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TO A REPEAT OFFENDER
It was never like anything you imagined
from a television familiarity with ERs
ORs and ICUs, never on schedule,
orderly just in the nick of time
but with a touch of humor, comic relief
always ready in the wings. For one thing
there was always too much noise
and damaged bodies gave off fluids
messy, even repulsive, if you didn’t know
what to expect. The four
times you were there you never got used
to the uproar, the loudspeaker,
doctors racing from cubicle to cubicle,
peripatetic police, harried nurses,
all in service to the temple of the body,
its personal soap, the one life to live
you were always so intent on throwing away.
Webster must have known big words hurt
less than the small venomous yellow jackets
of lesser ones that spoke their minds
and didn’t care who heard,
which is why in “perorate” you find
a synonym for “talk” and “circumlocution”
hides a way to walk around and around
what it is you want to say
so that when the wasps would sting
with his “Go away, Leave me alone!”
and you wish he had chosen to circumnavigate
your feelings, Webster’s Registered Word-nurse
springs to her duty: “Perambulate
from the domicile,” her gentle urge is, offering
aloe to a burn. “He is fugaciously recusant.”
It is not aloe you want, but no burn,
but the stinger is in and must be removed
and so you tweeze and lotion
with words of soft vowels, cushions,
no sharp edges or plosives, comforting yourself.
He comes around by evening, contrite
as you cook, puts his arms
around your trembling shoulders,
his chin in your neck, says the two short words
that are white moths fluttering
near your anger, taking that risk to say,
PHONE CALL AFTER MIDNIGHT
(With thanks to Billy Collins for the first 5 words)
The wires of the night carry soft voices
worried voices, voices thick with tears
that murmur If only... over and over.
They string the continent, connecting
1 am to 4 am souls of the dark night
when telephones ring only terrible news and heartbreak.
The wires of the night whisper I’m sorry, It’s too late,
I’m leaving, She’s dead, through cold dark veins
of neither stars nor blood,
Beantown to Carson City, LA to Disney World.
No pinch or sting changes the stark facts
of the nighttime call, despair or grief--
something over at 3 am is still over in the morning.
The wires of the night are lonely, singing their songs
to sleeping birds, to time rushing east to west,
from then to now, what was before to what is after,
the living and the dead, the wires of the night.
The wires of the night sleep harmlessly,
humming dreams of charmed quarks, strange attractors
until the click of a phone after midnight
wakes them to the worst news
someone doesn’t want to hear.
LOVE IN THE SAHARA...
A New Jersey beach rather, sun,
seaweeds braided with shells flung up
by the dirty ocean and a wedding
under a striped canopy, white and black.
“Love in the Sahara” is the title
of a poem by Mr. B. Collins.
I wonder what he made out of it.
Was his Sahara the real thing? His love?
In my poem a couple marries quickly
because horseflies unexpectedly interrupt
the loveliness and plunge them
into a marriage of more trials and errors
than either of them bargained for.
I do not know yet if I will let it survive.
I myself never married, never had a love
I could call “my love” in Jersey
let alone the Sahara. I’ve loved cats and books,
friends and family, but no love of my life
enraptured by heat and sand, never
never left me high and dry.