I compare you favorably but ill-advisedly to the moon

Out your window
a tiny fingernail of moon,
that far dead thing,
pale as a side street
movie screen,
burnished silver of old watch
orphaned under cigar box lid,
lit by the gloss
of magazine and candle wax /
reflected light:
the thing itself dried up:
a buoy, salt-rimed
so long untethered
even gulls slip ignorant over.
I want to conduct life
from my bed, you say.
You have a cough
but you are still able.
A feather ticked loose
from the pillow
dances along your arm.
You do, I say.
You are not so old as that.

In the Beauty of the World

On a canyon road
among the piñon pines
we slowed to pass a cow just hit.
She lay on the shoulder,
the globe of her one eye swallowing wild.
Don’t look, Bella, said my mum,
but the massive tongue,
lopsided, licking road,
and the schoolless night,
still warm with crickets,
said look look look.

That isn’t to say, I know,
there is necessarily
beauty in the dimming light:
the sun sets equally on the fetid swamp
and the flatirons
and there is always dumb calm
in letting go
of pushcarts, or people, or hope.

But if the world is our oyster,
wear the pearl — please,
but eat the oyster too,
that too,
because what is it to love
if you cannot love it raw?
and like Rubens,
that fat intensity,
adore Helena for all her farts
and dimpled knees.


It’s too hot to sleep.
I get up
and walk out into the living room
where suddenly I am astonished
by the beauty of everyday things:

how the rubber plant glows in the half-light,
how the dust and fur balled
in the crevice corner of the guest bathroom
is a cobweb of myrrh,

and how, unknown to me,
as though by a vengeful spell,
I have been living with jewels.

With feet bright as hammered gold,
the nails of my toes
thick as button pearls,
the skin on the back of my hand like vellum
where someone has written
praises to God in lampblack,
in broad calligraphic strokes.

Where eyelashes are gold wire
and the trees listen for my footfall.
They have gathered at the door.
The moon picks out
the furrows of their flesh.

We sit for a while, breathing together,
in a kind of majesty
until, with the new sun
again the dread of work,
irritation of things undone,
weight of unanswered mail,
the cold toast and the missed alarm,
I come to my senses.

Skunk, Twilight

I remember,
when I see the animal wobbling, distracted,
across the road
that the famous blacks of Velázquez
— the rich black even Picasso envied —
were burnt wood or bone,
plant or animal color,
and not an absence at all,
nothing to do with dusk
or the fading light /

likewise in his dithering,
following a scent trail
to the edge of the cornfield,
he is disconnected
from what is left of the day:
splendid, bold, apart.

And then the hay on each side
freshly mown, the draft horses
in the far stables
apparently alone;
the stag, in its own hour,
a little farther on.

I remember how much beauty
is in these margins,
in back lane illuminations,
our drifting bodies
without the purpose
and accomplishment of daylight,

how I would rather be the first painter
of common things, as Velázquez said,
than the second painter of something much grander,
rather spend the evening
with these rich relations
than back among the waking poor.

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