BEFORE THE CASHIER’S WINDOW IN A DEPARTMENT STORE
The beautiful cashier’s white face has risen once more
Behind a young manager’s shoulder.
They whisper together, and stare
Straight into my face.
I feel like grabbing a stray child
And diving into a cellar, crouching
Under a stone bridge, praying myself sick,
Till the troops pass.
Why should he care? He goes.
I slump deeper.
In my frayed coat, I am pinned down
By debt. He nods
Commending my flesh to the pity of the daws of God.
Am I dead? And, if not, why not?
For she sails there, alone, looming in the heaven of the beautiful.
The bulldozers will scrape me up
After dark, behind
The officer’s club.
Beneath her terrible blaze, my skeleton
Glitters out. I am the dark. I am the dark
Bone I was born to be.
Tu Fu woke shuddering on a battlefield
Once, in the dead of night, and made out
The mangled women, sorting
The haggard slant-eyes.
The moon was up.
I am hungry. In two more days
It will be Spring. So: this
Is what it feels like.
* * *
DEPRESSED BY A BOOK OF BAD POETRY, I WALK TOWARD AN UNUSED PASTURE AND INVITE THE INSECTS TO JOIN ME
Relieved, I let the book fall behind a stone.
I climb a slight rise of grass.
I do not want to disturb the ants
Who are walking single file up the fence post,
Carrying small white petals,
Casting shadows so frail that I can see through them.
I close my eyes for a moment and listen.
The old grasshoppers
Are tired, they leap heavily now,
Their thighs are burdened.
I want to hear them, they have clear sounds to make.
Then lovely, far off, a dark cricket begins
In the maple trees.