A Sonnet for FDR’s BusynessHe rode a wooden kitchen chair on wheels.
Spent a year straining: one toe, any toe—move.
Unlegged walker clamping his son’s arm purple.
Out stared five bullets coming toward him.
Of Nazis, knew the Atlantic wasn’t enough
border. Liked being called “Doc” in Warm
Springs, Georgia. Twelve years, one month,
twelve days. “I have a terrific pain in my head.”
You and I will never suffer so long without
lumbar support, or understand the great
performer with his women, or feel world
beloved but abandoned or even his wooden
chair’s shame at being omitted from every
public picture for the crime of being needed.
Lost Animal at the Beach
Couldn’t get into this world . . .
I can hear it crying
When I sit like this away from life.
— Kenneth Patchen
Gulls cry in sunlight.
Would your eyes have searched up there?
A seawall separates
wet sand from white.
I crunch muscle shells every step.
You would have stayed
stuck on sand, spine
injured into your poem.
I recite it on this beach
too rocky for bare feet,
by this dark green water
warm and trapped,
challenging the outboard whine
of a slalomer knifing up
fountains toward shore.
Why do I savor the silence
I pour like sand
into the pause before
“away from life?”
Bottomless, raw edged,
an opening breath can’t bind.
heals the poem.
Still, I’ve carried it this far.
It stands an instant midair.
Falls as a gull dives.
Boulders close in.
A small fire breathes.
Reading Outside and InReading can mean ladder high in the Strand’s
narrow aisles, I listen to book spines, canyons
of echoes, suspended like a radio wave
oscillating between points of silent speech.
Can mean staring into the boutique once
the Rare Book Room, where I’d go in leather
jacket thin as a lady’s glove. Herbert Huncke
patted my chest, “I want to steal it.” Owl-eyed
Ginsberg sucked up noodles from a Chinese
bowl. Can even be me returning to my lobby,
electric doors opening, my doorman hunched
over the Daily News. His finger traces a line.
Lips touch every word. Not asking, “What kind
of animal does such a thing?,” because he knows.
A Response to Stevens on Library Way in Manhattan
Preference? Innuendo. Not for beauty. Need:
The empty hydrant whispers, “Are you safe?”