Jeff Bahr

 

L

I write on blue lines
between red borders.

I married Meridian,
swallows bled latitudes.

The wind combs grackles from the cottonwoods.
My son no longer fits in the crook of my arm.

I married a pagan,
she danced at right angles.

I lay on my back, legs an altar,
my son an airplane, a metaphor.

I married a rock.
Rain has no pity.

You say, if I sing to you,
my bones will stop breaking.

Contrails slice the sky and meet,
an egg cracks on a mixing bowl.

You say, if I run to you
I will stop crossing my own path.

Crow Attends the Funeral

Blackvein leaves, dead of gravity, cloying
this mound of still warm earth, brown
as a child's stretched belly

calls Crow, black mistake aloft
on gray, victimless recently,
fluttering mind, all mood,

Crow crashlands clumsy caw
winks into a dull sun,
splayfoot belly-walk black.

Strumpet canter, victory hop,
a tarred clutch of feathers,
Crow chokes on a gobbet of good fortune.

A man screams.
Crow inhales, vomits silence.

A bishop hums.
Crow makes the sign of suffering.

A poet leans graveward on a cane.
Crow thinks to beat his balls blue with it.

The crowd separates, black
backs moving like so many 8-balls,
Crow hops hops away alone

finds a long-dead bird frame,
wrenches at the meatless bones
for the practice.

For Ted Hughes, British Poet Laureate 1984 to 1998.

Upon Finding Satan in My Wine Cellar

I imagine them sleep-talking in Castillian,
Bourgognois, Aussie. No. They're barely breathing
under purple cork, labeled, lightless, subtle
with the silence. And me: an empty pan, dry glass. Down

the stone stairs, hand on brick, I've come for l'Angelus, found
an archangel stroking their long necks, smooth shoulders.
Let's play checkers he says. He's kinged three, I'm contemplating
keytones, tannin. Smoke rises from his red tux, he wins, heads

for the hole in the floor holding my '82 Lafitte. Next Tuesday?
Sure. Bring Sauterne - souls are not the equals of d'Yquem.
Call first.
His hollow laugh. I mount the stairs with the care
of the unfallen. Maybe coq au vin. One plate. Louise Gluck.

Ring, ring. Caller-ID says Out of Area. I turn on Iron Chef,
make an omelette. Call the ex. Break some eggs.

Archangels

Two men bark at a gypsy dog
rusting on the crusted snow, a brown
slouch of a dog howling as they pass, their boxcar
tugs the malice from its voice.

They sprawl on straw piles, spared
the odd-job shuffle: town
to drowsy road to failed farm, trading
muscle for meals, chafe of a barn bed
on cold ground.

Better this: the rioting of life
in the bright square, a shared pint
on their stapled tongues, vowels slipping in
the haste of their falling.

Stars blink through the slatted roof,
the also-fallen: stunned and humorless,
scattered white, hungry.

Genealogy

Outside, it's cold like the day
my father's grandpa drowned
while Sigrid salted cod on walls
of stacked antlers. Their sons
and daughter fled to Eden
Prairie. One, my father's uncle, lost
a claim in Manitoba, another crashed
a Huppmobile. One died ice-fishing.
My father's mother, pink and vicious, made
him cover the bidet with plywood
when we lived in Teheran. Made me drive
all over Fairfax County in search
of Carnival glass. Told me "Never
marry a woman for her looks." My mother's
dad lost his lungs to mustard gas. Her mom
never gambled. Betty lived in Hollywood
working at the studios, roller-skating
with a man who would later play
Tonto. She rented a room
in a house with a victory garden until
the Tamuras were shipped
to Utah, then married Dad, who left
to kill Koreans. On the ship
to Japan to join him in Kobe, my sister
scared me with stories of dwarves. My children's
mom is small and pale, like the pages
of an appointment book, except when speaking
Spanish. Then, her hands become larakeets, her eyes
marcasite. Her grandfather knew the Franks
before they moved to Holland, and he
to Pasadena, where he never met
my mother who skis like she's waltzing,
or my father, who came home and built
a barbeque of brick, or my sister the shrink,
or my brother who sells drugs, or my other sister
for that matter. They all live
in California and no one
ever dies. There's a boy
at the bus stop who dances
in place: knit cap, heavy coat, an extra
chromosome, perhaps. Sometimes he raises
his arms and spins. The world starts with him.