the old charmer, skin tinged green,

hair yellowed by nicotine

wise-cracked with the nurses as they wheeled

him in. His once fine, fierce,

black, probing eyes laced with fear

and drugs, desperate for concealed

diagnosis and prognosis,

 

pierced and probed their gnosis

under comic, courtly cover.

“What a character,” they remarked,

pretending not to see the stark

terror—as they turned him over —

in his good-natured chatter.

Before he had to beg for water.

 

Before the routine biopsy.

Before his dropped wedding ring

clattered under the bed unseen.

 

February 1987

Gorham, Maine

Budem kak solntse!

K. Balmont

let us be like the sun —

slice open pineapples,

catch their yellow nectar

drop by drop as they spin

like stern water wheels in

the white village. Begin

pure labor and welcome

the wooden turn of wheels,

 

apple presses wrung by white

hands under the white sun,

until the pineapple

has become a dry and

wooden orb by the door.

No explosion now of

nectar here from yonder.

So take down the bitter

Fruit; pull the pin; fling it far.

Sept., 1985 Gorham, Maine

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…”

Robert Frost

watch the razor wire.

Cut and wriggle through,

not over or under,

like a thief escaped.

Crime scenes continue

while moaning, eerie howls

hover round like bees.

Cover the baby

in bubble wrap best

you can, but leave holes

for air. Hand her through.

Now you. Remember

to breathe shallow gasps

to filter out dust.

Coughing, crying are

as much as lives are worth.

October 2015

Šibenik, Croatia

familiar tale begun

here, woman via woman, eyes locked,

my new friend admits in

opening if slanted gambit

 

her deflated, common,

irate story. I respond in kind

and we commiserate

guiltily, ashamed at seeing blind.

 

With no excuses tucked

beneath our napkins, neither youth

nor ignorance, we’re stuck

with old fate as bravado to mouth.

 

Like Camus’ four shots,

or Beethoven’s initial sally,

hollow doom booms, shouts

out in testimony, “I met a man.”

Oct. 27, 2015

Šibenik, Croatia

 

the tsar’s mistress, sleepless spirit,

has been dancing on the stars again,

cavorting in the transient,

translucent clouds, wreaking havoc fit

to wake the dead.

 

Rampaging on ungainly pointe,

kicking up her heels and down the moon

like a wrecking doll on the ice -

strewn sea, she smashes it into

heavy shards and sword-edged, sharp splinters.

 

This breathing, heaving creaking,

frozen, blue-bruised wreckage has been

heaped against the shore,

a cold, sculptural arabesque

as thrust stage for the lilac dawn.

 

A faded border on whose slabs are scratched soon -

 

melted laments by a dying swan.

Sansepolcro, Italy

2013

here on this narrow, pine bed,

arrested by, let’s say, discomfort,

I face the shutters’ silhouettes,

bars askew at 45 degrees.

 

It has become so tedious

and close, my dim, six square-meters

where I’m confined in sumptuous

feathers and foam and electric

 

pads night after uneventful

day. Slats of a blinding, sunny

day post the news of sensual

delights elsewhere beyond the back -

 

drop of my cell. As does my bed -

side phone. As does my platonic

lover, Mr. Walkman. Wedded

this time to my faithful illness,

 

the honeymoon is endless.

A veritable dream. Lying

around, waited on by the best

of jailers, overlooking chipped,

 

charmingly derelict, faded

Victorians. A vacation

to die for in everybody’s

favorite city. Curtain down.

March 12, 1994

San Francisco, California