The good nuns of my childhood are gone.
They look down on us in utter disbelief,
or, I should assume, something like disgust:
those scary bitches in Dublin, the Magdalenes,
the priests in locker rooms and confessionals,
the breakdowns everywhere, God's hand
off our paltry gift, while the world wakes up
to what real evil is in the foul-mouthed air,
the little left of it that we can breathe.
Like falling snow, the good nuns drift down
to us their consolations, our stricken eyes
blind to their sight, the bells in their empty
crosses stripped of their gold and stretching,
row on row, to the edge of the sad, sick world.
"THE CHERRY ORCHARD," REVIEWED
Chekhov's merchant of death is Lopakhin.
He grinds the doctor's bitter medicine.
Madame Ranesvskaya leaves Paris too late
to help her silly brood under the blossoms
or through the dacha's peeling rooms. It is
a play of dolts whose charm is tragedy,
a prescription that foresaw history,
our century of butchers. We see it all
through a peasant's foxy prescience,
the air heavy with foreboding, waiting.
Those scenes of outworn gentility,
the family portraits, gentle imbecility-
all beg their audience to run, run!
The hatchet men are here! The rails are
there's the whistle! It is no idle dream,
the theater's falling! But we, armed with
yawn a bit in the face of such stark
uselessness, so artfully portrayed,
at any rate useless beyond the price
of our ticket.
"THE HEAVINESS OF BEING HUMAN"
(Phrase heard among remarks in the sound track of bird-watchers in "Pale Male, "Frederic Lilien's film documentary on the red-tailed hawk in New York's Central Park..)
...So said in their applause at first flights
of Pale Male's fledglings from the nest above
Fifth Avenue, among a company
of watchers unique as what they watched.
Nature's high-rise party of the unnatural
for visitors' and predator's daily fare of pigeons,
close-ups of his far-out hunger sated
to their cries, early-bird privilege for voyeurs
while he ripped and ate: documented spectacle
to cause a farmer's smile, on being told.
Pale Male, freak bird to gravitate his watchers
as they poeticized his ruddy glides
to orchestrated siren and violin,
blinked no pity at a jogger's rape and murder
far below the gristled talons-his winged
talent that matched the cameramen who caught
each moment in the green garlands of their wait,
their capture of death's truth, strung as it is
on our rudderless curve from cyclotron to star.
ODE TO THE RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD
For wooing them you sport a valentine,
mail-clad betrayer of a lady's love.
Talk about chauvinism: As all nature
thrives and suffers through diurnal turnings,
Your Lightness turns up from some savannah
south of the border, not long after April
starts its foolish run, to hum among your
swoops and spins along the Cape and inland,
leaving them with all the housework, all else
indeed, while on to other forays
against your nun-bibbed kin, to leave
much less asked if there be one feathered
note of beauty in your conquests, or whether
that alone be in our glass eye fixed on you.
What we read is what we get-heroics
to chase an eagle off, the mouse and lion
act, for what at best is but an hour's grace
to bring azaleas out, or a Helen from her Troy.
Ah but still, that winged stretch across six
hundred miles of open water for a flower's
first sweet kiss-that's no less yours than ours.
RED BARNS IN SOUTH JERSEY
OK, so there might be a prison farm
not far from Goshen, a homiletic reference
lost on but a few, no less disturbing
to them for that, but what he liked, if like
can be so stretched, in driving inland
toward the Pines, was the pictured clarity
and openness of a red barn on a hillside
with its attendant house and trees, and cows
to match. Hello to their northern neighbors,
reassuring as a friendly nod or word
for conservationists, and all lovers
of a kind of innocence: He had in mind
a girl he'd known once, quite apart from
Biblical intime who, lying in a hayloft,
jumped down to say hello to him,
a visitor with his grownups on a day tour
to the country then, with only time for
that glimpse of her, his one and only shot
at playing young Alighieri. A look
had linked them long before time began
its turns, and all the way back, that day,
they thought him sick, as indeed he was.
Which may explain the red barns now
whenever they appear as sudden sails
or a sunrise in the desert of his days
to startle him all over through the