The man who fixes my car
came from Jordan,
doesn’t drink booze,
fasts during Ramadan, and
never built a bomb.
The only terrorists he knows are his small children
who behave much the same as mine did at an early age
and a wife that makes him scrub grease from under
his nails before daring to sit down to dinner.
He treats me fair,
does good work,
has never overcharged
anyone I know
for his labor.
I would not kill this man for any god and do not fear
for my life when the oil gets changed in my Ford. I call
him friend and might even loan him money, if I had some.
He would not send a drone to my daughter’s wedding.
The stench of sweat and the hint of blood
The bitter lash of a leather whip and the clatter
of chains in the dark hold of a drowning ship
The death rattle of bumble bees
– COUNTERPOINT –
The melody of nightingales
The wail of a train and the hiss of steam
– Intermezzo –
a river spills over the blistered land
a silk scarf flutters from a barren tree branch
marbles rattle over a tin roof
nightshade flowers an intoxicating death
a crippled man walks around a lake six times,
finally dips his toe in
polyphonic flocks of grackles score the wind
while flowers wheeze below them.
ashes of stars
insane bumper cars at an empty carnival.
A rubber tree moans in the monsoon wind
wet leaves whisper along its limbs
like a lover’s fingernails in the soft coming
of spring and then, charred strings.
The splendid noise of Mingus and his sidemen.
Sorry, Starry Night
Van Gogh saw love for what it was
when he painted those flaming stars
above a sleeping Flemish village
with sweeping brushstrokes of yellow fire
and a barren Cypress tree reaching
from earth to support on the shadows
of its gnarled limbs the falling sky.
It was simply a law of physics in action.
What seems to float in orbit over earth
keeps falling toward its object of desire
as the ground below spins constantly away.
Unpacking My Parents’ House for the Garage Sale
In the attic clutter metastasizes.
labeled “mixed shit” spin
in deadly patterns, stack and rise,
crimp and crumble, bend
and split beyond control.
These contain the dead cells of life
once lived – here, a broken ashtray,
there a worn ball glove, over here
report cards and a dusty shoebox
filled with faded snapshots
of some childhood Christmas
neither my sister nor I can remember.
What use is this folded flag,
symbol for an armistice
no family reaches until death?
What we wish to be true rarely is.
Mothballs swaddle the scent
of my mother’s high school sweater
in a musty shroud of newspaper
and wool blankets.
Above the coos of doves
that nest in eaves and tiptoes of rats
over rafter beams, I pretend to hear
the scratch of vinyl rise from an old ‘78.
Ray Charles and his piano singe
the air with dark blues,
my father’s favorite sound,
as two silhouettes dance, dusty
in the yellow memory of dusk
that has slipped in through the sill
of a single window, never opened,