The Honey Room

Brother Al, in his hood,
is out in his field
making love to his bees.
From my room I can see him
move through his hives
the way people should move
among people.
The bees give him gold and the gold
turns orange in the jars
that he sells in a room
near the door of the abbey.
The Honey Room, everyone calls it.
Besides Brother Al, only I
go into that room full of honey.
I go in there and bend
and look through the jars
on the shelves and the sills
till there in the orange I see Sue
standing straight
in a field of her own
with a smile
for our garland of children.

In Break Formation

The indications used to come
like movie fighter planes in break
formation, one by one, the perfect
plummet, down and out. This time they’re
slower. But after supper, when I hear her 
in the kitchen hum again, hum higher, 
higher, till my ears are numb, 
I remember how it was
the last time: how she hummed
to Aramaic peaks, flung
supper plates across the kitchen
till I brought her by the shoulders
humming to the chair.
I remember how the final days
her eyelids, operating on their own,
rose and fell, how she strolled
among the children, winding tractors,
hugging dolls, how finally
I phoned and had them come again, 
how I walked behind them
as they took her by the shoulders,
house dress in the breeze, slowly
down the walk and to the curbing,
how I watched them bend her 
in the back seat of the squad again,
how I watched them pull away
and heard again the parliament
of neighbors talking.

McDiver’s Creek

Autumn’s over.
Wheatcake odors flood the wood

front porch. Andrew Block,
in mackinaw and overalls,

tamps first tobacco of the day
and estimates his morning.

In an open field beyond McDiver’s Creek
a colt, palomino apricot and snow, 

nips grass between great gallops 
and the shock of trees.

New Girl

Light ambrosia of the sun
is over all of her.
She is shy

the way the flicker
pink of rabbit eye
is shy. Within the

almond hair, cliffs
of cheek round in, where
unifies her chin.

There, two birds meet before
they carry out her smile.

That Greyhound Station

This woman
I am interviewing,
one of her front teeth
crosses over the other
and sticks out like a leg
crossed over the other.
Otherwise I would hire her;
I am certain of that.
But she reminds me too much
of that Greyhound station
at three in the morning.
There, alone on a bench,
across from me still,
her little dress up,
skulls of bare knees,
hillbilly child waiting.

The Man Who Lives in the Gym

St. Procopius College
Lisle, Illinois
after World War II

The man who lives in the gym
sleeps in a nook up the stairs
to the rear. Since Poland 
he's slept there, his tools
bright in a box locked 

under his bed. At noon bells
call him down to the stones
that weave under oaks to the abbey
where he at long table takes 
meals with the others 
the monks have let in 

for a week, or a month, or a year
or forever, whatever 
the need. The others all know
that in Poland his wife
had been skewered, his children
partitioned, that he had escaped

in a freight car of hams.
So when Brother brings in, on a gun
metal tray, orange sherbet for all
in little green dishes,
they blink at his smile,
they join in his laughter. 

Those Poems, That Fire

I stood in the alley, still
in pajamas, somebody’s shoes,
another man’s coat, my eyes
on the bronc of the hoses.
Squawed in the blankets of neighbors,
my wife and three children sipped
chocolate, stood orange and still.
Of the hundred or more I had stored
in a drawer, I could remember,
comma for comma, no more than four,
none of them final,
all of them fetal.

Love Is Another Thing

Sitting at the table
spinning the creamer
running her fingers through sugar
the kids spilled at supper, Sue

suddenly says, “Don,
love is another thing.”
Since love is another thing
I have to go rent a room,

leave behind eight years,
five kids, the echoes of me
raging at noon on the phone,
raging at night, the mist

of whose fallout ate her skin,
ate her bones, left her a kitten
crying high in an oak
let me free, let me free

Love and Slaughter

Sheep are by a goat while
cattle are like swine, prodded, yet
cattle go by hammer while
swine are by the hind leg hung
then swung about to spigot.
Quicker, infinitely cleaner, is
the hacksaw of sweet Susan’s laughter.

Mop Woman

Near dwarf this woman.
Foreign born. Minsk,
perhaps. Nose

a fist. Hair
a whisk broom
only black. Her back

an Orthodox cupola,
her arms braids of gym rope
lowered to the floor.

Orangutans could climb
those ropes, hand
over hand, no rose

no purple
on their hinds.

Near dwarf this woman.
Foreign born. Minsk,

Her hands, all gristle,
hang an inch, no more,
above her shining floor.


Tomorrow morning when I wake
it’ll be the nurse who’s crazy.
I’ll heave my body up
on its elbows and yell
in her ear, “It’s time for your pill.
Get dressed. Breakfast is ready

in the Day Room. Juice, rolls, bacon, eggs.
You’ll find a tray with your name on it,
faces you know, a chance for conversation.
Eat each meal at a different table.
Mingle. Before you can get out of here,
you have to love all the faces you hate.”

Lines for a Female Psychiatrist

Perhaps when I’m better I’ll discover
you aren’t married, after all,
and I should be better by Spring.

On that day I’ll walk
down Michigan Avenue
and up again along the Lake,
my back to the wind, facing you,
my black raincoat buttoned to the neck,
my collar a castle wall
around my crew cut growing in.

Do you remember the first hour?
I sat there unshaven,
a Martian drummed from his planet,
ordered never to return.

With your legs crossed, 
you smoked the longest cigarette
and blinked like a child when I said,
“I’m distracted by your knee.”

The first six months you smoked
four cigarettes a session
as I prayed out my litany of escapades,
each detail etched perfectly in place.

The day we finally changed chairs 
and I became the patient 
and you the doctor,
you knew that I didn’t know
where I had been, 
where I was then,
and even though my hair 
had begun to grow in
how far I'd have to go 
before I could begin. 

My Fiance Visits My Father’s House

The two Gibraltars in the yard
never were delivered.
They have always been there.
The twenty years I lived there

the neighbors never said a word.
Their shrieks would shatter both
if they could see them.
The redwood fence my father built

is tall enough to cover his.
It will be tall enough, he swears,
in time to cover mine.
My father says before he dies

he’ll sell his own Gibraltar
and leave the house, the yard,
the redwood fence to me
to guarantee that I keep mine.

Poem for Mother, Poem for Dad

They weren’t talking at all, back then.
Deep in that house, conceiving their dwarfs,
they weren’t talking at all, back then.

And they’re not talking at all, right now.
Still in that house, rearing their dwarfs,
they’re not talking at all, right now.

And they won’t be talking again.
When the dwarfs break out they’ll stay in that house,
not moving, not talking again.

Whole and Steaming

Dingle, Ireland

The bathroom carpet,
wall to wall, is blue,
the lightest blue,
to complement
the bowl and ceiling.

Apropos the moment: 
I bend the waist
and heave the gristle
from last evening's steak.

Tomorrow I shall row again
to see those ancient men
in caps and coveralls
stand like statues
while they talk
and tap gold embers
from clay pipes
forever glowing. 

I'll go there
at the dinner hour
and see them once again
fork potatoes,
whole and steaming,
from big kettles filled
at dawn by crones
forever kerchiefed
and forever bent.

At dawn you hear 
these women
sing their hymns
like seraphim
a cappella
as they genuflect and dip
big black kettles
in the sometimes still
sometimes foaming sea.


If one could store them
in the attic without stir
and turn to other things,

to picking fruit, perhaps,
or seeding it, one could afford
the dalliance of an hour

for one would have the years
one knows will not be those
whose paralytic youth has just begun,

the years whose summer plea
for laughter and for kiss
somersault the hair

and scimitar the smile: the years
the sun, the moon, the stars
can never order stop.