Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Sometimes I feel I have nothing in common with anyone.
I shamble through the day, dragging my knuckles in the grass,
and each new hour with each new person is a cliff I can’t climb —
yet I know I’m alive now — inside a song as deep as forever,
that stretches to the infinite future and the bottomless past,
connecting every place I’ve lived or nearly died —
and I shouldn’t worry so much about losing what’s most precious,
my simian balance, shaggy fur, bold fleas,
my plentiful fingers and opposable thumbs,
and my curious, glowing, ape-like eyes that still shine
with radiant chaos, wondrous animal calm,
and so much love, for everyone.
Winter winds cold and blea
Chilly blows o’er the lea:
Wander not out to me,
Jenny so fair,
Wait in thy cottage free.
I will be there.
Wait in thy cushioned chair
Wi’ thy white bosom bare.
Kisses are sweetest there:
Leave it for me.
Free from the chilly air
I will meet thee.
How sweet can courting prove,
How can I kiss my love
Muffled in hat and glove
From the chill air?
Quaking beneath the grove,
What love is there!
Lay by thy woollen vest,
Drape no cloak o’er thy breast:
Where my hand oft hath pressed,
Pin nothing there:
Where my head droops to rest,
Leave its bed bare.
Trying to tie my shoes, clumsy, not able to work out
the logic of it, fumbling, as my father stands there,
his anger growing over a son who can’t even do
this simplest thing for the first time, can’t even manage
the knot to keep his shoes on—You think someone’s
going to tie your shoes for you the rest of your life?—
No, I answer, forty-five years later, tying my shoe,
hands trembling with this memory. My father
and all those years of childhood not being able to work out
how he loved me, a knot so tight it has taken all my life
You’re alone. Then there’s a knock
On the door. It’s a word. You
Bring it in. Things go
OK for a while. But this word
Has relatives. Soon
They turn up. None of them work.
They sleep on the floor, and they steal
Your tennis shoes.
You started it; you weren’t
Content to leave things alone.
Now the den is a mess, and the
Remote is gone.
That’s what being married
Is like! You never receive your
Wife only, but the
Madness of her family.
Now see what’s happened?
Where is your car? You won’t
Be able to find
The keys for a week.
Here the highways cross. One heads north. One heads east
and west. On the corner of the square adjacent to the
courthouse a bronze plaque marks the place where two Civil
War generals faced one another and the weaker surrendered.
A few pedestrians pass. A beauty parlor sign blinks. As I turn
to head west, I become the schoolteacher living above the
barber shop. Polishing my shoes each evening. Gazing at the
square below. In time I befriend the waitress at the cafe and
she winks as she pours my coffee. Soon people begin to
talk. And for good reason. I become so distracted I teach my
students that Cleopatra lost her head during the French
Revolution and that Leonardo perfected the railroad at the
height of the Renaissance. One day her former lover returns
from the army and creates a scene at the school. That evening
she confesses she cannot decide between us. But still we spend
one last night together. By the time I pass the grain elevators
on the edge of town I am myself again. The deep scars of love
already beginning to heal.