Poems of the Week


From a High Floor

City of neutered dogs,
How homeless can you be
In a nine-room apartment
With windows on three sides?
Waiting to be shot
At sunrise by sixteen windows!
Everything you need is
A wall to stand in front of.
With a southern exposure.
Paneling in front of
The wall you stand in front of.
The doorman calls upstairs.
Shall I send it up?
It is coming up.
Your back is to the wall
This pleasant afternoon,
This autumn afternoon,
This final afternoon.
You on all sides of you
In the mirrored bathroom.
You on all sides of you
In the walk-in closet.
In your booklined blindfold.
In the deep fatigue
The sunset warms with rouge.

The homeless homeless have
The center strip of Broadway.
To live where you should jump.

The Hour

They can’t get close enough—There’s no such thing.
Look. When they smile. Each rising like a tree
Inside the other, breathing quietly.
Two women start their hour by moistening.

The engine pulling them around the bend
Exposes irresistibly the train
They’re on extending from them through the rain.
And then it’s night. And it will never end.

They’re in a limousine. The plane they’re on
Is over water. Dawn reveals the two
Berlins becoming one. And now they knew
The time had come. And now the rain is gone.

Two passengers aboard their lives undress
Down to their hands. The lifelines touch. They stay
Behind their smiles. The guard comes in to say
The hour is over, and they tell her yes.

The Complete Works of Anton Webern
That wasn’t it.
The other wasn’t either.
I woke up looking through a hole.
Love was blowing through.
It was fresh.

The clouds were clean as only
Squeezed out of a tube
In blobs can be.

The universe begins,
And look what happens. It’s spring
At the event horizon.
My future former wife expands
In the ungovernable first seconds to a speck
Which will be high school age fifteen
Billion years from now.

Donna mi priegha
A lady asks me, I speak in season,
What is the origin of the universe?
What is an event horizon?

If you put a gun to your temple and close your eyes,
And the enormous pressure builds and builds,
And slowly you squeeze the trigger . . .
Do you hear the big bang?

When you kill yourself,
Do you hear the sound?

Followed by the universe.

On the far side of the invisible,
On the inside of a black hole, is
The other universe, which is closed,
Which you can’t enter or see,
Which you don’t know is right there,
Without dimensions and unknowable.

As vast as a pore.

An entire universe in less than a dot.
The opposite of infinite.
Less than a dot that weighs more than the world.
The opposite of infinite

Is infinite.
The gravity is so great.
Light can’t escape.
It weighs more than the world.

The opposite of infinite is
WNYC’s signal reaches it.
Listen . . .

How an angel would sing, utterly inhuman.
The ethereal cockroach music of Anton Webern.

They’re playing
All his rarefied work on
The anniversary of his death.

An entire universe in less than a dot.
Faint brief frosts of breath
Fly-cast precise and chaste.
It doesn’t ask to be loved.

These briefest exhalations
In the history of music are vast.
The absolutely infinite God
Of the Cabala
In the winkling of an eyelet, Ensof.

The future of the past was the New Music.
He believed
The atonal was eternal. He believed
Fifty years
In the future children would be whistling
It on their way to school. The irresistible
Ravisher was pure

And the angel raised his hand to greet her,
At the same time bowing low.
To the woman,
Never mind her terror,
His hand before he spoke
Seemed to sing.
His utterly inhuman voice,
Which suddenly she heard,
Startled her,
Was gorgeously strange.

Sang without a melody. Sang
So grand a neatness, precision, briefness.
So unnatural and severe
Would come to seem so natural
Kids would whistle it.

Struck at a fixation point, he sings.
Where the match scratch and hiss sweetens to flame.
Where the boy soprano’s eternal voice is breaking.
And the slow caterpillar turns silently into wings.

Sing a song of sealed trains
Arriving day and night.
These trains had kept it all inside.
These trains had never let their feelings out.
These train-sick trains were just dying.
These trains couldn’t hold it any longer.
These trains shat uncontrollably
All over the sidings and ramps
Jews for the camps.

This century must end.
To modern art I say—
It’s been real.

He fled Vienna with his family
For the mountain village of Mittersill to escape the bombs.
Now the war is over,
He was standing outside
His son-in-law’s house just after curfew
Enjoying the night air.
An American soldier who had been drinking mistook
A great composer smoking an after-dinner cigar
For a black marketeer reaching for a gun.

I am a toupee walking toward me
With no one under it.
I put the gun to my head.

*All from My Tokyo, HarperCollinsCanadaLtd, 1993.

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