Sunday, January 1, 2012

This Heavy Carcass I Derive from Yours Is Tutelage of Love, and Yet Each Year Though Older Another Notch I Still Cannot Stand to Reach You, or to Emigrate from the Monolithic Shadow You Left


Philip Appleman

(the way bed is in winter, like an aproned lap,   
    like furry mittens,
    like childhood crouching under tables)
The Ninth Day of Xmas, in the morning black   
outside our window: clattering cans, the whir   
of a hopper, shouts, a whistle, move on ...   
I see them in my warm imagination
the way I’ll see them later in the cold,
heaving the huge cans and running
(running!) to the next house on the street.

My vestiges of muscle stir
uneasily in their percale cocoon:
what moves those men out there, what
drives them running to the next house and the next?   
Halfway back to dream, I speculate:
The Social Weal? “Let’s make good old
    Bloomington a cleaner place
    to live in—right, men? Hup, tha!
Healthy Competition? “Come on, boys,
    let’s burn up that route today and beat those dudes   
    on truck thirteen!”
Enlightened Self-Interest? “Another can,
    another dollar—don’t slow down, Mac, I’m puttin’
    three kids through Princeton?”
Or something else?

A half hour later, dawn comes edging over   
Clark Street: layers of color, laid out like
a flattened rainbow—red, then yellow, green,
and over that the black-and-blue of night   
still hanging on. Clark Street maples wave   
their silhouettes against the red, and through   
the twiggy trees, I see a solid chunk   
of garbage truck, and stick-figures of men,   
like windup toys, tossing little cans—
and running.

All day they’ll go like that, till dark again,   
and all day, people fussing at their desks,   
at hot stoves, at machines, will jettison
tin cans, bare evergreens, damp Kleenex, all   
things that are Caesar’s.

O garbage men,
the New Year greets you like the Old;   
after this first run you too may rest
in beds like great warm aproned laps
and know that people everywhere have faith:   
putting from them all things of this world,   
they confidently bide your second coming.


Kim Addonizio

The rain this morning falls   
on the last of the snow

and will wash it away. I can smell   
the grass again, and the torn leaves

being eased down into the mud.   
The few loves I’ve been allowed

to keep are still sleeping
on the West Coast. Here in Virginia

I walk across the fields with only   
a few young cows for company.

Big-boned and shy,
they are like girls I remember

from junior high, who never   
spoke, who kept their heads

lowered and their arms crossed against   
their new breasts. Those girls

are nearly forty now. Like me,   
they must sometimes stand

at a window late at night, looking out   
on a silent backyard, at one

rusting lawn chair and the sheer walls   
of other people’s houses.

They must lie down some afternoons   
and cry hard for whoever used

to make them happiest,   
and wonder how their lives

have carried them
this far without ever once

explaining anything. I don’t know   
why I’m walking out here

with my coat darkening
and my boots sinking in, coming up

with a mild sucking sound   
I like to hear. I don’t care

where those girls are now.   
Whatever they’ve made of it

they can have. Today I want   
to resolve nothing.

I only want to walk
a little longer in the cold

blessing of the rain,   
and lift my face to it.


W.S. Merwin

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible


Mary Karr

On this first dark day of the year
      my daddy was born lo
these eighty-six years ago who now
      has not drawn breath or held
bodily mass for some ten years and still   
      I have not got used to it.
My mind can still form to that chair him   
      whom no chair holds.
Each year on this night on the brink
      of new circumference I stand and gaze
towards him, while roads careen with drunks,   
      and my dad who drank himself
away cannot be found. Daddy, I’m halfway   
      to death myself. The millenium
hurtles towards me, and the boy I bore   
      who bears your fire in his limbs
follows in my wake. Why can you not be   
      reborn all tall to me? If I raise my arms
here in the blind dark, why can you not   
      reach down now to hoist me up?
This heavy carcass I derive from yours is   
      tutelage of love, and yet each year
though older another notch I still cannot stand   
      to reach you, or to emigrate
from the monolithic shadow you left.