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Poem-a-Day

Petition for the Virgin Mary to Appear to Two Boys in a Haymow Outside Lena, Illinois

PETITION FOR THE VIRGIN MARY TO APPEAR TO TWO BOYS IN A HAYMOW
OUTSIDE LENA, ILLINOIS

Blessed Lady, if you are going to appear
anywhere, appear here and appear now,
in this haymow and to these two boys
looking for the litter of kittens they know
are in here because they can hear them
meowing for their mother, who's hidden
them and gone out hunting for field mice.
Appear in such a way that even the pigeons
quit their endless peregrinations from one
beam to another, and astonish the owls
so they cease asking their round questions
of damp ash and snow. And even if no
one believes the boys when they come
running towards the house, screaming
about a woman in the haymow wearing
all white, at least they won’t be so
heartbroken later when they find
she has moved the kittens one by one,
by the skin of their necks, someplace else.
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Petition for the Virgin Mary to Appear to Two Boys in a Haymow Outside Lena, Illinois

PETITION FOR THE VIRGIN MARY TO APPEAR TO TWO BOYS IN A HAYMOW
OUTSIDE LENA, ILLINOIS

Blessed Lady, if you are going to appear
anywhere, appear here and appear now,
in this haymow and to these two boys
looking for the litter of kittens they know
are in here because they can hear them
meowing for their mother, who's hidden
them and gone out hunting for field mice.
Appear in such a way that even the pigeons
quit their endless peregrinations from one
beam to another, and astonish the owls
so they cease asking their round questions
of wood ash and snow. And even if no
one believes the boys when they come
running towards the house, screaming
about a woman in the haymow wearing
all white, at least they won’t be so
heartbroken later tonight when they find
that, amidst all the excitement of the news
stations and the first pilgrims, she moved
the kittens one by one, by the skin
of their necks, someplace else.
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Drone

DRONE

Defined as:

To make a sustained deep murmuring,
humming, or buzzing sound, to talk
in a persistently dull or monotonous tone,
to live in idleness like a drone bee
(the male of the honeybee that develops
from an unfertilized egg, is larger
and stouter than the worker, lacks
a sting, takes no part in honey gathering
or care of the hive, is of use to the colony
only if a virgin queen requires insemination),
to pass or proceed in a dull, drowsy,
or uneventful manner, to utter or pronounce
with a drone, to pass or spend
in idleness or in dull or monotonous activity,
an unmanned aircraft or ship
that is guided remotely.

Rhymes with:

zone, phone, hone, shown, lone,
flown, blown, stone, bone,
moan, sewn, prone,
condone, unknown,
atone.
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Transient

TRANSIENT

One summer night when
you were a child
a knock on the door
a friend of your older sister’s
traveling cross country
it was so late your mother
had to heat up a plate for him
which he shyly accepted
his hunger obvious to everyone
your mother tried to stay up
stifling her yawns
but your father
too weary for company
simply shook his hand
and wished him goodnight

in your room you put your ear
to the heat register but their
voices were distorted
in the chimney of tin
crabwalking down the stairs
a step creaked you were certain
they’d heard you but
you found them
absorbed in one another
sitting crosslegged by the fire
passing a tall green bottle
back and forth whispering about
something of great importance
though you couldn’t tell
were they excited or scared

you watched him reach into his bag
pull out a flannel shirt
and unwrap a hatchet
you watched your sister
reach over and pull his long black hair
back from his neck
as if he had asked her to
behead him she leaned
forward kissed the scar
and you knew something
had happened since the last time
she saw him something he was
trying to explain having to
do with his father and why
he couldn’t stay
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The Bell

THE BELL

The otherworldly kindness
of the little collar bell
the cat has to wear now

after the unthinkable
cruelty of the finch murder.
She brought the bird to us

as if she thought we might
be proud of her.
The irremediable color

of the finch's blood
in her white fur. Now,
the singular sweetness

of the bell, warning away
every winged thing.
The cat has taken

to lying in the shade.
She'll grow old and fat,
bring us nothing

but her hunger and the silver
sound of the bell
we'll bury her with.
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The Afterlife

THE AFTERLIFE

Walking in the woods

I had the feeling

I had already died

and was the trees'

memory of me

walking through them
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The Innocence of Racehorses

THE INNOCENCE OF RACEHORSES

Long before the garland of roses,
before the jockey stands up in the stirrups,
sometimes even before the whipping stops,
they get a look about them,
as if they've already forgotten the mile
and a quarter race they've just won.

Already it has begun to mean more to us
than it ever could to them,
and as the owner and trainer and jockey
take turns talking, their peaceable minds
are already turning to hay, which is why,
at the ceremony, they try nibbling the roses.
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The Wristwatch

THE WRISTWATCH

Time is led by its interrogators
into a round room with a domed glass ceiling.
Ranged along the wall, strange numerals stand,
mossy columns salvaged from some forgotten god’s temple.
In the center of the room, on a small table,
rest two black hands, cut off at the wrists,
frozen in the pose of a pianist’s
the moment before the crescendo.
The hands are so black it is as if they’ve been caught
touching death’s hair. They look
about to scuttle away, creepy
as a spider on the bare flesh of someone sleeping.
And Time, arrested near the border
where it had been living far from man,
like a saint praying in a cave, is made
to put the black hands on.
They go on easy, like shackles,
like the gloves of your dead grandfather.
And Time is wearing them still,
conducting a symphony it cannot hear
like Beethoven in his last years,
for the children outside the round room,
whose faces Time will never see
but who, upon being born,
will be made to dance to its music.
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Ghazal

GHAZAL

Life came rushing up to me this morning
with all my problems in her hands.

I looked around for something for her
to put them in that wasn't my hands.

An egg carton, a mason jar, a shoe
box, a pillow case, anything but my hands,

but she refused everything. I gave up
trying to find something and put my hands

in my pockets but she pressed herself
against me, said, "Show me your hands."

As if they were no longer mine, as if they had
heard and were obeying her, my hands

came out of my pockets. Curled tight
into fists, like flowers at dawn my hands

opened to accept what life had to offer me.
She placed my problems into my hands

like potatoes you'll have to cut the green
spots out of and said, "Austin, your hands

are shaking. Every morning it's like this and
it's a shame. You have such beautiful hands."
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Last Night

LAST NIGHT

I had a nightmare that the married translators of my favorite Russian novels, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, were getting a divorce.

I was inconsolable.

“You can’t!” I cried out, kneeling on the floor of the 19th century drawing room. “Who will translate Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych?”

“We already have,” Richard mumbled, pacing before the hearth.

"Larissa? Larissa!…” I shouted.

She raised her eyes from the paper-strewn table and said, "What is it?"

“Larissa, please, you two have to stay together. You’re my favorite translators!”

She tossed her pen down and said, “I can’t make sense of any of this, can you, Richard?”

“It’s all legalese," he said, walking over and leaning over his soon-to-be ex-wife. "What does this mean, 2B?”

“Is there coffee? You," she said, pointing at me, "Yes you, the one dreaming us. Dream up some coffee so we can finish sundering this bond forever.”
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