In excess always, gorged
at the end of street or season,
bearing medieval blossom
of purple mace and spiked nickel
greaves, tall hollow stalks
weeping glass syrup for the violence
advance has done to them,
a yard where the weeds made varsity.
In every town I find it. Every city.
Fronting the cracked leather river
where rats get thoroughbred
and homes don’t come to drink.
Green the thorn again and again.
No one’s the first of their name,
and all navigation by glow
can’t bladder a stone.
Sun’s hustling down to mice and dimes
now, oxygen’s sieging the chain-link;
I am getting too fat for my burial clothes.
HOUSE I DIDN’T MEAN TO BUILD
I bet on journeying. Departure
time smeared on the ticket
like a kindness. The streets I didn’t
I came to know. I had faith
I was tearing pages off an onion.
Earth text, authorless. Patchy fog
I could use to mend my clothes.
In Sulmona I packed a half-kilo
of ham and cheese, plus one peach.
I traveled the line of an old rule,
build a house near water.
But I gave up rooms.
In Oaxaca the sign for “Carpenter”
was not level. Wallpaper
I touched where it had a fat lip.
I wrote my friend Melissa
from a monastery that sold a tincture
with her name on it.
Parallel lines, parallel life.
I could have kept the orchard.
Grant showed me how
to graft and I was lashed to it.
Yellow Transparent to Northern Spy,
trunk lichen eyed me
as I was beaten out to mendicant
bowl music. Love I pivoted on
unthinkingly, like a newel post.
Halfway along I see it whole,
what I gained, what I forsook—
the intelligence of paths,
the knowledge in wells.
I can’t bucket enough
here. Gulls fly bigger
than they are, and I keep
reaching for a crookneck chisel
in a Pennsylvania cellar. I hang
two packs off a donkey, somewhere
in a book. They brought Chekhov’s
body home in a freight car for oysters.