where piny cliffs tumble
to the combed spray and pocketed sand,
and will there be books?
Flat on my back after a day's false labor
I want a comma cove inside,
all wild breakers far away, safe beyond the broken rocks.
I want no country.
I want no palmed jurisdiction.
Where I live, where I really live,
every can and bag and box has its place.
Each cheap bottle and all reusable jars are sorted.
Every chair just so and our few things are arranged.
I have no say. I live by design, someone else's design.
I live in her rooms, and in all her days. My schedule is set
by hers and hers and hers and hers
and yous and thems.
I am fitted in. I am allotted.
I end each day peering at ugly prose,
at treachery and canker and pretense
and history recanted.
I look for soaked bulbs hiding in soiled words.
I look for a slip of clean green, pushing up.
Don't look at me that way.
Don't think about me at night. I cannot bear it.
My life is rented out by the hour and I never catch up;
tick away, tock gone, tick vanish, tock dissolve.
The mystery is how I am still upright.
Now I work, now I sleep, now I work, now I sleep,
and the benefit goes to
you my first child, you my second child, you my third child,
my three grown daughters,
and now of course I say: I will never give up.
and now of course I say: I will never compromise
my promise to walk this way and sit this way,
and see this, and eat that, and clean up my crumbs and appreciate.
A day I do not compromise is a day I steal a peach from
you three I love, more than sun and breath,
more than books and words.
You are the reason I work, until I dry up and end,
all for my green slip girls. It is what men do.
I say don't look at me. I say don't think about me at night.
I work and then I lie down and I read until I forget my day.
My hand shakes and xanax xanax and I douse the light
of the little lamp and pull the pillow over my head and I pretend.
Now I lay me
down and prone,
a vacuum in a drawstring bag,
and I unclench and pretend.
I pretend to counterpane, a little boy among boys
I push dreadnaught hot wheels
with chromantic hands in the chill grass.
We have tiny estates down among
the white roots and brown dead stems
at eye level,
at mower height,
and though I bend and lower and lie
in the lovely stain of green
the green I loved so
so long ago
it is not the same
because I am old.
No matter how I trace
my E-type crushed-roof bent wheel Jaguar,
or vroom an incantation or
pretend it is still here in my smooth boy hand,
and I am still the spring-legged and bandy-calfed boy,
it is not the same.
I am blunt end and and sag and paper in my bed,
because I am old.
The boy is gone.
O he is all but gone
at most a sly whisper in my mouth
a lift of breeze from a June window
cracked open after midnight
he is a tremor, a shiver in our order and pattern,
and for a moment
I hear a lowering clack and moan,
a Kansas freight pulled by holy grandfathers
taking the boy away,
a boy I pretend to hear,
a song gone.
I am regulated, yes I am. I am old. Too poor for vacation. A success at staying busy, and pouring nickels into your worthy hands. Your long-fingered and beautiful hands. I am an ape in an old overcoat, warm for an evening. You are kites of color and light.
I don't really care where everything goes. You decide. It's just this thing: I work, I sleep. I dare not stop. I dare not.
I love you. I will not make a scene. If you but ask I will wade out and roll your trousers up, like before, so you can walk safely in the sea, the sea that laps your tower in the cove, the tower where you have books, your books full of water and roots and good earth and new florets, all pushing up.
I do not drown. I rest.