Proposal

Waiting for Whales

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

So wide a dream, so
warm and dry the hand
of my father holding

my young girl hand.
How long did we stand,
staring at those waves?

Do you see the whale,
dear, do you see it right
there—a humpback whale!

Yes, yes, I do, let’s
stay here forever and
see if we can see them.

May the Hills

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May, and the hills
May the hills
May the hills receive you
May the hills revive you

The sweet grass
The sweet grass rolling
Surge of wind
Reaching our hearts

The hills are green
The hills green again
The herring are running
Shadbush in bloom

Half-house on the hill
New lambs in the grass
The tide is in
Walk to the water

These hills, these waves, this town.

Tombaugh’s Discovery

Saturday, April 3, 2010

This poem pays tribute to Eugene T. Maleska, the crossword puzzle editor of The New York Times from 1977 – 1993

for Nikki Langer

The train rattles west of New Haven past eglantine
(sweetbrier), deerberry, calla lily, larkspur
to the city I love, amo, amas, hadj destination,
Mecca for I.M. Pei, commedia dell’arte—
the sunken rooms of elegant apartments, Goyas,
Gauguins on permanent loan—Eero Saarinen’s tulip!

We’re here, we’re happy, so clear, clean, saber
of intelligent air: simpatico, Sacra Romana,
sabra, stark symmetry of darkened windows,
three stairs, then hitch your wagon to a star—
Trish Van Devere, Piper Laurie, Annie Potts,
Teri Garr, and the night has a thousand eyes.

Here they speak our language, vox populi,
adagio, slow ballet of inferred inclusion—
they may be red, they may be liberal. When
we arrive, peer through to the oda, harem room,
diaphanous veil of Olivia de Havilland: to be
in Brest, the soft roll of, the mere heave is

majestic as she laughs—it’s nothing to her, all
part of a song, “Love’s Old Sweet . . . all love is sweet.”
Hosannas, glad tidings, light from water and simple
events: each day a tabula rasa, a kind of a graph, looking
for a word, a world east of the Caspian Sea,
where Bremen’s river, Weser, can empty into Erne.

We measure in decimeters, tackle Hamelin’s problem.
The others are deceived, defrauded, defrocked, dreading
arson or arrow poison, a heckler’s missile, larceny,
a fissure, a crack, a rift, a fissure, a parting,
a cleft, a fissure, a break, lesion, a fissure which
we embrace, a division which we treasure.

Somewhere in a pleasant world where Pedro thirsts,
where Pierre protects his noggin, dada, agua, tete,
we sip a perfect martini, find a crème brulee better
than in any arrondissement in Paris. Pekoe tea is
served, Malacca cane, dates, cakes and ale, a nip
at the bar and English cheese, a gin addition.

A North African weight falls in units of acceleration:
gals—Ella, Edna, Edie in Cassini suits dazzle
the assembled: “Youth is a gift of nature, age is
a work of art.” “I could a tale unfold whose
lightest word . . .” Paul Anka in a tribute to Alan Jay
Lerner. Is that Avita or Clara, Fernando or Lorenzo?

Solano through the transoms and slate entrances—
Eris, Goddess of Discord, Irene, Goddess of Peace,
worshipping at the astronomical altar, ara, angel arms,
levels of sacred anagrams—Ino, mystical princess,
Aeneas, son of Aphrodite, by Jove, Juno’s husband,
Jupiter, outermost orb, Pluto, Tombaugh’s discovery.

The sky is like a city at night, the city like a museum,
museum like a party, an opening where Arlo and Oona
show . . . among the impresarios, protagonists, chums,
companions, pals and partners, a boy in Barcelona:
Magic moves across the lane and pulls down a rebound.
We print to fit base hits on the scorecard—Yastrzemski

with two outs in the ninth, pops to third, Graig Nettles,
and we all go home. Home to arias by the soprano,
Erna Berger, the tenor, Leo Slezak, home to the novel
we’re writing mentioning Debussy’s La Mer, Mimi
in La Boheme, writing for the marketplace, agora,
first impression to fourth dimension, ending with a line

from T.S. Eliot, or Maya Angelou, Countee Cullen,
or Pablo Neruda, Andean breezes for the poets:
“I lived on air . . .” Frost. Yes Shubert used Rilke,
but how does anything like Ulysses get written?
And who is more alluring, Actress Ekberg
or Hardy’s Tess, Emma Thompson or Halle Berry?

Hitting a Three-Pointer

Friday, March 12, 2010

Notes on “Good!”

March Madness: it was wonderful hearing my basketball poem, “Good!” on the radio today, two days before Selection Sunday (when the teams are seeded) and less than a week before games begin in the NCAA Tournaments. It’s a fourteen line poem on Jack Kerouac’s birthday, and I’m happy to see it and happy to have it read on NPR by Garrison Keillor for The Writer’s Almanac. The poem appears in Proposal, but also was chosen by North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, to appear in the anthology We Came to Play, Writings on Basketball, along with selections from John Updike, John Feinstein, John McPhee, Bill Russell and Bill Bradley. It’s like hitting a three-pointer: it’s good.

Good!

Friday, March 12, 2010

The ball goes up off glass and rebounded
down the court, outlet flung to the quick guard
like clicking seconds: he dribbles, hounded
by hands, calls the play, stops short, looking hard
for a slant opening, fakes it twice, passes
into the center—he lobs to the small
forward, top of the key, a pick: asses
crash (the pick & roll), he cuts, bumps, the ball
reaches him as he turns, dribbles, sends it
back to the baseline, forward back to him,
jumps—and in midair, twisting, he bends it
over a tangle of arms—SHOOTS, the rim
rattles as it jerks against the back joints,
and into the net, trippingly drop two points.


About this poem