The New Year, four poems

This year I won’t read the news, won’t sog
myself in helplessness or lose heart in the lies
nice people tell, try not to feel blue about where
we’re all headed and be sure to lie down when I can

and look at the sky. The old timers say
what a great city this was before new people came
and filled in the lake. There were reeds and everybody
had his own boat. The dumb were uninformed

and knew it, not so proud of everything
they just learned on the Internet. That was when Mexico
was the real Mexico, back in the big lake, big
pyramid days. Think of your old friend

and the father he lost when he was twelve.
No way to Google what it meant, he ripped around
for forty more years until he shot himself. We all know
people who nurse too long their wounds

with milk because the facts aren’t available.
I passed a young man chipping paint around a window. Later
I passed him again when he’d begun to prime.
He didn’t notice me as I didn’t notice the people

who passed me when I scraped and painted
decades ago. Where were they going? Did they get there?
Nobody knows and you can’t look it up and most
are dead and those who aren’t don’t remember, which doesn’t mean

it doesn’t matter. Anymore, I only go to New Jersey
for funerals. It’s just worked out that way. Other places I go
for other reasons I don’t know and I resolve this year,
when I’m lying on the grass, not to think about it anyway.


You may astound her

The wife of a friend
passes the half fountain
a colored fish
swimming from window to window
while you’re inside a dream
of a skinny dark girl
whose face matches the ache
and pleasure of desire.

We want and not
hurt and feel this way
then that
do and feel another way
think maybe
do something else
feel something else as well.

Does it all come down
to that?

Faces pass blank
through car windows
holes of grief filled with music and water
and women on the sidewalk
wear just the right thing
to feel just the right way
and help you feel it too.

Take a walk, bake some bread
conquer Asia
you may astound her.
Drink out of the jug
make plenty of noise.
What will your new shape
effect today?

Solicitations, broken bones
a dollar, a poem.


The Paradox of Curves

She asks what I can’t see
no matter how hard I look—
or what I can, only
if I surrender. The geometry

of cloud and rock make me tired.
A rope from the bell tower
hangs all the way down to just
above my head. I don’t

know what to do—as if
there were something to do—with this awkward
joy that’s also sadness.
I want to eat spaghetti

where the hungry watch. I want
to feel their envy turn
to hate. Perhaps they’ll steal
my plate, push me down,

stone me. She says after a long
walk, it’s always a surprise
but you do get there. I say
I could die worse than tasting

Bolognese when the rocks
hit. Arms sore, my killers
walk away still hungry. What I like
about this city are curves

defined by jumbles of straight
lines, and for every armed
man another serenades
the ally with his violin.

The light brings to mind clement
weather and abrupt decline.


After La Noche Buena

Wind lifts purple
crêpe in feint
waves and sunlight

blinks loose
silver and gold
foil as a cross

of shade turns sad
the pile of piñatas
broken on the balcony.

But I’m not hung
over, my wife
sleeps, my children

are alive, a red
bird sings
in the orange

tree, pretty
day, pretty
Christmas Day.