"Counterpoint" & Other Poems


Those were the ​knocks​ of spirits—
arpeggiating the dawn with dull heat,
requesting your​ ​arousal:
the same ones snapping the light
into our cufflinks on the sill—
spirits who meant no harm.

All they wanted was a love poem,
or a decorative salute.
They didn’t know how you wrote—
nibbling my ear in bed,
disclaiming your best stories,
transcribing the discord
of Harlem and the radiator;
like two portraits
by the same artist,
utterly blind to one another.

Most days, I inclined to say nothing.
I let you write past each other,
flood our little room with sound.
But chaos soon becomes
a conversation—the meter smiled.
A grid now held the light with music,
and all of you.

Silent at the table—unmoored—
I’d poorly sketch the table,
the bowl of mandarins, the orchids,
trying to enact that syncopation.
Once, I even held a pistil to my eyes
until I wet the petals, sneezing.
But no calling came. Unvisited
by our gentle neighbors,
it would only be the cool gut feeling
that outlasted us—
I could never understand you.

In Central Illinois

Dull ​thwacks​ of Christmas sausage
dead woods behind the window
and the coyote who occasions
in the yard but never lingers—
nothing resounds, and nothing distracts
from the late-morning blather.
Everything must reconfigure—
A double bed by the kitchenette,
where they can gather: that would work,
I say. They could bring their sausage!
Fat sparrows on the windows,
and the woods would be the blinds.
Grandmother could keep those
azure china plates, high and
hideous on the walls. A song would play—
one of mine—and a bleak verse
would be recited. Nothing
left written down. And
when the birds begin to wail
their pangs and invocations
and Death becomes a swelling,
the final cry should be ​resounding:​
“It should have been autumn—I cannot die alone!”
Then they must read everything again—

Sink-Pot, Hot-Pot

By the lamp on this desk,
I’ve been ​HUMMING​ and ​DRUMMING​!
Beneath any light
my fingers often look like
long and spooky men. But
last night we all went to the “drawing board” –
that field with itchy grass,
where the birds pound
pomegranate seeds into the soil.
Some of us studied the birds;
others cut “straight to the chase”
and began gnawing at the ground. But
the sheer resilience: by early morning
we fracked enough blood to make a soup.
All it took were teeth and patience—
no fists, no sound. So tonight, I say,
“I am allergic to what I look like.”
And look—the pot imparts
the inimitable sentiment:
Joy (yes)! Matter of light, or desk!

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