His Bathrobe Pockets
Stuffed with Notes
Talking about her brother, Morris, Tess said:
“The night always catches him. He never
believes it’s coming.”
That time I broke a tooth on barbecued ribs.
I was drunk. We were all drunk.
The early sixteenth-century Belgian painter called,
for want of his real name,
“The Master of the Embroidered Leaf.”
Begin the novel with the young married couple
getting lost in the woods, just after the picnic.
Those dead birds on the porch when I opened up
the house after being away for three months.
The policeman whose nails were bitten to the quick.
Aunt Lola, the shoplifter, rolled her own dad
and other drunks as well.
Dinner at Doug and Amy’s. Steve ranting, as usual,
about Bob Dylan, the Vietnam War, granulated sugar,
silver mines in Colorado. And, as usual, just
as we sit down the phone rings and is passed around
the table so everyone can say something. (It’s Jerry.)
The food grows cold. No one is hungry anyway.
“We’ve sustained damage, but we’re still able
to maneuver.” Spock to Captain Kirk.
Remember Haydn’s 104 symphonies. Not all of them
were great. But there were 104 of them.
The rabbi I met on the plane that time who gave me comfort
just after my marriage had broken up for good.
Chris’s story about going to an AA meeting where
a well-to-do family comes in — “freaked out,”
her words — because they’ve just been robbed at gunpoint.
Three men and a woman in wet suits. The door to their
motel room is open and they are watching TV.
“I am disbanding the fleet and sending it back
to Macedonian shores.”
Alexander the Great
Don’t forget when the phone was off the hook
all day, every day.
The bill collector (in Victoria, B.C.) who asks
the widow is she’d like it if the bailiff dug up
her husband and repossessed the suit he was buried in.
“Your bitter grief is proof enough.”
Mozart, Act II, scene 2
La Clemenza di Tito
The woman in El Paso who wants to give us her furniture.
But it’s clear she is having a nervous breakdown.
We’re afraid to touch it. Then we take the bed, and a chair.
Duke Ellington riding in the back of his limo, somewhere
in Indiana. He is reading by lamplight. Billy Strayhorn
is with him, but asleep. The tires hiss on the pavement.
The Duke goes on reading and turning the pages.
I’ve got — how much longer?
Enough horsing around!
(All of Us: The Collected Poems, Vintage Contemporaries, 2000)