sorry, we’re full

—and there was space for me

to walk on the sidewalk, a room
a bed, a chair
I didn’t have to share

—and I asked for an extra blanket
and they had one,

I couldn’t believe my luck.


What people I know
have done this week
in Mexico

Paint tree trunks white,
cut stones for street cobbles,
boil beans, shoot
pigs and hang the legs,

paint pictures of sad
naked women, dream
of snow, spar
in the park and lie

on the grass, pour
lines of chalk
to keep cockroaches out,
kiss lovers, weld axles,

play Bach on the cello,
remember the war,
kill rivals in a play,
bury them, sing,

fix the leak, weep,
pay off gangsters,
play soccer,
get drunk,

dance in the dark
with flashlights,
hang flags,
bang drums,

toss bombs,
ring bells, parade
for the Virgin,
and fix the leak again.

It’s enough to make me want to do
something like that too.


my introduction
to the faculty

Thank you very much for the kind introduction but
you unfortunately neglected to mention to the
committee my rows of sharp regenerating
teeth, my fondness for blood and how
fast I can swim, nor did you remind
my esteemed colleagues that my
most celebrated trait is
the size and shape
of my
dorsal fin
of which so
much has been
previously written
sail-like, sharp and blue
you might say I’m humbled by
the bounty of attention it’s received
from a cross-cultural community, and
of course all the various awards I’ve been
understandably reluctant to list here but you’ll
find included as background in the attached C.V.


Note to Jeff

The bells are ringing here.
When Americans come they always try
to figure out what they mean
what o’clock it is
what is being celebrated.
They’re just bells, I say.
They sound pretty.


How Poets Survive

There’s no business
model that I know.

Who would pay
for free verse or rhyme?

Out of silent air we shape sound
that nobody can understand

except those who happen
to speak our language

and many of those don’t either.
Trying to touch beauty,

we usually fail,
so we better be amusing

or hope people think we would be,
if only they were smarter.

That way we get a bite to eat
and a bed to sleep

and the esteem we’re convinced
we sometimes deserve.


One word poem

When your mom said spider
you slid down the tree
and stared up at the branches and leaves
and the sky and the world
changed forever
by what you could neither see
nor forget.


Keats and you and me

In Dolores Hidalgo, they make pots
glazed with lots of blues and yellows
and upside down hearts with thick-
stemmed plants growing uncomfortably
inside them. No maidens here, the pots
themselves, also shaped like women,
overflow with living flowers. What struggle
to escape! What wild ecstasy!
He died
young and my blood burns. The peaks glow
at dusk as they always have. We coast
old shadows and hold hands around
curves crowded with the beautiful
dead. Nothing eternal but the road home.