Where is the clear land whose outposts we pen and
crops raise with wishes though some are all edge.
You follow the lines wherever they go, then
your muse snaps the long leash tight when
sufficient’s not enough. But stick around and see
the four-o’clocks you grew with offhand seed
bearing without tending such vigorous bloom
to weep what can’t bear the weather or renew.
How you move from one version to another, how the most recent version is both engendered and interrupted by the last version, how whatever the present in-between version is, it still bears the traces of earlier versions and now the things those traces were connected to are gone. Writing it is like trying to make sense of some mysterious thing.
Sometimes early on it’s like this accretion, this densely populated place with things hollering for attention. Then things start falling out and you think you’ve got it but when you look at it again you see a clean room full of headless people.
So you set up something to challenge it, something like a certain number of words or syllables or beats per line and then some of the old crowd shows up as well as people you didn’t invite and there’s a masked person in there randomly whipping them.
And some of them are enjoying it.
In the end it becomes a kind of crowd control, though none of it is ever well-behaved.
Old age arrived today. No kids, no books.
Thirty-five years married, mostly
solitary–bad marks for not getting out
when the wherewithal to go was good.
Over half a lifetime teaching–bad marks
for thinking anybody gave a damn.
A decade beat-down by the bully boss–
bad marks for not seeing that
for the decade of being fired it was.
Bad marks in most major categories–
freezing when stunned, not sucking it up
the not being loved, being slow to know,
being bent by the usual catastrophes–
headaches, heartaches, chest pain, death,
erstwhile friends, bad knees, bad health.
Bad marks for not attending to the drift.
Bad marks for the dark inside, the alien
encampments and bonfires and skirmishes
in my brain. Bad marks for not being
fuckin’ glad about my metamorphosis,
my reticulated body, my unhinged face.
Bad marks for trying—twice—to open
the front door with the car remote.
Bad marks for just not getting
the hang of phones that don’t hang up.
Bad marks for bad grace and bad memory–
did I mention that already? Bad marks
for forty years of writing someone will
throw out when I die—I won’t care then but
I do now—damn it all, I’m still alive.