June 28, 1914

My wife was young and fair of face.
When I cut up her birthday cake
And drank, and told her with a kiss
No younger maid had ever lived.

We danced into the summer night
As friends passed gifts and poured the wine
Soon Teddy stumbled with a glass
And stained her lovely birthday dress

I used the Times to sop it up
Got half the stain before it stuck
Ted worried that we’d be upset
I laughed.  “So what?  The paper’s wet.”

Glanced at the headline without care
(Some duke had been attacked somewhere)
Then cleaned the mess in little time
And turned back to the joy and wine.

Gazing

The doctor examined her brain under a microscope. He gasped. There was a naked universe dancing beneath the glass.

She needed to know herself.  But she couldn’t turn her eyes inward to see such stars.

So–

she made the sky her mirror.

but in my heart

i came around a curve and saw my country
quick and quivering
with ears and whiskers cocked

like an angel icarus
blurring – fast and white – into my high beams
she tore across the road
and i pressed down my brake to let her by

but my neighbor did not slow

caught – just barely just barely – in his back wheel
and for a flash i swear that she was flying
tossed into the air and she was spinning
is this what he wanted
does he know what flying is

i stopped my car
put the hazard lights on
went into the street – flashed my cell phone at the cars
shouting slow down go around
please don’t hit her anymore

her lower jaw torn off but she was moving
bleeding shitting blind perhaps but moving
she tried to stand
four limbs intact
and in my heart i realized she could live

flipping seizing – she was walking
stumbling to the sidewalk
i cried and wondered who to call
i knew that she could live

but then she stopped

and the night went on
and on and on
and i drove home

i left my dead country by the side of the road

but in my heart i still believe she’s breathing

Inaugural

Now arrives the hour of action
Men with flags and medals waving, trampling
Red roses in the street
And Caesar’s ghost is pressing at the gate

A Genghis Khan agoraphobe
Is hidden in the nation’s somewhere heart
Rattling the walls
Pressing arrows deep into
The furniture
Crying out
His fingers tightening around a throat and
Winds blowing through his mind across the plains

Sir, you are mistaken.
We have seen your kind before.

And does an old fox howl when he dies
Or when he calls his fellows to the hunt?
Are sudden canines tearing through the house
Or lying soft and cold in coverlets
Someday we’ll know

Suns rise and suns set
But how greedy our familiar shadows grow

We would still light our Christmas trees
As Trojan horsemen crept into the light
Choirs of blonde girls
Looking like angels and slitting throats
For God protects us

Oh, hear the pageants and the cheers
And boot-steps o’er the rose

And the distant future echoes of a book being closed

Flying Ace

I was a boy when war began
When every day brought forth the sighs
and gurgles of a world reborn –
A world we could not recognize.
But on the airfield there was hope
A place where courage, skill and might
still had their worth.  And so we fought –
For in the skies we were still knights.

Our horses were propeller blades
And khaki coats our livery
So to the tales of aero-duels
I turned for grace and chivalry.
And weary soldiers in the trench
Perhaps, as pilots rose in flight
Found glory in the cause once more –
For in the skies we were still knights.

And even when the Baron fell
Though to our rival he was sworn
A martial funeral was held
And my young heart found cause to mourn.
“To Our Gallant and Worthy Foe,”
Our soldiers on a wreath would write.
Laid down with heroes’ epitaphs –
For in the skies we were still knights.

The London blitzkrieg lay ahead –
Fat Men would rend the firmament.
But in that first and greatest war
I put my faith in winged ascent
And in the heavens searched for light –
For in the skies we were still knights.

On Estrangement

I’ll keep you always at the piano, practicing the major scales
with little fingers.  Trapped in time my mind like amber
catching flies alive – we admire the hard and perfect but scorn

the living ugly thing.  It was too much for me, your scorn –
I was too soft for those hard looks.  If I grew scales,
it was because I loved you, and if I grew old, I blamed the amber

light of passing suns.  I tried to keep you, Amber,
but I couldn’t stop your fingers growing long I miss your song and scorn
the mornings that took you away from me.  Perhaps a single sunrise tipped the scales.

My heart scales the rocks between us, but I’m afraid to crack the amber and face your scorn.