Ambiguous Blessings

I appreciate that I have not yet fallen
through this ice, my legs dangling
like some helpless water strider
who punctures the river’s skin, is
surprised to find an artery within.

Nor have I bitten into a rotten potato
just when I was about to say something
important that could change all of
our lives — about a job promotion,
say, or a slowly approaching tornado.

I have never developed cancer in some
body part of which I was only dimly aware,
though I know some others who have, and
in some cases it has killed them — so
I’m not sure whether to count this one.

But anyway, not every bad thing that
could happen has happened — though
there’s still a lot of daylight left,
and anything could still come and
knock me over, off my high horse,

send it skittering away, uncertain
whether to return and nose my pockets
for sugar cubes or tramp a hole
in my chest while I lie in the dirt,
counting my ambiguous blessings.


Tailors Turn into Apples

Yeah, well, same to you
but more of it — whatever
you’re dishing out.

Hay is for horses,
not for me, and you’ll
never be an apple.

A stitch in time
saves nine tiny tailors
who live in my pocket.

Eventually, the tailors
turn into apples, nestle
in the center of my eyes.



And if we ever get tired of love —
if love ever loses its flavor, becomes
just a rubber band that we endlessly chew
without savor — what will we make instead?
We could enshrine wisdom, anger, or hope,
build holidays and greeting cards, art
and architecture, a whole world erected
to protect them and save them, enslave them
so they can’t disappear like love did when
it left us its substance, but took away
itself, its galloping heartbeat — love,
now as lifeless as any bird in a jar.


I’ll Be Damned

If that woodpecker didn’t tap out a message for me
as bark shattered all around his bill, clattered
to the sidewalk (this was a city woodpecker — I am
a city person) that morning as I walked my kids
to school and then myself to work. He said, or
she said, something about bugs running like rivers
inside the tree, or something about the sun that day,
or thanks for stopping to watch and listen, even though
we were already late. I don’t know — it was hard
to make out. I don’t speak woodpecker. It was
indistinct, though staccato. But I know it said
something to me, the bugs, the sun, or the tree,
or maybe just to itself.


Universal Sandman

And you alone will be there
when whatever is needed, is needed,
and you alone will bring down

the snow from the mountains
to cover all the bare roots.
You alone will bring sleep, like

pennies on all the eyelids, on
all the people you can find,
anyone who will lie still enough,

long enough for you to do your
fully thankless job — another
round of dreaming — and move on.


Pigeons at a Wedding

If I release pigeons instead of doves,
will anyone know? I could call them rock doves.
I feel like pigeons don’t get a fair shake in life —
called flying rats, injured and thrown down stairwells
by stupid children, maligned and shooed everywhere
they think to roost, close a translucent eyelid,
tuck head under wing, soft as butter. I feel like
if I released beautiful pigeons at a wedding,
it would change everyone’s minds about them,
and the bride and groom would imagine themselves
on top of a sign somewhere — for a 7-Eleven, say,
or maybe an Arby’s — just the two of them, braced
together against cold, wind, and car exhaust,
seen and yet unseen, disregarded by the people
passing by the two of them, just the two of them.


North of a Good Idea

Another bad one exposes itself like a
grizzled elf peeing a chain-link fence.
Or it’s easy to imagine that same fence
electrified, containing the remains
of the poor sizzled elf. Exposed to cold
for long enough, any idea can become
a good one, or can at least come to seem
good. It’s like dirty laundry — if you
wait long enough, the stink disappears.


I’ll Never Understand

how that little train runs on
Good & Plenty candies. Do you know?
Sometimes I ask my philodendron
things like this, and it answers
by making new little shoots that
wind around the curtain rods.
You can’t be lonely if you have
a philodendron, that’s what I say
before I pour myself another
cigarette, sort the mail — mine
and my neighbors’ — look out to
see whether there’s any sun left.