Poetry

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Beowulf

Venturing closer,
his talon was raised to attack Beowulf
where he lay on the bed;
Seamus Heaney

Grendel’s talon like the tooth of a sickle
to slice through the stalks of a Viking

The tempest in the wheat fields
makes the long stalks strong

Thieves jammed in between the slats
their legs and arms pinioned

The strong right hand of a pilferer
hacked and hacked with a scimitar

The left-handed man
slinks as an outcast

thrown among the dung piles
growing inside the city

Our heroes are buried
to much trumpet fanfare

The crash of twenty-one
gun salutes

Wartime Solstice

The black bayonets reflect little flash
with no effect on the calamitous crash

Of dying aspens ripped by the blow
of mischiefy winds herding snow

The songs of the rifles die in the rip
as caroling night storms clatter and nip

The leaves from the trees in the morning light
while we cower like coveners afraid of last night

Understanding

In the restaurant in Cortona
antipasti
little purple artichokes
pesce
carne

pasta
vino
A long waiter named Piero
erect at the balcony
points out over the Valdichiana
Tutti
he says tutti
as he turns and spreads his arms over our table
like an old archbishop blessing a sacrament

Everything on this table
raised in this valley Valdichiana
where the river that ran when Machiavelli came
in his coach drawn by four white horses
now all gone to hay
(he doesn’t say it like this—this is what we understand)

Manor houses
with stucco flaking off
and poppies the color
of blood

Old churches cut from quarried stone
dark like our roasted beef
And the hay rolled up and stacked by tractors
with forks fashioned for grabbing

The birds we do not know the names of soar
in the early summer heat
and watch the day sull up with rain
The storm arrives and batters the awnings
and crashes among the olive trees
eight hundred years old

An aged convent
walls as thick as a donjon’s keep
Cool air later
in the night
purple sweet peas and scent of pink roses

Obituary

The day I got the phone call
I’d been out buying crates of Rome apples
tasting the bite that spread across my tongue
and swelled into my palate
the space between my gums and teeth
Both tart and sweet

Life comes at us daily
thin as the wings of an Arctic tern

We stacked the boxes
of apples in the back of the van
and rode home
through the juniper and piñon
up up to the top of the world
to the small cabin
beneath the Douglas firs
where after the stellar jay
screamed at me
the phone jingled
and I heard you were dead

Tart the bite that spread across my tongue
and swelled into the space between
my teeth and gums

Here now I am speaking to you
as if memory peregrinates
on the wings
of great blue herons

After all these years
Sweet and tart

All This Worldwide Tension Should Become a Famous Movie

In the picture show
At the age of six
I saw
Padre Malden knock Brando out
Beer bottles on the bar
And whiskey in the mirror
The dank streets
of New York City outside

Right then to me a six year old kid
it felt like Padre Malden could wade
through the highest heavens of hell
and knock Old Nibs on his ass

Nothing is worse
than to see one of your heroes (Marlon)
get ka-boomed on the noggin
and have to repent his weaknesses

Marlon went out and took knuckles to Lee J Cobb
bruising and brash
and it seemed like Marlon
would lose
and at the same time win

Sometimes your fists can be that way
one knuckle in
one knuckle out
gashes on the face
a bruise
an abrasion

He who fights to win
fights He who doesn’t fight
gets lost in the fear of himself

The bad guys have got to go down

one

two

three

We’ve got to meet them
head on
head against the fist
bring it to a head

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