Archive for May 2009

The Antique Power Show

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Each engine finds its rhythm,
Developing three-horse, skirt
Of the piston revealed, oil
Everywhere, red flywheel whirling

In the cooled air, rocker arm
letting off the exhaust, magneto
trips, cuss—explosion, connecting
rod hurling to the turn of the internal

combustion, blue and gold Jaeger
cement mixer, 1889, Fuller & Johnson
washing machine, zealous operators
pushing more hours into the day,

dumping gas to make work easier,
fuel forced into valves to shave
shingles, grind corn, gravity fed
to feed the world, iron wheels

on the Fordson tractor, turning,
turning the ground, rain and sun
and single-stroke, pumping clear
water, moving. No stopping us now.

The Secret

Friday, May 15, 2009

“They embrace.  But they do not know the secret
in the poet’s heart.”
Candida, George Bernard Shaw

He left before their lips met, leaping off
the last stair with relief.  The old impulse
to put the night between himself and
certainty returned.  Their ringed vows

of attention and devotion would provide.
They were not looking for love, but
willingness.  But he was hurrying toward
the dark trees.  He knew that later,

when they were asleep, when the last star
has set the night to silence, he would
look up through the dark and the stillness,
and the new moon would whisper something.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

This is just a rough estimate of what I think
I can do it for, since the apron is cracked
and I can’t tell without digging how far down
the footing goes, if there is one.  Why I’ll do it
I don’t know, except I have to keep everybody
working, and though I have no interest whatsoever
in your homely problem, I’ll start the job next week,
haul away the wall, dig it out, set the forms, then
wait to pour concrete, wait for that to set up,
strip the forms, let it dry, cure the weekend,
then do one step a day for days, like painting
the wall with sky-blue Weld-Crete, then wait for that
to dry before slapping on the scratch coat,
which takes more time to make and clean up
than it does to trowel on, then wait for that to dry
before putting on two more separate coats
of stucco until we reach an inch, hoping all along
that it doesn’t freeze for two days each coat,
and you’ll be wondering what’s taking so long,
and why don’t I just finish, and it’ll look like
nothing got done anyway, and you’ll end up complaining
about a stain on the driveway, or a cracked shingle
where the mixer was within 75’ of the house,
while I wish you never called, or wish again
I’d run away from the job and all jobs like it,
because I knew from the beginning it was a losing
situation, where the bill will always be too high
(“. . . a little more than we expected . . . we talked
about.”) a little better than breaking even for me,
if you count the hours going back and forth,
or the days we’d quit early, rather than going back
to a job or starting something new:  to do something
you can’t see—footings four feet down, ½” steel
in an 8” grid, all tied into the existing foundation.

And you’ll be forever finding the time to send
a check, which will include a 15% markup
on materials, which you’ll scream about, which is
supposed to cover overhead and profit in a real business,
but which is really just a way to keep my backyard
filled with chipped brick and wet bags of cement
and mortar that will tear the next time
I’m heading out to do a small job on the weekend,
while you’re placing a full drink down on the wall,
wondering still if it’s really plumb, level, and true,
while the blue pond spreads a shivery trail to the ocean.

PLEASE PAY $900.00 On Account.
“On account of what?”  On account
of only money wets the mix.


Monday, May 4, 2009

John Mayhew, “Minister of the Gospell to the Inhabitants of Tisbury and Chilmark united,” his gravestone states, settled in Chilmark in 1673 at Quenames.

Otter in middle coomb,
seal each morning, tail
of a deer through the woods—

I must begin, I must
begin again each day new
shocks of light in the chest,

the bud opening as it is formed
from nothing, but the gathering
of what continues, bringing

the word of living in the world
beneath this sky, the world,
slide of the spreading wave,

to bring this world, this word.

The world does not need verse
to be astounding—listen,
and seraphim sing the night:

wait, and the world will rhyme
purple from color into quiet,
like the passing of years,

drifting of the clouds, slant
of the ocean, always the ocean—
a place to begin, a place

to renew, raising soil,
harvesting rain: a world to build,
a word to bring, to begin:

at Quenames, the long fish.
Look, soon dawn will break
over those pushed waves,

heave of a new life.

The Middle Line

Monday, May 4, 2009

“A line drawn straight from a great Rock standing by takemie bound to the middle of a line drawn across the island, and so to the pond . . .”
—Dukes Deeds, III, 435

And so to the pond, and so
to each curve and turn
of brook and stream

in the middle line, in the middle,
nowhere, a beginner, a
green man, a new hand,

an apprentice, trying to crack
the heart of the wood,
voice of the stone, center

of an ocean that topples
rocks from dunes, leaning
on the wind, listening.

Tell me about the Christmas
shipwreck again, the schooner
aground, broken slats and crates,

of fresh oranges, wave after
wave of unreal ornaments,
icing on the frozen sand.

Tell me about the violin
again, how you practiced
while your father split kindling

on the ashy hearth.
Tell me about the spring
lambing, how you watched

your mother swing the new
lamb in wild circles, freeing
air channels to the pound

of the ocean, first breath
under whirling skies.