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Poem-a-Day

The Republican National Convention

The Republican National Convention

 

I tell you this

makes about as much sense

to me as a Christian 

who holds his breath

waiting for Christ

to come back when

I just saw him

the other day

at that diner out on 80

drinking burnt coffee

with the grain farmers

talking wheat.

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Epitaph

Epitaph

 

No, you said, the light
Hasn't died — it's just fled
Into these flowers.

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The Anvil and the Lamb

The Anvil and the Lamb

Came a day when a man came carrying
What he claimed was a lamb, though anyone
Could see that it was an anvil.

 

What are you carrying that anvil for?

Those that passed him along the road asked him.

 

But this man knew that he held in his arms
A newborn lamb. He could feel its heart
Beating, smell the lanolin in its wool.


He'd heard it bleating one evening, he said,
And found it orphaned in a meadow.

 

He asked everyone he met if the lamb
Was theirs, and for years carried what
He believed he carried up and down that road

Frequented by farmers and thieves.

 

When he asked one day did the lamb belong
To me, I didn't have the heart to tell him that
It was an anvil, and so told him
No, which only deepened his belief that
It was a lamb.

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Unemployment Hotline Hold Music

Unemployment Hotline Hold Music

 

America is these three major chords

Strummed over and over again.

An upbeat tune interrupted

By a woman talking cheerily

About unemployment and the pandemic.

The grin flashing in the indignity

Of it all is worse than the indignity

Itself. No money without this melody.

I'll carry it with me all day, 

Holding onto this hold music,

The first and possibly only

Notes I'll be given.

 

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Campanology

Campanology

 

I've been thinking about bells. Temple bells,
Prayers inscribed around their circumferences.
The bells in church towers, their heavy tongues.
The bells of campuses a lone student,
Late leaving the library, is stopped by,
Ringing all that reading she did deeper.
Wedding bells, bright and clamorous. The bells
Of funerals, slow, languorous. After
All, what's the rush? Cowbells in the pasture,
The bells of sheep in high meadows, the bell
That warns the bird just as the cat pounces.
The doorbell the boys ring and run away
From, the old man who woke to the ringing
Standing there confusedly in the dark.
The bells on the jester's hat, foolish bells,
A kind of anti-crown, and the bells on
His shoes, as if he's always kicking cans.
The dinner bell they used to ring to bring
The threshers in, still swaying as they walked
Past it. The harness bells my grandfather
Would dress the draft horses in at Christmas.
Bluebells in the cemetery because
She loved them. The bells they used to bolt to
Headstones, passing the rope down through a hole
In the coffin lid, so that, if the dead
Had been buried alive, the living could
Hear and come running. Bells in paintings, bells
In old photographs, bells in novels, bells
In poems. Diving bells, not bells exactly.
School bells, more likely to be a buzzer
Now. The bell you ring in hotel lobbies
That brings the smiling concierge over.
The silver bell to call the butler back.
Who even has a butler anymore?
Who even has silver, much less silver
In the shape of a bell? Who really rings
Bells these days? Does this poem even ring one?

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Floaters

Floaters

 

See the boy deep in the winter field,
All zipped up in goose down, knee-deep in snow.
The dead grasses stabbing through the surface
Look like eyelashes, as if he's standing
Not in a field but in a field
Of vision. He knows that he's a poet,
That, like the falling snow, it has fallen
For him to see. But not the snow solely.
Between his blue eyes and the white field
Floaters float, their segmented shapes coiled
Like those microorganisms he gazed
Upon that morning through the twinned lenses
Of a microscope in school. A splash of
Tap water on the slide, then a flimsy
Plastic square slipped over it. When the bell
Rang, he couldn't imagine drinking from
The drinking fountain, taking all of those
Billions in. Home, he'd thought it would be good
To walk alone through the winter field,
To be the sole thing in the field's eye.
Instead, it's what's in his eyes that he sees:
Collagen in the vitreous layer
Like words floating on the snow, in the sky.

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The Dollar Tree

The Dollar Tree
 
After the run on the banks, a poor family stored
Their last dollars in a hollow tree. That spring, the tree
Put on bills instead of leaves. Ones and fives and tens.
The family picked them off the lowest branches,
But couldn't wait until autumn for the highest to fall,
Nor were they certain that, if the bills changed
From green to red, they'd still be considered legal tender.
So they asked their daughter to climb the dollar tree.
The higher she climbed, the higher the bills became.
She started to find twenties, fifties, even hundreds,
Letting them flutter down to her parents and brother,
Their hands outstretched to catch them. She began
To think of herself as being the fall. And then she fell.

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The Corn Crib

The Corn Crib
 
Always the thought then of the corn asleep.
The grin of yellow kernels through the husks
Like the teeth of children spent from playing
 
Glowing through parted lips. But if sleeping,
Who sang it to sleep? Whose foot rocked the crib?
Who kissed its forehead? Who looked in on it
 
In the dead of night? And when the corn is
In the dark ground, who will it fall to to
Figure out what should be done with the crib?

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The Tracery

The Tracery

 

The ice traces the trees

Like a boy on his knees

Tracing a picture in a book.

 

When he asks his father to look

He sighs and puts on his glasses.

How soon his enthusiasm passes.

 

Father and son bend their necks

To a book of pictures, a book of checks.

Winters and winters hence

 

A man leaves the house he rents

And walks across the yard.

Life has grown too hard.

 

But his death shakes the ice from the tree,

Revealing the real beneath the tracery.

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Want

Want
 
The garden spider wants
To catch the fly, and, if you
Take a broad enough view,
You could say,
In some kind of way,
The fly wants to be caught too.
 
These seedy weeds want
To cling to my sweater as I
Brush by, and my sweater
Seems to want to do more
Than just warm me,
Wants to bear their future.
 
Seen a certain way, it is not
Such a tragedy when,
In the hour after
The hay has been mown,
The hawk that has flown
Over all morning
 
Suddenly descends
And takes the shelterless
Field mouse in the act
Of praying. Maybe
The mouse was praying
To be winged.

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The Mouth of the Lane

The Mouth of the Lane 

 

The world was profane
In the mouth of the lane.


I was surprised
The pure-hearted farm  

 

Would say a world like that,
Like a boy who has heard


A certain word at school.

Only by saying it,

 

Alone at the end of the lane

At the end of the day, 

 

Does he know that 

He shouldn't say the word 

 

Ever again, that it's a word

He should never say. 

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