Paul Vangelisti, p.2

                                        for Robert Crosson, 1929-2001

How absolute is undressing like history
written or otherwise, unless lying in sickbed
the old before the young relying on instruments
to exert every form of hope or desire.

But who cares anyway like a call of doves
as in where do you want to die, the nurse asks,
in the park? And yeah, in the park, he replies
anywhere, I’m telling you, except here.

Caring is a curious load blossoming after the war
with everybody using it to reveal everything
about the other—lovers, friends, mothers, fathers,
lawyers, even the wealthy seizing up the poor.

So despite appearances, one can’t seem to avoid
the season, the all too languorous close
of summer, another school year and the cautious
if continuing intimations of one more failure.

Or else you visit by now suspicious looks
in front of or within, whom or him anything
to hold onto, slowly curl all hands around,
folding dumb light day or night this way or that.

A lack or gush of ordinary speech as when
time is missing, suspect in the most banal way
measured like something hopelessly essential
like good appetite, tomorrow, a couple more days.

It seems three-quarters of his life was greatly exaggerated.
Four or five unopened letters are all he left behind.
Discipline is one way to account for the disappointments.
Even with the overcast tomatoes need lots of water.

Louder than that and who wouldn’t notice a long bark
more than a wail or scream, every few minutes or so
the nurses and cleaners look away trying not to notice,
the patients roll calmly by, the stronger even smiling.

Wheelchairs harden that perfectly formal grace
to droopy mouths and shoulders, raw eyes and hands
wheel the boldest up and down the hallway’s dream
of someday when you’ll want that barking scream.

That same distinction between nature and grace
glimpsed in an empty bar at the end of a chapter
in too large a hand embarrassed right out of
the jingle jangle passing in the hunt for language.

Who can tell what wanting does or doesn’t do
as he tugs the wheelchair in a circle forgetting
to release one wheel reminding me the damn thing’s
broken and a new one is in order any day.

Like thousands in the dust working in and out
wounded by what he saw fifty years ago.
Something something something to shut you down.
On the street of tough guys and cookies he’s a swan.

Never has he____someone the way he____you.
Unless a fervent young boy who love to clap
healthier than anybody in this arena
all arrayed like a holiday come too soon.

Firmly depending on whose sense of economy
how lollipop waltzes or checkbooks laugh and sway
how much joy there is to dream shades of Biarritz
or Palma or somewhere these days equally outré.

They likely have a name that can’t be said,
they dance in the streets when we aren’t staring,
as Uncle B has many times reminded us,
don’t ask, you will find out sooner or later.

Rivers and pools and partridges and a propensity for
growing uninterested in the human condition
whatever that might even turn out to be.
Trying at least once a day to visit him there.

Question is who would bother to read anything
about anybody in a place like this,
Uncle B himself said. And then look in his eyes,
around you, at all those lolling heads seeming to nod.

Or something else we/they do in quiet concession.
Letter after letter a white moth leads to the finish.
When we come kissing the speech flows out of the hand
as lips move to a silence that isn’t a way of seeming.

Phraenum slit under the tongue to remove a troubling lisp.
How you holding up, what’ll you do like the blue dot
on white moth wing there at the end of an ordinary
afternoon not unlike the will to bark from a wheelchair.

Tongue is one way of believing in what came before
passing like a bad day of losing keys or glasses
misplacing a number you’ve been looking for for weeks,
wondering if all will be less furious now summer’s over.

Under the full grace of a moon is how you recall
those brief autumns on the hill, tipsy with everything
least of all spirits, much less deliberate than here in this
willful room for nothing but the stink of resistance.

Contrition you might have said of the droopy heads
nodding in wheelchairs to the upbeat of gospel piano.
Opposition in the turn of an ear the bend of a stair
leading up above the eyes to that smallest of victories.

The fuel of this resistance is unspeakably full
of whatever most vile whatever most we build
over and upon to accelerate our daily lives
leave behind that locus of desperation.

Yesterday afternoon or was it the day before
the wheelchairs circled a token effort on the floor
of the TV room—hushed unwavering faces
and the small foul x that marked the spot.

Guns and drinking water was what they bought,
guns and drinking water was what they wanted.
Or so it goes breaking the rule of what they love.
Next Saturday as odd a beast as any day.

The lost nibble through the offices of rhetoric.
You know like what can I do, what can I say.
Everything’s here for us from armadillos to.
The rest is zebras, dearest Bob, that last real world.