Ambition

I am haunted by the failures of great people:
how, inevitably, they were tossed out of Harvard,
eviscerated in newsprint,
cold-shouldered by forgotten matriarchs,

and I have to think
(you know where I’m going with this)
short of a criminal act,
how could I compete with the sad sack
who was Abraham Lincoln
before he was Abraham Lincoln,
the tubercular Eugene O’Neill,
the idiot Einstein,
the rejected Malcolm Lowry,
the incandescent torn and lovelorn
and thirsty,

except by standing on point
in front of our two sleeping
ginger tabbies
with a scallopshell lampshade for a hat,
wrapped in a pale blue polyester brocade,
and think
(keep it quiet, cats are sleeping)
could they do this?

Galatea

At first, she sat in the corner sulking.
There was still a powder of stone on her skin.
Her shoulder, soft as a cat’s,
turned hard rounded in the palm,
but I was used to that.

After all, wasn’t that the idea?
To find a melting point for marble,
to have the crest of her hip push back,
flutter of breath
from the small cave of her mouth.

I just wasn’t ready for the opposite:
my want making her soft,
her hate reversing the charm:
petrifaction of love.

After four days I prayed
some god would take her back.
She wasn’t eating.
She drew caricatures of me
on the studio floor with a stick, saying,

Can’t I go outside? What are you looking at?
Don’t you have any friends?
Then nasty, knowing my weakness:
Can’t you make me a mate —
someone good-looking, younger, sexier?

When she stopped moving
I would pause
in the doorway from the garden,
crunching an apple, a sculptor again,
remaking her with my eyes,
smaller like a child.

They said we had a son,
but what do those liars know.
I took out my chisel.
The boy rose smiling
in the gravel of his mother’s arms.

Decorah Eagles Webcam

Lacking a necessary truth we make myth:
Athena breaking from the head,
Herakles, eight months old,
strangling two snakes.
He was found playing with them
by his nurse
as though they were toys.

But the fact is
nothing is born strong.
The young are always vulnerable.
When the first eaglet appeared
it was just a pip in the egg.
One hundred thousand people watched.

The camera panned the road
by the fish hatchery.
It snowed; there was an ice storm.
The mother spread her wings.
The tree shook, the chicks walked too close.
The nest was eighty feet up.

They were too small
but their beaks grew first
and their feet, outsized,
they wrapped like quiet bombs.
They fell comically,
and if the muskrat
or the raccoon or the raven
took some comfort in that /
when the female flew from the nest
she made a sound like a flag unfurled,
a sound that strikes at the gut,
the snap of banners above a bristling
regiment.

They had their chance:
there was the height of the nest,
the two parents gone,
the helpless ball of down,
but full-fledged, the young one
will tip from the branch,
and then it is too late,
when the wind catches the first flight
feather.

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