An Earful

 

He’s carrying a large watermelon home

from the cooperative in a mesh bag.

Carrying a watermelon,

say two girls with lots of red lipstick

who giggle and jab each other,

look back to see if he’s heard.

 

                            *

After a massage, relaxed and smelling of rose oil,

he walks with strangers past a drunk,

who scrunches up his nose:

One of you is wearing too much perfume.

 

                            *

His hand is on his big straw hat

on a hot breezy day, when an old lady

crosses the avenue against him:

Wrong day for a hat like that.

 

Three little black boys call out

where they dance in the hydrant spray:

Are you gay?

Chasing after him

areyougay areyougay

Blocks away their cries like wild birds

areyougay areyougay areyougay                                    

 

                            *

He’s cutting fresh coriander, and out

the summer window light rain

makes yarrow bend into the dirt.

                            

Wind chimes, thunder, dog-bark.

 

Neighbor’s voice, tired and soft:

Yeah, bark at God,

see where that gets you.

Finding Paul Monette, Losing Him

 

It’s just two days since I read you

two days since your Elegies for Rog grabbed me

in the stacks at the Brooklyn branch

grief eating through the binding like dragon blood

dripping through four stone floors

into the charming restaurant in the basement

I checked you out and brought you home

so I could love you and pity him in private

and cry for him and you and myself

I never burned up grief or anger with such song

never came within two bow-lengths of the paradise

of men’s hearts open to one another

I’ll check you out again and again

I think I’ll steal you

I don’t want to release you back to circulation

I study your picture on the sleeve for signs of sickness

search the flyleaf for year of publication

could you have survived 1987

so long ago dangerous year

to be a sick fag in America

In the cafe at the gay bookstore

I’m afraid to ask Do you know Monette

Did he make it The boys are so young

thumbing through pages of naked men

putting them back dogeared The boy

behind the counter doesn’t read poetry

I’m afraid of hope as I walk

to the back of the store PLEASE BE ALIVE

PLEASE BE among the M’s I run my hand

along the spines Maupin McClatchy Melville

until it rests on yours

I tear you open the suspense killing me

please please be living with the dogs

in the canyons somewhere north of Malibu

writing every day doing well on the new drugs

sleeping like spoons with a guy named

Peter Kenneth Michael or Gustavo

Your picture is harder thinner

face lined eyelids sagging “novelist poet essayist

AIDS activist who died”                     

                                                     You’re gone then

I’ve made it to the future a few years further

but who knows if I’ll reach your forty-nine

why bother reading your book anymore

what difference do poems make or love

So this is your last face a fox and rabbit kissing

even dead your name earns a “face-out”

guarantees those big sales

who gets the money now

YOU JERK FUCK YOU

ridiculous to die so close to a cure

renders you me us absurd

shameful irresponsible

how quaint to die of this they’ll think in 2030

how nostalgically sepia-toned and old-timey

like dying of the flu for godssake or the clap

like talking on a windup telephone or

buying ice for the icebox

                                                    On the Net later

I cruise a guy who says he knew you

when you tried to live and love again with Winston

I’m hungry to hear anything about you

but he interrupts with a reflection of his cock

in a hand mirror in a garden of red hibiscus

so for a moment I almost easily forget my love

my love of two days

two days in which you were born loved wrote grieved died

 

Oh God in whom you never for one moment believed

will I still have time

Poems from The Charge, Ausable Press, 2003 (since 2009 part of Copper Canyon Press).

 

Daylight Has Been Saved by Time Again

 

                       and now the late April

of the second summer of my fifties is already beginning to burn.

                       GET UP AND EARN

SOME MONEY is what that light, too much light, says, and also

                       MILLIONS OF PEOPLE

HAVE BEEN UP FOR HOURS. I know they have, they always have,

                       every time I keep

an appointment at eight I am astonished at the number of people

                       already on the road.

You lie lazy and came late to every phase, a voice like my old father’s

                       seems to allege.

“But,” I want to argue with the light, “though I came late, I came.”

                       There were years

in the 90s when it looked like I’d rush from spring to winter,

                       with the rest of my brothers

of the bars and baths and groves of reeds crushed into mazes.

                       Then I circled back

to have late spring, a real adolescence, even as others were wiping

                       their mouths of that meal.

Is it greedy then to request late summer, even early autumn?

                       To ask for a harvest, the wheat

ground so fine you could hold bread to the light and read through it?

                       Now summer and the work

of that light begin to press down like a kind of war on the earth,

                       and the real war lowers over us

its magnifying glass, and O my brothers of the bars and baths

                       and groves of reeds crushed into mazes,

who ate metal when the wood ought to have been green and then sank

                       under the frozen water:

let me rise to work, because there’s too much light to sleep.

 

Poem from Nocturnes of the Brothel of Ruin, Four Way Books, 2012.