Prunes

My young friend tells me they now come
individually wrapped like candy. Some
market focus group showed they sold better.
So, musical fruit. Easy BMs. Furtive fiber.
My brother will not ever immerse his fingers
in the water of the hot tub. For hours on end
like a surgeon he holds up his hands, removed
from harm, to keep them smooth. The stigma lingers,
unlike the indigestible in a dried plum – which they’re
calling them these days, because it’s uncool to care
too much about the inner workings of one’s gut.
Most homely and unfashionable of all dried fruit:
oh, forgive our shame. Thank you for your stealth
and sorbitol, and for your contribution to our health.

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Bot

Little larva of the botfly, what
sort of pale soft mooch are you
you whose name we filched, too
to truncate the word for metal wrought

by force into a mind of sorts? Or a hive
of oversimple yeas and nays, who sways
and turns brains to and fro, lends weight
to fame, keeps flesh and ire alive

chews over it long past its date?
Even excreted, you leave a trace
a trail of slime, smear of detritus
testifying to the devoured’s fate.

You pass whole, pupate, having first hectored
what you ate: our innate unholy altered vector.

Mid-October

A fine, crisp slice of moon.
Tomatoes blotchy, furred
now on one side. One chirp
at sunup. The bane and boon
of the fading year. Harvest
and glean and what’s left behind:
rustling stalk and feathered pod,
all that’s sweetest, best, and last.
The roundness of the pumpkin
which houses flesh and seed,
the promise of another round
of vine and fruit with tender skin
that toughens as the summer turns,
but slowly, and even as it burns.

Guest Room

I make up the bed with crimson sheets,
the quilt my great grandmother made.
I leave open the white paper shade
so the sun can warm the wood in slats.
I send a letter saying, “The whole top floor
is entirely yours.” And then I wait for word.
A week. Two. Dust settles on the headboard.
By turns the shadows shift, the light goes meager.
Outside, the last leaves dangle by a thread.
I imagine you nestled beneath the coverlet
or reading in the easy chair, a sleeping cat
across your lap. The yellow lamp stays lit.
All winter I wonder about you, the downy quiet
of the snow outside muffling your slow advent.

The Garden

The garden is without flaw – sylvan, remote, holy.
A place to wait. The wall around it begins slowly
to feel narrower each night than it did before. You start
to wish for some chink to appear, though this would hurt.
You don’t voice that, not aloud. Instead you say, the point
of this life is how to live it. But silently you know: the point
of this life, at its center, is how to leave it. Day after day,
the giraffe couple twine their necks together. The frog pair
leap one over the other over the other over the other,
a Moëbius strip of arcs. The maker comes each evening
to collect his strokes. Why, you wonder, do you begin
to long for something to go awry? The sky above looks clear:
beyond it, you know, there is no limit to what the perfect can bear.

This World

this world will not be healed wholly
it will be healed in pieces, slowly
and with three steps back each time

which will not be enough to save it

don’t try. be in it, say true words and
kind words and bracing and grateful words
and be in it. it is an insoluble problem

it is terminally beautiful
and where you must live

Stranger

Stranger always there in the back row of the theater, one night mid-bow I see you sitting next to my father, so I invite you out for coffee after. It turns out you’ve known him since forever. And known me, too. And also knew his father. Your face is patient: one I might, on some other night, even call kind, if I didn’t know already exactly what you have in mind. Still, there’s no bargaining I can do. I elect at last to sit mutely with you – our common tongue – steam rising in wraiths from your plain dark cup.