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1. We Take What We Can
Midnight, winter, corner of Elgin & Main,
men I’m afraid of; so far I’ve been wrong.
All four lurch and lean; a fifth snores in a stain
of his own liquids. I know I can’t belong
at this bus-stop at this time of night.
All five ignore me as I look alert,
pace briskly from edge to edge of pooled streetlight.
Do they know/ I don’t/ if the drunk fifth is hurt
& if he is, what to do. Here an hour,
no phone, not one walker, just rush-rush cars,
stubbornly we six exert no power,
risk no looks. Waiting is who we are.
Bus at last. My relief smiles its trust.
The bus driver looks at me with pained disgust.
2. We Envision What We Can
August. After noon. Heat. Heat endured like fate
slows us, stuns. Hair curls. Eyes sting. The heat lasts
till 4 AM; the let-up lasts till 8,
when walkers quit. Only cars move fast.
My bus-stop neighbor gasps and fans. She prefers
to clean house for señoras who don’t mind
her grandbaby coming to work with her
in conditioned air, but they’re hard to find.
Things will be better for the Rosa baby
born in Texas: Americana citizen,
no problema, job, car, high-school maybe.
Envisioned, Rosa smiles & smiles again.
I blink to find that old wild dream alive.
Rosa invites her grandma out to drive.
1. For a Christmas Visitor
The fountained garden of the Museum
of Art becomes you in your clarity.
I often breakfast here. I like to come,
down from the medieval gallery
& its little ivories that strike me dumb,
to this water-music. Today I see
that what was lacking was your company . . .
the vivid child in you whom you summon
to scout out & open the lost famous gate
of the world of wishes. In you run
& with a rush of words leave fantasy
for forecast: “This wish is good. I choose this one.”
Selves drawn from self, you plan work you define;
you shine, good woman; garden & fountain shine.
2. A Century of Modern Sculpture
On the white wall: 4 bronze-black backs—Matisse
trying to muscle shoulder into arm;
up the steps: reason sports in a Calder piece;
a Dave Smith fusses; Benglis holds out gilt charm;
an eggsmash scrambles the post-modern soul.
I always make the same mistake. I come
toward sculpture to find, beyond my control,
some grail, some sign, hand-made, eloquently dumb,
set out for me to walk around & around
amazed as I listen & hear it hum.
It can happen. It happens, look, there by the door,
a stone girl proposes simple hands, her whole
body simple like the cup I came here for:
firm light lasts on her, the Flore of Maillol.