Play It Again
Up above a bar in their first apartment,
I see my ma and my dad, in some swirl
of late 60’s haze in the Castro District
of San Francisco where the jukebox
below played the same Frankie Valli song,
Sherry, Sherry baby, Sherry, Sherry baby
until they’d go almost mad with their
paper floors and cheap wall hangings
swinging in the falsetto of the city’s
changing swirl of hips and hopes
and I love them so. She’s in the window
crying because the city is too big, and also
because we are at war, and he goes to work
in hard schools that need teachers, Spanish-speaking
teachers not scared of much except how
to make rent and make the world maybe,
better or easier or livable. Nights, they get stoned
in small apartments and eat enchiladas
in the warm corn-filled kitchens
and she’s going to paint and have big ideas,
and he’s going to save the world with curriculum,
and no on knew how much that want mattered,
how much the small desire to make some real life
was enough to give them the drive to make
some real nice mistakes. How years later,
some might say that their love was not a love,
or was not the right kind of love, but rather
a sort of holding on in order to escape another
trapped fate of desert heat and parental push,
but I want to tell you, nothing was an accident.
Not their innocence or their ideals, not their
selfish need, not their dark immortal laughter,
not the small place with the roaring traffic, not
the bus rides, or riots, or carelessness and calm,
not the world that wanted them in it, that needed
their small, young faces united in kiss and weep,
not the song that surrounded them in a good fight,
that repeated, Come, Come, come out tonight.
The Wild Divine
After we tumbled and fought and tumbled again,
he and I sat out in the backyard before his parents
came home, flushed and flowered and buzzing
with the quickening ripples of blood growing up
and I could barely feel my hands, my limbs numbed
from the new touching that seemed unbearably
natural and uncommonly kindled in the body’s stove.
Oh my newness! Oh my new obsession, his hands!
I thought I could die and be happy and be humbled
by luck of a first love and a first full-fledged fuck.
I wanted to tell my ma. I wanted to make a movie.
I wanted to dynamite out of my bare feet to sky-town,
as we passed the joint in the thick summer’s wind
too-rich with oak leaves, eucalyptus, and smoke.
I thought I might have a heart attack, kinda craved
one, kinda wanted the bum-rush of goodbye
like every kid wants when they’re finally on fire.
Then, out of the stoned-breath quiet of the hills,
came another animal, a real animal, a wandering
Madrone-skinned horse from the neighbor’s garden,
bowed-back, higher than a man’s hat, high up
and hitched to nothing. He rustled down his giant
head where we sat, stoned and wide-eyed at this
animal come to greet us in our young afterglow,
and he seemed almost worthy of complete devotion.
We rubbed his long nose, his large eyes turning
to take us all in, to inhale us, to accept our now-selves
and he was older, the wise-hooved big-hearted elder
and I thought, this was what it was to be blessed—
to know a love that was beyond an owning, beyond
the body and its needs, but went straight from wild
thing to wild thing, approving of its wildness.
The Story of a Horse
My ma’s in the wind-pushed double wide, waiting
for the retired police men to bring their retired police horses
to the ranch. She’s laughing about how they can’t figure
out which way the gate swings, the swinging shocks them.
She’s at the window now describing the rain, the two-horse
trailer, and also, how sometimes she and my stepdad
talk about death for a long time. How talking about death
makes it easier to live and I agree and say, “It’s called die,
before you die.” What is being delivered here is a horse
whose life has been difficult. A large quarter horse named
Seattle, a horse with a city name, who kept watch in a city,
who got spooked outside the baseball stadium when a bag
wrapped itself around its foot, a plastic thing versus
a big animal in a big crowd and a quick accident killed
a man. Then, what for the horse? Never to be ridden, stuck
in a stall, full of ramped up energy, lightning bugs in the blood.
He might have wanted to, “Die before he died.” But not
yet. What is being delivered here is a horse, a horse forgiven.
A horse loved by his rider, a horse loved is a difficult thing
not to ride. Today, the rider is retired, a badge on the dashboard,
and a fine plan to drive all the way to Montana, where the rider
has bought a ranch. The rider, and his loved horse,
are going all the way to Montana and they’re going to live
out their days together, out of the city life. The horse,
with his city-name, and his forgiven city-mistakes, are going
north for a long drive and it makes me and Ma happy.
How good it is to love live things, how forgiving
fills that impossible need, how some little love
can make a whole life worth living a little while longer.