THREE POEMS FROM AFTER READING EVERYTHING (2016),
READ BY THE AUTHOR
Portrait in 2/4
Not the refinement of the waltz
but the boozy, blue-collar polka for me.
Pla Mor, Starlite, Peony Park, Sokol Hall –
those Nebraska polka halls staged
pageants of folk exuberance,
oom-pah tubas and accordion flourishes
as men with farmer tans and shiny pates
swept stout women with doughy arms
in looping circles ’round wooden dance floors.
With beer and sausages, kolaches and coffee,
such Saturday-night escapes provided
a whirl of diversion against the flat plains
rising up into knolls, the hard life beaten back
beyond the edge of the parking lot.
Inside, the dancers
cast nimble shadows on the windows,
all while the 2/4 rhythm spilled over the edges
of the four-cornered hall, the music always flaring.
. . . as if we gave ourselves as gifts
– Boris Pasternak
Years before the day, there was the dazzlement.
I served you coffee, but you forgave me for that.
You bought me wine, but chose me for your sister.
When I chose you instead, I stopped talking to myself.
Then your lips, and tongue, bespoke me,
your eyes seduced, kaleidoscopes of light.
At sunrise in the church cemetery,
empty of souls on a Sunday morning . . .
Later, we walked through rolling pastures
in search of visions tinted by chromatic skies.
At your feet, I pulled you down into a kiss
as you leaned over my shoulder from behind.
Lifting me, you sealed my possession,
and your gift – the world in a single touch.
Whether I petition or postulate,
each plea rises up like a prayer.
Less forgotten than unmapped, memory wells up
from the depths of silted-in forgetting,
and the dipper I drink from burns my lips –
metal cold to the touch, water brackish with oblivion.
To quench, then, the desire of both flame and thirst
is to stand in solitude, waiting for time’s surcease,
anticipating an interceding word,
waiting for some apparition to speak,
for the river to rise to the surface,
for the one who stands at water’s edge to dip,
and drink, again.