Monday, November 20, 2006

Thanksgiving and the holidays are nearly upon us; here is a poem from The Apparitioners (, remembering a man who lived in our town, and our ambiguous response to his act of giving during the season.

Holiday Cake

Christmas week
Paul would come, circling the block
In a maroon Buick
Minus its muffler,
Hard coughs to clear its throat of phlegm.
Starting around 11 a.m.
He’d visit door to door, hugging the curb
Like a paperboy, crunching furtive
Through the snow with
His gift:

Wrapped in foil,
Moist to the touch, substantial,
Studded with raisins, dates,
Candied apricots,
Sugared almonds, chunks of walnuts,
Cherries dipped in rum—so pungent
We stored it in the china cabinet
For a year, basted in cinnamon
To moderate
The taste.

Our parents
Would greet him, invite him in
For eggnog, but Paul sensed
We thought him odd—
Shabby down jacket, this mission
Performed yearly, no expectation
Of return—and declined. The year he died
We shouted carols at his doorstep
Until he showed,
Gaunt, pleased

For such friends.
The next Christmas we sat down
To supper, devouring
Slabs of lamb, plump peas
In butter, mashed potatoes, wine:
Too-plentiful preliminaries
To the sweet feast baked and simply given
One year ago. Remembering Paul,
We said a grace
And ate.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I'm working on a new collection of poems that utilize the vocabulary of politics and faith--those two forces so powerfully joined and so persuasive to many of us. Some of the poems touch on current events, but I'm more interested in how those events are described to us by those employed to do so, and how we talk about them to ourselves, in private. Here's one:

Person of Interest

We’re looking for whoever didn’t board,
some face surveillance failed to match against
its database, an unknown alias,
drifter handymen driving stolen vans.
No one’s suspect; we’re ruling people out.
Your call remains anonymous unless
arrest begets conviction and reward—
you’ll be coming forward to collect, yes?
We’re working leads, questioning the neighbors
(unmarried men with meticulous yards),
hold details close to filter wannabes
from players, who might barter names for time.
(The pro-life laid-off middle manager.)
Liberty’s measured by the tangible:
licenses and passports, identi-kits
where teeth and childhood fractures correlate,
stray facts the Web collects like flies or dew,
cookies, emails, consumer vapor trails
(priests who download monuments and blueprints)—
receipts of daily life a hologram
we recognize in glimpses, as if strobed,
revealed by interims of light, then gone.
We only want what’s best for everyone.
Will you accept the blame if God forbid--?
We’re looking, but it’s out of hand when kids’
imaginary friends are terrorists.
(Whoever moves their lips while reading this.)