I also seem to go into lulls shortly after the publication of books, and my twelfth collection, No Doubt the Nameless, was published last month. I suppose a psychologist could make something of that tendency to lapse after a book shows up, but it's not really something that especially troubles me. I used to think, "Uh-oh, I'm all done-- out of material." But I have learned that I seem to revive.
In any case, here are the two new poems.
A Grandson Sleeps on My Chest
The thread of drool from his lip to my shirt
shows lovely, prismatic, refracting the beams
of this fine warm April sun as I loll on a couch.
Those colors won’t blend with the song
from the Classic Country station I just tuned in.
Hank Williams is lonely, and it damn near kills him.
There’s a dog asleep too, in a circle of light
on the rug, near a pair of rattles, a teething ring,
and a bear that his great grandmother
fabricated years back for this sweet little sleeping child’s father.
Oh I could get going on how that father,
our son, has become such a huge good man
when only yesterday, as the cliché has it,
I held him just this way.
Oh I could get going all right about the absence
of the big-hearted woman who made the bear,
which has twice the bulk of this boy in my arms.
I could fret for the thousandth time that maybe I’ve failed
as man or parent or husband,
but no, I won’t be going that way, or those.
Hank’s midnight train is whining low
While here I hear only a lyrical breathing
and the odd and oddly tuneful infant gurgle.
The scent of the grandson’s crown
wafts up. That’s when all preachments waft up too,
all vanities, worries, to die their sudden deaths.
The Long and Short
Betty, as always, was making doughnuts.
Why would she stop, I supposed, even though
Her husband had died two nights before?
The general store would keep buying her stuff.
People loved those doughnuts, plain as they were.
I could tell she was cooking before I knocked
By smelling the heat of her Fry-O-Lator.
I’d known them forever. No storybook marriage,
But she and Dale for the most part got on,
The way old couples usually manage.
Grease-smoke mixed with that wet dog odor
In the woods, which signals we’ll soon get snow.
Two flickers flushed from behind their trailer.
Dale was suddenly gone. Here then gone.
I pictured his walk, how he reeled like a sailor
After a long-log rolled off a truck
Years back, and turned both femurs to dust.
A three-legged chipmunk ducked under a downed
Dead hemlock. I watched a pigeon slip
Into the loft of their buckling barn.
They felt fitting, these varied signs that boded
Winter. Mind you, I did like Dale,
And would miss him all right. Yet I caught myself,
Surprised and ashamed, in a sort of rehearsal
For Betty of poignant recall and grief,
No matter a small brook cheerfully chimed
A hundred yards off, no matter the field,
Which someone had planted with rye for cover
Through the coming cold, looked green as spring.
Betty called me inside. She was leaning over
Her stove. She smiled and wept at once,
And the tears fell into the bubbling basket,
Each drop hissing and dancing inside.
Life struck me abruptly as both long and short.
“They’re lively anyhow!” Betty cried.