by Robert Bové (July 2006)
(from Actual Phantoms, a new ms. being shopped)
Afloat in Iced Hibiscus Tea
Orion’s belt, in cedar grove
the scent of night a song—
upon that tune a life is made
as short as it is long.
Heedless moments are so
rare, distractions not big
nor near enough
over time, in intensity—
and nothing checks decent.
Consider that man on cardboard bed,
still considering bananas
wedged in hurricane fence—
no tree as slothful,
no leopard so skeptical.
Consider me, but not for long—
save your eyes for self-regard.
So the painter said, one on
me, the other on the ceiling.
He said, Forget thrush, forget oak—
they’re just passing
through, already forgot
But we miss them when they go,
remember them when they’re gone,
remember them when they’re back.
Not all that passes is illusion.
Whole worlds want believing
This one I miss already, even as it is—furling
old glass at sunset—
unfully dissolved city,
mixing joy in birth,
and newborn fear of being lost—
but to what isn’t clear.
Each new comfort—brings a new fear—
each convenience—new vexation—
from what—we’ve forgotten.
The music is lean—
lyrics slave—to beat—
its sound a great—wind—driving us—
to shelter—in our own—imagination.
A fine thing, could we anymore
remember our own.
I embraced great causes
but my own—
and so failed everyone.
I launched my friends into
my poems, ended up
I clung to the beautiful
the nonsensical, the brave.
I admired the admirable,
loved the lovable,
sexed up with the sexy.
I sent away for one—attractive/loyal/industrious—
having read these words in an ad—
saw it was my body
doing the imagining
just as I had lost it.
—pining for applause for the skill I’d use making
the cage I’d taught my mind to become
or rummaging through caves in France or Spain
as if Paleolithic sincerity would rub off
as if they knew more about eternity than anybody else tabled
gasping on the fresh air
mourning doves glide upon
—then I pass a blotchy sot I’ve seen on bar stools up and down Montague
standing, a quarter following the dime falling from his hand—
why they were there, he’s forgotten.
I pass a graying man sleeping in cheap yellow summer suit,
alone on a bench, one palm on brow, one on knee,
at the moment the novelty of playing hooky from work fades—
and the look of a hunted hare returns.
I sit, watching a silent, steady couple pass by,
determined stride, determined hand in determined hand, deciding again,
out loud, to stay together, not for the last time today.
In the Breach
It’s been years since I took a photo here.
The view’s the same—I forgot the light,
forgot the ships, forgot the walkers—
and it’s still without those who couldn’t return then.
What am I thinking, what are we thinking,
between thoughts and sensations, between breaths,
when something else gets in and we see it—
but only later, in recalling the site?
I come to get away but it is here,
where great distances absorb distractions,
that I arrive, with me what I carry.
Times when the traffic below stops dead, when I
think, this is silence, this is breath,
this is time, this is the time, the time
to absorb, to appreciate, to love,
to hold, to cultivate, to grow, to reap—
think myself hearing, now here, like last time,
like first time, here, now, hearing myself think.
By what twisting path…
…across what puzzle…
…do I see…
…across the harbor…
…a harbor filled…
…from shore to shore…
…crammed with music…
…and holy junk.
…for holy convert…
…other than to skip…
…from boat to boat…
…from tug to scow…
…in holy concert…
…ever with out score.
Robert Bové contributes regularly to The Iconoclast, our Community Blog. Click here to see all his contributions, on which comments are welcome.