He had staggered into the hayfield
lonely as that rain-cloud
he did begrudge,
and though beer and ink
now bring him sleep,
he’ll wake to a day stained
with a hangover, ruined hay, and
what he calls his “agonization”
over the women he’s known.
What can the poet do?
With his final few lines?
Salvage part of a crop, perhaps.
I mow the hay with irony;
dry it with sardonic breezes
(they have that electric feel);
leave wide margins with a rake; and
twine the bales into eight stanzas.
A lightning strike
to see the fieldwork by
shows that all’s well on field & page. Or,
as my fellow creator puts it in Genesis,
All is good.
But in the anti-matter of the after-flash
I see Arnie start to roll over
on top of the bugs,
some of which are endangered.
I grab another pen and
as Arnie rolls I write,
scribbling out anything
to boost the bugs’ chances for life:
quick prescriptions for steroids,
uppers, and prosthetics; permits for base-
jumping gear; and high level
security clearances for escape-
kennings such as tick-jets,
ant-propellers and mantis-springs.
Everything in my power.
I even murmur Arnie’s prayer.
But not all jump free:
A spider is squished,
a moth is squashed,
and a pall falls in the fake night
where injury, mutation and death
escalate in a moonlight
of my own making.
What have I done?
The stanzas leading to Hell
are lined with good intentions
for meadows and wildflowers.
Where should I have put Arnie
until the poem was over?
Down a well?
Or should I stop writing poems?
Dare I think about that?
I nod and write up a chair.
Rub two words together
to start a fire. Throw on every log
I can think up.
Night and fire take their time
and when they know each other
there is a new quiet
out of which comes ancient sound.
The cicadas’ rhythmic hum
the crickets’ mournful chirp and
the husky croak of frogs are koans
about sex and death on earth
so I look up at a brilliant night sky—
suddenly Arnie mumbles a name,
the first word he’s spoke
(not counting his prayer)
since buying the beer—
and I wonder if the sky’s stars
still reflect their light in
my dimming eyes
as I watch this last poem
come to an end.
Wait . . . was it a woman’s name?
He says it again. My next poem—
no, a song—
will be entitled with her name.
I hope it plays well out here
and that Arnie sleeps like the moon.