The metal railing hot against my hand
where sunlight silvers it, and steely cool
beneath the shade, I fully understand:
Such education doesn’t need a school.
The turn of leaves of birch upon the breeze,
refracting green as sequins prism light,
is vision comprehensible with ease:
I don’t need words from me to see it right.
But yesterday, the garden featured two
that bloomed on stalks and only lived one day:
A pair with scarlet spots on lemon hue,
that opened butter soft, in an array
of layered tongue-shaped petals, three on one,
that blazed and then expired with the sun.
I always thought that as I added years
in life and lumps in limbs and folds in face,
so I would add to wisdom too, and fears
would fade and patience grow and I’d learn grace.
Then anger wouldn’t rule my heart (I thought),
and hurt would be reserved for awful woe.
But otherwise I’d outgrow overwrought,
exasperated, insecure, this low.
Now I’m a ways past middle age, no doubt,
approaching old, familiar with my past,
yet fretting that my mood’s a messy pout,
and wishing balanced attitude could last.
It’s obvious that I don’t have it yet –
Perhaps we’re all born wise and then forget.
My father tried his best and didn’t fail
at parenthood. He listened and advised,
made time for us and pioneered a trail
for us, and shared the morals that he prized.
He missed a trick or two he should have caught,
but then he didn’t have the dad we did.
With him as his own guide he would have taught
him this, and later passed it to his kids:
“Of followers and leaders neither be,
but go your own unique and honest way.
The vanguard ever lacks its privacy;
the herd is cursed with boredom and dismay.
I used to think you lead or take the rear,
but now I understand a sideways veer.”
Illusion is the television’s art.
Ten thousand pixels programmed currently
to make their light emissions blink apart,
enlink themselves like cells apparently:
Befooling brains with signals through our eyes,
emphatic with the audio in sync,
it’s no surprise that surfacing disguise
can etch and influence the way we think.
But I won’t wreak destruction on the screen
(and I’ll not vandalize the cars I hate),
for monsters are less scary when they’re seen,
and tools should not be instruments of fate.
If we are worthy, then we must be skilled
enough to regulate the goods we build.
The timbre irritates my ears, as high
as if they sucked on helium for air.
They poultry-hop their giddiness to spy
each other in a crowd. Too quick they share
their girlish hopes, romantic fancies, dirt,
collapsing into silliness so soon,
it’s not inaccurate to murmur “flirt,”
or unrealistic to expect a swoon.
Respecting each, the sum is what I hate,
whose voices seek that unremitting pitch,
who note and peck at differences. I’m struck
by their unfairness while I suffocate
in fluff. And I can’t even rate them bitch,
when chicken comes to mind with every cluck.
He says he loves to travel for the new
impressions, foreign diets, ethnic arts.
His mind is stimulated by each view
he photographs. Declaiming as he darts
from screen to phone arranging flights and stays
at charming B&Bs, reserving nights,
he types up his ideas to pack the days
with jaunts to see all recommended sights.
He says he loves to travel for the thrill
of learning, but that isn’t really it.
He’s made his daily life into a drill
with no surprise allowed, and little wit,
but travel plans can frequently go wrong,
and getting through those snags makes him feel strong.
I read a Richie Rich the other night:
a story run in 1973.
An uncle in it traveled to the bright
occasion of the coming century,
which surely seemed approaching slowly then
(a score plus seven years still had to pass).
But now it’s eighteen since the new millen-
ium began, and I’ve reversed the glass.
How suddenly there sometimes falls on me
a bit of obvious, as when a word
correctly written yet appears to be
misspelled: the true looks false, the right absurd,
and I am shaken – wakened to a sight
I didn’t note before, in other light.
I watched some children in the corner park
amuse themselves on metal bars. I saw
each swinging body ride a perfect arc,
depending arm-to-arm on natural law.
(You cannot rush a pendulum. Its swing
is its identity, its moment set.
The gravity of earth plays everything
in terms of periodic minuet.)
No more can you decipher in one week
emotions that took seasons to produce,
than you can push a pendulum to seek
unlawful pace. There isn’t any use
in pulling the perspective that you need
at any but its own intrinsic speed.
Of all the gifts my life bestows on me,
ideas I value most.
Computer treasures electricity,
but software is a ghost
that current-craves as we require blood,
as sunshine is essential for the bud,
and we, extravagant, are built to be
concerned with more than molecules and mud.
And if I’m asked to name another thing
essential to my glee,
then language is the paragraph I’d sing
about, as joy for me.
And I don’t need to name a favorite third
and I don’t care who thinks my good’s absurd:
Ideas to me are nourishment and wing,
and I am ever searching for a word.
Surveying me as I depart from home,
I stipulate to happiness today.
I feel so light it’s hard to make a poem.
If I should die this afternoon, I say
it needn’t be more wonderful than this:
dependents well, acknowledgment at work;
by exercise and writing bathed in bliss;
eschewing meat and mania and murk.
I mark this morning, and with joy remark
it bold, emphatic in the weekday crowds:
a scimitar of moonlight in the dark;
a jet athwart a canopy of clouds;
and knocking wood within, I send to God
a little fervent gratitude. I nod.