Boardinghouse with No Visible Address

Franz Wright

So, I thought,
as the door was unlocked
and the landlord disappeared (no,
he actually disappeared)
and I got to examine the room
unobserved. There
it stood
in its gray corner:
the narrow bed, sheets
the color of old aspirin.
Maybe all this had occurred
somewhere inside me
already, or
was just about to.
Is there a choice?
Is there
even a difference? Familiar,
familiar but not
yet remembered…
The small narrow bed.
I had often wondered
where I would find it, and
what it would look like.
Don’t you?
It was so awful
I couldn’t speak. Then
maybe you ought to lie down for a minute, I heard myself
thinking. I mean
if you are having that much trouble
functioning. And when
was the last time
with genuine sorrow
and longing to change
you got on your knees?
I could get some work done
here, I shrugged;
I had done it before.
I would work without cease.
Oh, I would stay awake
if only from horror
at the thought of waking
up here. Ma,
a voice spoke from the darkness
in the back seat where
a long thin man lay,
arms crossed
on his chest,
while they cruised slowly up and down
straining to make out the numbers
over unlighted doors,
the midnight doctor’s;
in his hurt mind
he was already merging
with a black Mississippi
of mercy, the sweat pouring off him
as though he’d been doused
with a bucket of ice water
as he lay sleeping. “I saw the light,”
they kept screaming. “Do
I saw the light!”
Ma—there ain’t no light
I don’t see no light.

                                                      —Dayton, Ohio

Poetry, Feb. 2014

A Second Train Song for Gary

Jack Spicer

When the trains come into strange cities
The citizens come out to meet the strangers.
                                    I love you, Jack, he said
                                    I love you, Jack, he said
                                    At another station.
When passengers come in from strange cities
The citizens come out to help the strangers.
                                    I love you too, I said
                                    I love you too, I said
                                    From another station.
The citizens are kind to passing strangers
And nourish them and kiss their lips in kindness.
                                    I walk the unbelieving streets
                                    I walk the unbelieving streets
                                    In a strange city.
At night in cold new beds the welcomed strangers
Achieve in memory the city’s promise.
                                    I wake in love with you
                                    I wake in love with you
                                    At last year’s station.
Then say goodbye to citizens and city
Admit this much—that they were kind to strangers.
                                    I leave my love with you
                                    I leave my love with you
                                    In this strange city.

Poetry, July/August 2008

Project for a Fainting

Brenda Shaughnessy

Oh, yes, the rain is sorry. Unfemale, of course, the rain is
with her painted face still plain and with such pixel you’d never see

it in the pure freckling, the lacquer of her. The world
is lighter with her recklessness, a handkerchief so wet it is clear.

To you. My withered place, this frumpy home (nearer
to the body than to evening) miserable beloved. I lie tender

and devout with insomnia, perfect on the center pillow past
midnight, sick with the thought of another year

of waking, solved and happy, it has never been this way! Believe
strangers who say the end is close for what could be closer?

You are my stranger and see how we have closed. On both ends.
Night wets me all night, blind, carried.

And watermarks. The plough of the rough on the slick,
love, a tendency toward fever. To break. To soil.

Would I dance with you? Both forever and rather die.
It would be like dying, yes. Yes I would.

I have loved the slaking of your forgetters, your indifferent
hands on my loosening. Through a thousand panes of glass

not all transparent, and the temperature.
I felt that. What you say is not less than that.

Interior with Sudden Joy (via the Poetry Foundation)

Henry Manley, Living Alone, Keeps Time

Maxine Kumin

Sundowning,
the doctor calls it, the way
he loses words when the light fades.
The way the names of his dear ones
fall out of his eyeglass case.
Even under the face of his father
in an oval on the wall
he cannot say Catherine, Vera, Paul
but goes on loving them out of place.
Window, wristwatch, cup, knife
are small prunes that drop from his pockets.
Terror sweeps him from room to room.
Knowing how much he weighed once
he knows how much he has departed his life.
Especially he knows how the soul
can slip out of the body unannounced
like that helium-filled balloon
he opened his fingers on, years back.

Now it is dark. He undresses
and takes himself off to bed
as loose in his skin as a puppy,
afraid the blankets will untuck,
afraid he will flap up, unblessed.
Instead, proper nouns return to his keeping.
The names of faces are put back
in his sleeping mouth. At first light
he gets up, grateful once more
for how coffee smells. Sits stiff
at the bruised porcelain table
saying them over, able
to with only the slightest catch.
Coffee. Coffee cup. Watch.

The Retrieval System, 1978

Other Lives and Dimensions and Finally a Love Poem

Bob Hicok

My left hand will live longer than my right. The rivers
            of my palms tell me so.
Never argue with rivers. Never expect your lives to finish
                        at the same time. I think

praying, I think clapping is how hands mourn. I think
            staying up and waiting
for paintings to sigh is science. In another dimension this
                        is exactly what’s happening,

it’s what they write grants about: the chromodynamics
            of mournful Whistlers,
the audible sorrow and beta decay of Old Battersea Bridge.
                        I like the idea of different

theres and elsewheres, an Idaho known for bluegrass,
            a Bronx where people talk
like violets smell. Perhaps I am somewhere patient, somehow
                        kind, perhaps in the nook

of a cousin universe I’ve never defiled or betrayed
            anyone. Here I have
two hands and they are vanishing, the hollow of your back
                        to rest my cheek against,

your voice and little else but my assiduous fear to cherish.
            My hands are webbed
like the wind-torn work of a spider, like they squeezed
                        something in the womb

but couldn’t hang on. One of those other worlds
            or a life I felt
passing through mind, or the ocean inside my mother’s belly
                        she had to scream out.

Here, when I say I never want to be without you,
            somewhere else I am saying
I never want to be without you again. And when I touch you
                        in each of the places we meet,

in all of the lives we are, it’s with hands that are dying
            and resurrected.
When I don’t touch you it’s a mistake in any life,
                        in each place and forever.

Plus Shipping (via Read a Little Poetry)