Couplets Against Time
Lester's tenor spins and sears so the waves
dance out. A red poppy stem. High moon.
Still waiting at the altar, the man
has been altered by time, by light.
Ceremonial pages curl under my wet palms.
The book of laughter—nobody knows
the art of exultation anymore; release,
departure. Passing peas in Harlem's square,
Sonia sings the blues afternoons at the open
market. Give me more, she says, more Bird
At St. Nick's, splashing sixty-fourths.
A porch light coming on. Broken
poppy stem, red, in a bowl. The end
of the affair. The end of the affair.
I have taken her leaving as literal this time.
The earth, whitened, is settling yesterday's dissonance.
Odors of mud and too early flowering trees disappeared.
The shriek of gulls dulls the air along memorial benches.
One plaque asks, "Who's next?" The dead want to scorn
our sand and sea. Your white hat lost. Winter's failure.
Off one high curb, coats blended. He never wanted
to leave that heat inside, all that he found was stitched
in cheap letters. An elegy or the winter blur. Park
trees, one's paths dim lights, post ceremony.
Their vague trio ascends.