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Excerpt Poems

A Small Blue Banknote, Dear Companion

Were you a woman, featureless in layer upon
layer of outerwear, as we struggled up the road?
And the hope we pulled through the wet snow
astir in its yellow sleepers on the little sleigh

ours? I was the way I used to be
with women. Incapable

of the inevitable, incapable of grace
in the final hours: fearful, angry
grieving already, self-pitying. . .

until we got off the streetcar and could see
how they were shelling the old city, see the arc
entire of the mortar, the miraculous distance we'd come

from the shuddering explosions. Here the atmosphere
is distinctly middle-eastern, that hour between
too late at night and too early in the morning
the air soft as if a new faith or delusion

were being born from old texts, the hand-worn
hieroglyphics-tentative, reaching, calm.
It's my small blue banknote

the last between us, gets us into the nearly closed
cafe, the mezes and Turkish coffee before me
you a step out the door in the neutral light

half-turned, half-smiling, getting away
and on the bar the heap
of hastily torn scraps of paper.
A hatful upturned of ticket stubs, ad hoc ballots?

Unmarked, enigmatic, left to me. . .
all of our nameless chances to win.


Terminal Velocity

Ask the man going in to his sleepless son last thing
for a further word re the carburetor.

Likewise the water rising in the tub
as you eased under.
Was it hot enough, Archimedes? Sudsy?

A nibble anon Mr. Newton, or what's an apple for?
Beneath the force that makes the apple fall

the best ideas are domestic, that old sink
for watercress in the garden's wet corner

a lock-nut on the idle screw, red pepper jelly --

or just when she's got the kids off to school
pouring her second coffee
and you call down

"Hey, honey, come back to bed a moment."