Monday, February 26, 2018

Train Stations at Night

 
If a train station in the fog
At one or two in the morning
With a late train speeding past it
And a single lamp showing as a blur

Is not the acme of loneliness,
Then please don’t tell me what is,
Because I don’t think I could bear to hear it;
Even the station is almost too much.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Heroes

 
Every moment is an opportunity for heroism,
Though probably not the burning-building kind –
Unless you happen to be in a building
Which happens to be burning,
In which case please stop reading this poem
And save at least yourself.

The rest of you, consider heroism
Not as a seven-story leap through fire,
But as a way of breathing, smiling, cocking your head,
Sipping your coffee, unwrapping a chocolate bar.

Think of Paul Newman.  He did ordinary things –
Onscreen and in “real life” –
Let’s say about half the time.
But it was Newman doing them, and so
The can of beer he popped or the dog he scratched
Attained a kind of mythic meaning for
Us onlookers – and maybe for him, too.

You’re not Paul Newman, I assume.  But still.
You could do dull things a little less dully.
You could maybe even do magical things,
Unthinkable to you now, if you begin
With a dog or a beer or a chocolate bar
Or putting on boots, or calling an old friend.

And meanwhile, if you see that person from
The first stanza – the one whose shirt’s on fire –
Please roll him (gently!) on the ground for me,
And offer him a little of Paul Newman’s beer,
Which Paul, who knew how thirsty we might get,
Heroically, mythically, simply, left behind.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Wisdom



In the present, there are no problems.
That’s what the wise people say.
So no one invites the wise people
To parties anymore.

It’s doubtful they would come anyway,
Unless at the moment of decision
The thing that seemed most natural
Was putting on a coat,
And moments later they were seized
With an unaccountable urge
To open the door of their apartment –
And so on, ad nauseum.

For normal people, meanwhile,
The present is never just itself.
It always arrives in a false mustache,
Crudely impersonating the past,
Or smuggling in the future
In the hollow heel of its boot.
It’s always telling a lengthy story
That turns out to be pointless,
Or making some prognostication
That turns out to be wrong.
It’s always hitting on the hostess
But never sealing the deal,
Or vomiting all over the furniture,
Sick from a drink you never saw it take.

In short, it’s a nightmare party guest,
But at least it shows up at all,
Unlike those wise people you stopped inviting,
Who are off somewhere being authentic,
Living in something they call “the moment” –
Forever putting on and taking off coats.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Membership Drive


I am the spokesman for the Society of Individuals.

We have no members.

Please do not join us.

Cache


There are still things I won’t move
Because he put them where they are.
It’s been three years.  He isn’t coming back.
But a small backpack still waits for him
In a half-neglected closet,
With gloves and goggles in it,
In case he rises from the dead
With a sudden urge to go cross-country skiing –
Which, to be fair, does sound a bit like him.
 
But honestly, it’s hard to see him caring
What happened to his stuff, if he came back.
He’d want to hold us very tightly, and
Find out what we’ve been up to, and we’d want
To know if he’d seen God or the end of the universe,
And he’d have interesting things to say about all that.
Eventually, sure, he’d get around to skiing,
But we could always buy him new goggles and gloves;
We’d make a whole excursion of it, happy just
To spend time in his presence, doing anything.
 
He won’t come back, though.  We can wait and wait,
Along with that small backpack, all we like;
We’ll just keep growing older, and someday,
Someone will move the backpack, and one more
Quiet evidence that he ever existed
Will then be gone forever, like he is.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Encounter

 
Once I met a human being.
It was a man or a woman, as I recall.
It was black or white or possibly Chinese,
Or Indian or the other kind of Indian,
And it had an age and a color of hair.

But mostly, it was just a human being,
As full of doubt and courage as myself,
And when it spoke it was not age or gender,
Nor hair-color, faith, or citizenship that spoke;
It was, instead, the human being speaking,
In the words it could find at that particular moment,
And I listened with all the attention and empathy
That I could muster up at that particular time.

We parted, then, and I went back to my
Momentary and eternal concerns,
And so did he or she, and we mostly forgot,
But never forgot completely, the words that we had said
As one human being talking with another –
Wearing our skins, but speaking from inside.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

A New Year


Of course, every day is the start of a new year
That ends the next time that day rolls around
There’s nothing special about January 1st.
It’s not even a solstice.  Just a day.

Still, as I teeter up to the far edge of December
And peer down at the white new calendar page,
I do feel a little of the acrobat’s fear –
The fear that turns to exultation
 
When you jump.